…or am I just being self-centered? It just seems that blacks are the most likely to have one person or a small group represent the whole otherwise unrelated population in the minds of most people (of any race, now. I know that too many black people proudly think that blacks are a monolith). Wouldn’t the average citizen feel perfectly comfortable answering the questions “What music do blacks listen to”, and “How do black people dress” than they would answering similar questions about Asians and Jews, or is this just in my head? I just thought about this because of this thread, and how the guy quoted felt so comfortable speaking for all of blackdom.
I’m a bit confused. The thread title makes it seem like you’re asking about how external groups perceive blacks, but then you give an example of a black man speaking for all blacks. Which perspective are you asking about? If a non-black person is more likely to consider blacks a monolithic entity, in other words, or if a black person is more likely to present blacks as such? Or both?
In the first case (that non-blacks consider blacks monolithic) I don’t think it’s uniquely projected onto black people. Lately you might have heard about how Arabs do this, Arabs are that, after all. Maybe it happens more often to blacks because there does seem to be a specifically recognizable “black” culture in America, and so there are more examples of the phenomon- say, for example, “how blacks dress” -than there are examples in other cultures. There’s no clearly defined stereotypical Jewish culture, but there is one in the case of blacks. I guess that could be a sort of chicken-egg scenario- what came first, the perception of the culture or the stereotype? Or maybe the monolithic-ness of “black America” is just the collection of all those stereotypes.
I just don’t think blacks are unique in terms of being stereotyped- my great uncle, if nothing else, has taught me that there are no shortages of generalizations to be made about various cultures and races.
In the second case, I think that what you’re seeing could be a holdover- a reflection of the fact that for a long time, blacks pretty much needed to present a united front. When you’re all slaves, I think it’s safe to say that the most important issue to everyone is the same thing. Similarly, when an entire group is simultaneously being denied civil rights, it’s very likely that everyone in that group has similar goals in a large sense.
As a result, I would think that historically in America, it would have been very easy, and even to the black population’s advantage, to be able to stand united behind a group of leaders. The sheer depths of the injustices they were facing could have had the effect of drowning out dissension for the sake of the bigger picture. I’m not sure if I’m expressing my idea clearly here- what I mean is that it’s easier to be a monolithic entity when there are glaring wrongs to be righted than in other situations. If none of us are eating, it’ll be easy to come together. When everybody has their basic needs taken care of, there’s more freedom to be diverse.
That said, I don’t know a damned thing about it, being a white boy. I could be way off.
More than everyone else? No. A whole hell of a lot? Yep.
When you have people claiming to be ‘leaders’ of the ‘black community’, though, convincing others we don’t all think alike is an uphill battle. As this isn’t the Pit, I won’t go into what I think of people who presume to speak for me because we happen to be members of the same race. Suffice it say, I don’t like them and they sure as hell aren’t representing me.
In my whitey world, people often wonder how such fools are propped up as black leaders. “Black community” is usually muttered by people who cry over everything.
I wish we had a thread on what whitey says at the dinner table, even though most whities are supposedly color blind now, because opinions are built around all blacks based on Jesse Jackson’s whining an Al Sharpton’s desire to segragate America into the 1800’s.
It seems to me that the monolithic and stereotypic nature of black culture is media generated. True, there are some cultural differences based on history, and the ongoing reality of segregation, whether voluntary or involuntary. However, the black people I’ve known over the years don’t seem to bear much resemblance to what I see on TV, be it the 6:00 news or Comedy Central. Flesh and blood black people seem pretty much like other Americans, and make me wish we’d get over this bogus black/white bullshit and move on.
I’ve seen a lot of blacks in the public eye over the years. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Julian Bond, Andrew Young, Elijah Mohammed, Louis Farrakhan, Clarence Thomas, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg … Start making a list and it doesn’t look very monolithic at all.
I don’t know but it’s very vexing.
I’ve often felt like I’m expected to be an ambassador for every gay person. And I’ve felt frustrated with idiots like Andrew Sullivan, Camille Paglia, and Elton John.
For some reason, whenever one of these three blowhards says something silly, it’s attributed to the whole queer community, as if every queer person on earth particpated in a referendum supporting the statement.
It’s a universal experience among minorities of any kind, I think. I’ve heard the same frustrations voiced by Arabs, especially recently.
Seems to me like Muslems get tarred with the “they all think alike” brush more often these days.
IANB, and I’m going out on a limb here, but I think there may be some truth to what the OP suggests. I don’t think it’s something that anyone deliberately set out to do, but more a result of the fact that, more than any other minority, black Americans have a common history, excepting recent immigrants from African countries. They’ve been part of America since America began, not less so because for so long they endured slavery and segregation. As with most whites, the sense of being from somewhere else and retaining a different, foreign culture isn’t there the way it would be with, let’s say, Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans, or Chinese Americans.
So I think you could say that black Americans are more culturally homogenous than Latino or Asian Americans.
I can’t count the number of church people I’ve wanted to muzzle because of the perception I know they’re creating for Christians generally. Even on this board, Christians often get treated as a block of blockheads.