Once upon a time I lived in a town where I was pretty much the only black person I knew and I thought I was unique, because when you’re the “lonely only” you pretty much are. I didn’t know any fellow black geeks, gamers, book lovers, investors, history buffs, politicos, journalists, academics, hikers, wine aficionados, or world travelers.
But then I moved to Washington, D.C. – the destination for many over-achieving lonely onlies – and suddenly found I was not as special as I thought I was.
And I loved it.
But there’s still this pervasive belief of what black people – particularly black women – do and what they don’t. It’s implicit in how we talk about ourselves and in how we’re presented in the media. We’re shown as being grouchy do-nothings who, well, do-nothing for fear of mussing our hair (which we try to counter with campaigns like “Black Girls Work Out Too.”) We’re stereotyped as being limited and middlebrow (or worse, low brow) in our tastes. It’s a narrow view, where certain black women are labeled as being closed-minded and not adventurous, while another group of black women break their hands patting themselves on the back for being so “different” from other black girls.
But how different are you really if there’s enough of you to be a team and print T-shirts proclaiming your very similar individuality?