My friend recently turned me on to this PBS online series called Black Folk Don’t and I’ve been astounded by these webisodes featuring interviews and perspectives from blacks on the subject of “what we don’t do.”
I’ve watched a few of them, starting with the first called: Black Folk Don’t Commit Suicide. This featured the late Don Cornelius and the reactions to his death. It turns out that not many of us know a black person that’s taken their life. But as the webisode shows, it clearly happens, it’s just under reported. We just don’t talk about it.
There are other serious Black Folk Don’t videos, like Have Eating Disorders, Go to the Doctor, and Do Atheism. But there are some videos that are more light-hearted and comical like Swim, Camp, or Do Yoga. I watched the Camping video and nodded in agreement. “Nope, I don’t go camping and that’s really okay with me.”
Of course a lot of these videos generalize blacks but I think by addressing these generalizations, director Angela Tucker, opens up an important dialogue about race that America so desperately needs. White people often wonder: “Why don’t blacks swim?” To that I must answer: “Well, there are a number of reasons.”
- Black women aren’t excited about getting their hair wet. If you’ve spent lots of time and lots of money styling it, why mess it up by jumping into a pool or into the ocean? If you’re still puzzled by this, you’ll have to read more about the history of black women and their hair.
- Some of us just don’t know how. If you don’t live in a place that’s near the water, how often are you going to go swimming or learn how to? Large populations of blacks live in urban settings where the city pool is the highlight of their swimming. There’s only so much swimming space to go around in a city pool.
- There’s historical context to consider as well. Blacks my parent’s age or older, might not have been allowed in a city pool before the Civil Rights Movement. This would prevent one from experiencing water or from learning.
I encourage you to watch these videos. They’re quite informative. They help understand why stereotypes shape a race and the truth behind these everyday perceptions we have. I’m a black woman who might not Camp but I do Yoga and I suppose I’m shattering perceptions of what it means to be black. How ’bout that?