Views From the Mandem
Opening words from Jenna…
I don’t think I told you this before but the Jenna’s World View audience is 70% women and 30% men. I still find it fascinating that I even have support from the opposite sex mainly because I write solely from a woman’s perspective. But just because I am a woman it does not mean that I am unable to see things from a mans point of view. Regardless if I agree with it or not I still am able to understand. I believe that women and men can learn so much from each other if we actually took the time out to communicate properly.
I know that us Black women deal with so much madness on a daily basis, that it is so easy to forget that our men go through their own set of trials and tribulations too. There is no better way to put this but we are all going through it. So this new blog series #ViewsFromTheMandem will cover topics relevant to the Mandem written by some of my favourite black male creatives and bloggers.
Co-Existing with Stereotypes
The idea of breaking stereotypes and exceeding expectation is always interesting, where do these stereotypes come from? And of course, who’s expectations are you exceeding?
Of course, as a black man living in a Western country, there are certain negative stereotypes others may place against me but that doesn’t mean you are always conscious of them. Growing up, I was hyper-aware that I came from a good family; with a multitude of professionals, entrepreneurs and academics for role models. I don’t remember there being any negative stereotypes placed upon me. People often forget that in the UK that not every black child shares the same reality and their experiences are often determined by a wide range of differing factors.
I first became aware of negative stereotypes due to my parents trying to shield me from them. My parents sought to censor me without telling me exactly why – ‘Don’t be too loud’, ‘Don’t be too aggressive’ etc. Arguably, these instructions could be given to any child. However, what made it different was the urgency in their voice. I remember their voices sounding resigned, careful and scared.
I later realised why they had given those warnings and tried my hardest to shy away from the stereotypes that others sought to place on upon me – I linked this to denying what I thought was ‘Blackness’ in public or ‘white spaces’, thriving on compliments such as ‘You speak well for a black person,’ or, ‘You don’t dress like other black people’.
Few incidents broke me out of this destructive mindset. By 16, I was challenging my white peers and figures of authority unapologetically. I wanted them to change and sometimes I got what I wanted. However, by 18 I became largely unbothered. As I alluded to at the beginning of this, stereotypes and expectations are subjective, forever influenced by the opinions of others, so apart from those that have an institutional impact, why take note of them, why let them be your markers of achievement?
I didn’t set to break any stereotypes or exceed expectations because I noticed by doing so, a part of me is accepting some parts of those stereotypes or expectations as truth, an indicator for ‘success’. I decided to not acknowledge them in regards to my personal trajectory or use them to define what I’m doing in life. Others may seek to use me as an example of this but for me, I’ve just been me.