Many dangerous and untrue stereotypes about Black people in America persist across the country in 2021.
During the Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement’s (MCSLE) Six O’Clock Series titled “Five Dangerous Myths About Black People in America,” IUP communications media professor Jeremy McCool debunked five of these dangerous myths and spoke about their origins.
The meeting was held Monday night via Zoom and is part of MCSLE’s Black History Month event schedule.
The first myth that McCool discussed and debunked was the myth that Black people are lazy.
A lot of people believe this is true because of the unfounded and untrue belief that Black people take advantage of the welfare system in the U.S.
“White people without a college degree ages 18 to 64 are the largest class of adults lifted out of poverty by welfare programs,” McCool said.
About 6.2 million white people receive welfare, while just 2.8 million Black people receive welfare.
Another issue with this myth is that a lot of people are not taught that many thriving Black communities and business were destroyed during the 1900s.
Events like the Red Summer in 1919 that affected three-dozen cities including Chicago and D.C., the Greenwood Massacre of 1921 in Tulsa, Okla., the Rosewood Massacre of 1923 in Florida and the Move Bombing of 1985 in Philadelphia destroyed thriving Black communities and displaced thousands of Black people from their homes and neighborhoods and pushed them into poverty.
The second myth that McCool discussed and debunked was the myth that Black people all came to America as slaves.
People on TV and social media will often direct comments along the lines of “go back to your country” toward Black people.
“Many Natives were/are phenotypically what you would consider Black today,” McCool said.
“Throughout different generations, you’ve had white people play Native Americans in film and on TV, and that has skewed our perception of what a Native American is,” he said.
In this way, the media helps advance the narrative that there were no Black people in the country before slavery, but that is not true.
The third myth that was debunked and discussed by McCool was that Black men do not raise their children.
This myth rose to prominence in the 1970s largely due to the mass incarceration of Black people for drug related offenses as part of the war on drugs.
“Crack cocaine sentencing was way higher than cocaine simply because crack cocaine was sold in Black communities,” McCool said.
“Still to this day, Black drug users are arrested at higher rates, despite the fact that Black people and white people use drugs at about the same rate,” he said.
Because Black men were being arrested at high rates during this time, there were a lot of single mothers and that contributed to this stereotype.
Current research from the CDC indicates that Black fathers are the most active in their child’s life. Black fathers were most likely to have bathed, diapered, dressed or helped their children potty train, and they were also more likely to take their children to or from activities or help their kids with homework every day.
The fourth myth that was discussed and debunked by McCool was that Black people are unprofessional.
“This myth is often used to keep Black people from advancing in the workplace,” McCool said.
One big contributing factor to this myth is the way that Black people wear their hair. Many people falsely view it as unprofessional.
“Many private schools today still ban ethnic hairstyles and cultural and natural Black hairstyles such as Afros, braids, locs and twists are targeted,” he said.
The fifth myth that McCool debunked and discussed was that Black people are violent.
This stereotype is often amplified by media including movies, music and reality television.
The term “Black-on-Black crime” is used to criminalize Black males, create fear and hate and to amplify this stereotype.
“The truth is that people kill based on proximity and poverty,” McCool said.
“Most white people are killed by white people, and most Black people are killed by Black people because those are the people that you typically interact with,” he said.
“Poverty creates a lack of resources, poor school systems and places adults at higher risk of greater frustration, anger and proneness to losing emotional control.”
McCool believes that understanding your own bias and taking responsibility for your bias is an important factor in getting rid of these false stereotypes. Supporting positive media portrayals is also an important step.
“Correct your peers,” McCool said. “If you stand around while people spread these false stereotypes, you are just as guilty as the person who said it because you let it go on as if it were correct.”