Janet, “Danger of a Single Story”

“You act so white now!” “You act black.” How can someone act a race? Does the color of our skin define us?

When I moved to Florida, I thought things would be different and people would be really proper I was still around people who cursed but I cursed much more than them. The reason they did not curse as much is because they had strict parents or went to church. Although they had expectations in those places they didn’t live up to those expectations in school. There were white kids at school who also cursed and could be inappropriate. I found it funny when white kids would curse because I thought that white people were always proper. As I continued to live in Florida, I started going to church but I behaved the same way as I did back in Philadelphia. I used to rap songs that had cursing in it in front of people at my church, I argued with teachers and students because I didn’t care. As time passed I had my own experience with God and I wanted to change my ways and live a life honoring God rather than people. Eventually, I moved back to Philly and I was hanging out with two of my best friends. In two years, we hadn’t spent much time together. They were more aggressive and cursed a lot more than I did but I was used to that coming from them so I didn’t mind. We were having a conversation about girls we didn’t get along with because those girls liked the guys we were dating. I wasn’t worried as much about the girl I didn’t like and I was calmer than they were about it. Suddenly my friend said, “You act so white now and you’re so happy all the time. You used to be so crazy. Whenever someone would talk crap about you, you would curse them out and try to fight them.” She said it with disapproval and confusion. Then we changed the subject and went on with our day.

I don’t understand why she said I was acting “white” instead of respectful, proper, or polite. A lot of people say this especially in the lower class. It makes me think whether or not people from the lower class that aren’t white think they are not capable of being proper and if they have to be around white people to do so. When I was growing up I didn’t curse or talk slang, but I noticed that people around me did talk like that and I wanted to fit in. For a while I never thought I cursed and talked the way I did because I was Puerto Rican or lived in the hood it was just who I was but I was wrong. I did it because everyone else did it. By the time I became a teenager I thought that I wasn’t capable of being proper or polite. Eventually I started spending time with people who were more positive in order for me to change and I started having people keep me accountable for what I said or did. Everyone has a choice about what they want to do or how they want to live their lives, and I made the choice to change because I wanted to. I didn’t change because others wanted me to change. Other people’s opinions do matter to a certain extent but I choose whether or not I want to believe them. When you believe in something you start to live by it. So do people believe they are improper and less than white people just because of their race? Is that why they make statements saying “You act white”? People don’t only make this statement. I’ve also heard “You act black.” This statement came up when I would do something inappropriate. Do people think that if someone is black they are inappropriate?

Even Phillis Wheatley, an African American woman who was the first to publish a book, felt as though she learned how to be civilized because she was kidnapped and raised around white people. So why wouldn’t other people who are not white think you have to be around white people to be civilized. I personally don’t think you have to be around white people to be civilized but you have to be around people who have that mindset to be influenced by them. Thus, you can make the choice whether or not you want to have that type of behavior. I believe I have changed because of Jesus being in my life. Even though some people don’t have God in their life, it doesn’t mean they can’t be polite or proper, but God is what motivated me and helped me become who I am. It’s so much more than just thinking “Oh I want to be a better person and stop cursing.” It takes a lot to change your ways and most of that has to do with how you think as well.

I want people to understand how we, including myself, stereotype ourselves and put ourselves down by believing we’re inferior. We think others are a certain way based on their race which is wrong. I hope my thesis can be something that helps people understand how much we stereotype and how it effects us.

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Janet, “Danger of a Single Story”

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