“There’s forty million black people. There’s forty million ways to be black,” says the trailer for Angela Tucker’s media project “Black Folk Don’t.” The video series, now in its second season, is a captivating and informative insight into the dimensions of black stereotypes. Each episode functions as a conversation on one stereotype of black people using what the website describes as “the spirit of irreverent inquiry.” It presents interviewees’ oftentimes contradictory opinions on the topic, engaging personal (and sometimes humorous) anecdotes and an academic unpacking of the historical and cultural significance of the issue. As the project’s website explains, sometimes the episodes address more topical stereotypes, such as “Black folk don’t swim” and “Black folk don’t camp.” Other times, the topic will call out complicated health-related stereotypes, such as “Black folk don’t have eating disorders.”
By presenting complex and multifaceted perspectives of black-identified people (everyone from young teenagers to well-known thinkers like Touré and Melissa Harris-Perry), the series inherently undermines the stereotype. Each video shows that a blanket assumption about black people is actually too simplified to hold true for a whole race.
My favorite episode so far addresses the assumption that “Black folk don’t swim.” The video features various interviewees talking about their experiences with swimming: some black people may not swim, but some do. It then takes a deeper look at the stereotype, discussing the social factors that might mediate how much black people swim, such as lack of access to pools or maintaining a hairdo (As one interviewee puts it, “Water is black women’s kryptonite.”), concluding that there is more than one way to be black. Indeed, there are infinity ways to be.
The best part? The second season just started! And this week there’s a whole new episode: “Black Folk Don’t Have Eating Disorders.” Go watch it! And don’t forget: there’s a new episode every Tuesday. From now on Tuesday is officially the best day of the week.