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My Black Perspective #23: Mentality

Today I’d like to discuss the huge spectrum of reactions people have had while growing up Black in America, and the different mentalities that have come about as a result. The thing to consider as you read this is the fact that “for Black People to advance, we must get most of these views on board in some unified fashion.”

To make this straightforward, I created a chart that acts as a sort of grouping spectrum. Everything I’ll discuss today is rooted in this visual. PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying there is a correct or incorrect mentality to have. I do prefer some over others (for obvious reasons which you’ll see) – but the main point of this post is to acknowledge that these views exist. I have come across different Black People who identify with each of these views, and I’ve felt various mentalities across the spectrum myself.

This is not all-inclusive, but there are 30 viewpoints (which felt like more than enough to try to get into a blog post). Depending on where they are in this spectrum, each of these mentalities will have VERY different responses to questions like: What should we do about Black Life in America?

That said, let’s dive in. Enjoy the variety.

A chart depicting different reactionary mentalities to growing up Black in America.

The Bright Futures

  • Optimists: This group just feels like everything will be ok in the end.
  • Motivated: Whether dealing with a positive or negative side of the Black Experience, these people are energized by the whole sha-bang and tend to put that motivation to good/healthy use.
  • Opportunity & Ambition: People who fall here see the light at the end of the tunnel of Black America’s dark (for lack of a better word) past.

The Potential Energies

  • Pride & Possible Growth: Individuals feeling this mentality find a strong sense of self in the struggles of their ancestors and see much room to build on the shoulders of giants.
  • Positive Revolutionaries & Innovators: This set of Black People are one side of the coin for revolutionary views — the good news is they want something new, but they also want things to be better for EVERYONE (even Non-Black People).

The Selfless Few

  • Partners: This group thinks past dealing with their struggles on their own and tries to pool resources with others for mutual benefit.
  • Caretakers: These people will help out others even at the expense of their own happiness.

The Selfish Few

  • Independents & Individualists: These people will pridefully make their own unique way. If I had to peg a poster child here, I’d say someone like Pharrell Williams when he expressed that he was “New Black”. They have no desire to speak for a group, and kind of see themselves as a separate entity within the whole.
  • Win by Any Means Necessary: This group want to win and is tilling to work with anyone to accomplish that end (whatever that means to them). The double-sided danger is that they’re also willing to sacrifice many things (INCLUDING people and relationships) on their road to glory.

The “Do-Somethings”

  • Organizers & Mobilizers: These individuals will admit that they don’t have the answers, but they’ll happily connect people in the spirit of coming to more solid conclusions than they would on their own. They also focus on action – not just talk.
  • Consensus Builders: This group wants most people to feel happy. Doesn’t have to be everybody – but most.
  • Planners & Thinkers: People who fall here have excellent ideas and consider multiple factors others hadn’t even dreamed of (to some end). The issue is whether or not they share/promote those ideas and know how to partner well with others to get things done.
  • Historians: This group lets the lessons of the past dictate their next move.

The “Do-Nothings”

  • Indifferent Go With The Flow: Those who fall here probably don’t have much hardship in their life or they just have very chill personalities, so — “this is fine” (basically).
  • Wait & See: There are some people who will “wait to see what happens” as a default setting in life rather than go and try to make something happen. This is them.
  • Acceptance: Individuals here may or may not be happy with what’s going on, but they accept it and move on with their lives as best they can. They don’t like change much (as a personality trait).

Those Who Live With It

  • Endurers: Sort of a twist on the “Wait & See” + “Acceptance” groups — Black People here openly hate how things are, and grudgingly move on each day. There is a strength in their ability to endure discomfort & they may see others who don’t as simply complaining.
  • Compromiser: This person would try to get to a solution where everyone doesn’t exactly have what they 100% want, but they live by the “it’s better than nothing” creed and will accept some percentage if they can’t get the whole.
  • Peacekeeper: This person would do whatever is necessary to avoid a conflict. This can be good AND bad depending on who they’re dealing with.
  • Naïve: These individuals don’t think that anything bad has happened in American History, and may – in fact – be thankful and somehow feel indebted to America. They don’t understand what all the fuss is about. They also may rewrite aspects of history to fit their ideals.

Those “In a Bad Way”

  • Victims: All of their bad situations are tied to their Blackness. All of it. They don’t own any of the burden. Excuses come naturally and there never seems to be any sense of responsibility. Fun Fact: Some people use calling this out as a method of shutting down any talk of reparations.
  • Indifferent Fatalists or Defeatists: As the naming implies, this group doesn’t see the point in trying to change anything because it’ll all stay the same or they’ll just lose anyway. This group may not see the point in voting.
  • Collectors / They Are Owed: America owes this group. If they were only given what they were owed, they’d be so much better off. Rather than be able to move on from their feeling of being owed something, it can have adverse affects on a number of their interactions across the board.

The Dividers

  • Conspiracy Theorists: EVERYTHING is something against Black People to these individuals.
  • Race Baiters: EVERYTHING is about race. If they’re losing, it’s definitely about race.
  • Anarchist Revolutionaries & Innovators: The other side of the coin for revolutionary views — this group would happily see bad things happen in order to get a world where Black People move up (no necessarily “be on top” – just “move up”). If this is at the major expense of another group, tough.

The Negative Energies

  • Fearful: These people, sadly, have developed a fear of White People and White Spaces. They worry about interactions with police officers and see very real potential threats in every White person. Life can be hard for this group, but it tends to be temporary.
  • Shamed: There are Black People who are ashamed to be Black. A very telling sign is if they are willing to happily take on the ire of an entire people all so they can look good to a certain group they may share ideals with or profit from. There is a line between “having your own independent view” and being willing to sellout — these people found it & jumped over it. Google “Candace Owens” or “Sheriff David Clarke” or “Stacey Dash” as examples.
  • Angry: These people are mad about it all. Some, very rightfully so. They can be calm and totally operate in society, but deep down – they are mad as hell & are very close to not taking it anymore. This anger can be used to fuel positive outcomes, but it would also very likely lead to bad things.
  • Filled With Hate: There are some who HATE White People and America. I try not to run in those circles, but they definitely exist.

I have NO IDEA what will come from all of these mentalities and the many others that I didn’t even call out. I just know that these exist, and they are rarely unified (e.g. the election of Barack Obama brought a lot of the views together for the sole purpose of getting him elected).

As I said earlier, I’ve moved through a number of these emotional states (which is human). If I had to cast an opinion, I guess it would be that it’s likely best to have the fluid views on society vs. a singular one because the world is dynamic and calls for different energies at different times.

I’m curious where others think they end up in this spectrum and what things I may have left out.

Peace, and thanks for reading.


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Image Credits:

– Cover Image © pathdoc (Shutterstock)
– Body Image © Johnnie Weathersby III

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