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Analyzing four stereotypes Blacks believe about themselves

Jordan Crawford | 2/6/2014, 10:49 a.m.

So, since all people technically get “the itis,” the myth is somewhat true. But, since it doesn’t affect Blacks more than other groups as the stereotype says, that makes it fiction.

Black Don’t Crack

The popular belief that people of African descent look younger than their actual age is what sits behind the quip, “Black don’t crack.”

Numerous Black celebrities have aged gracefully over the years, including actresses Loretta Devine and Phylicia Rashad, and actors James Earl Jones and Denzel Washington. Many Black families have their own personal stories of ageless beauty to tell.

So, is it fact or fiction?

It is a fact.

“In my dermatology practice, Black men and women tend to pose skin aging concerns about a decade later than my patients with lighter skin,” says Dr. Lawrence Chang, director of Pariser Dermatology Specialists in Newport News.

The types of complaints are also different, Chang says. Aging Black men and women often seek treatment for uneven skin tone, large pores or moles. Yet, the leading cosmetic concerns in his aging Caucasian patients involve fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of sun damage.

Melanin, a pigment that affects the color of hair, eyes and skin, serves as natural sun protection. Since ultraviolet radiation from the sun causes skin to age faster, darker skin is more protected from those changes. People with fairer skin who did not use sunscreen at a young age are thus exposed to decades of sun damage long before reaching their older years.

However, the sun can still damage darker skin, and in addition to cosmetic changes, people with darker skin can develop skin cancer. So, even though “Black don’t crack,” staying out of the sun, using a hat or umbrella to block sunrays, wearing sunscreen and avoiding cigarette smoking can hold off the cracks for a few years longer.

All black people have rhythm, and dance and sing well

When one sees the prevalence of Blacks in the music and dance industries, it can easily appear as though Black people do have natural rhythm.

In a nightclub or simply while listening to music, it is common to find people of African descent moving to the beat of the music in a way that appears innate. If a Black person doesn’t have rhythm, it is a cause for shame or, potentially, a reference to “dancing like a white person.”

So is it fact or fiction?

If black people have innate rhythm, it is likely because of environment, not birth, says Dr. Benita Brown, assistant professor and director of the Sankofa Dance Theater at Virginia State University.

Children are often exposed to music and rhythm unknowingly. A child carried by his or her mother, as an infant, while she works around the house, or dances and sings to herself will have an experience different from a child who is not, says Brown. In certain cultures, this exposure continues at events such as parties, church services and theatrical events.

In cultures of Sub-Saharan African descent, the music is often polyrhythmic, forcing different body parts to move uniquely to different rhythms in dance.