Students Jaslani Barnes (left) and Iyana Brown (right) discuss what it means to be Black during the “Breaking Barriers” panel on Tuesday, April 5. Photo by James Lancy.

By Courtney Clarke, Live Wire Staff Writer

What does it mean to be black? Is it your skin color? Is it how you identify with culture or heritage? MCC student Shanakay Sweeney identifies herself as being a Jamaican. “We live in a color conscious society,” she said. “I’m Jamaican because that’s where I was born not because of my skin color.” Sweeney opened the session in regards to the “Black Identity” discussion which was held in the Student Lounge. Being black in America is something to be proud of, but yet, it comes with so much baggage and backlash. This particular session focused on the stereotypes and prejudices associated with skin color.

Big noses, twerking, fried foods, nappy hair, watermelon, sagging pants were just some of the things I heard thrown out when those who participated in the discussion responded with when asked about stereotypes linked to black culture.

Stereotypes are something we see and face every day through the media and from interacting with one another. Negative stereotypes play a very important role in how we perceive others that look different. Iyana Brown spoke on an instance when she was only ten years old and she felt uncomfortable because a white woman scowled at her and preceded to move her purse to the other side of her shoulder. “All I did was smile at her. I wasn’t going to hit or bite her. I was only ten.” Brown said. We live in a society that dictates the standard of what beauty is. The media tells us how we are supposed to look and as a culture we are sometimes gullible and allow ourselves to fall victim to a standard that in reality most fall short of. When this standard is not met we tend to
look at ourselves in negative light or in other instances judge others. “Everyone wants to judge, but they don’t want to be judged” said Cedric Knight Jr.

SGA President Keyarra Forbes and Shanakay Sweeny led the "Breaking Barriers" panel during the second day of "MCC Unites" on Tuesday, April 5. Photo by James Lancy

SGA President Keyarra Forbes and Shanakay Sweeny led the “Breaking Barriers” panel during the second day of “MCC Unites” on Tuesday, April 5. Photo by James Lancy

The thought and idea of judging others led to the question of how are others perceived when they choose to embrace black or African American culture? The general consensus accepted other races and ethnicity’s embracing black culture. However, it becomes an issue when the culture is mocked or made fun of. The line between embracing another culture and mocking it is very blurred. Appreciation of something different and for something new is a great way to learn, but we must be careful that we do not step on anyone’s toes in the process.

There is too much emphasis placed how an individual looks. Instead of focusing on whether or not we should cross the street when we see a individual that looks different from us out of fear or stereotyping a specific group of people based on negative societal standards; we should be concentrating “breaking barriers.”