When these words leave your lips, understand that you have opted for rigid boxes over spectrums and swimming pools over oceans. When your tongue dances to the syncopation of this statement you have spoken, you’ll probably smile, fully believing that these words are meant to be some sort of compliment to the receiving ear.
In this moment, I will be torn between making this a teachable moment for you or keeping quiet, fearing that my upset will get in the way of the valuable lesson.
But as you stand there, I will be amazed at your oblivion, how you unknowingly decided that backhands could not be contained within the confines of athletic throws so you smeared them on your “compliments.”
It is highly unlikely that you have sampled every Nigerian, Canadian, American, black person, woman, etc. and/or any combination of the aforementioned. It is even more unlikely that your perspective of these descriptors represents that of every single person who has been in the presence of those who identify with them. As I think back to my childhood and teen years in which those words were spoken to me, I wish I was able to articulate all of this instead of hesitantly saying “thank you” while being flattered and confused simultaneously.
What are you saying about everyone else exactly?
It’s pretty simple, really: you are denying the existence of diversity within similarity. You have deemed your prejudices as the rules by which those of us who share the descriptor you mentioned live. But we were not there when these rules were enacted law. We were not there for its implementation or your coronation as ruler. Yet you had the audacity to say I was “good” in your eyes. Good among the “others”.
I’m going to need you to step down from your throne. After all, nobody crowned you. I’m also going to need you to feast on these truths to the point that your ignorance is starved:
Nigerians are not a monolith.
Canadians are not a monolith.
Americans are not a monolith.
Black people are not a monolith.
Women are not a monolith.
No matter our sociological category, the stories that are housed within ourselves are as unique as the fingerprints tattooed on our hands.
After all, we are not robots. We are born, not programmed.
Have you ever experienced being told “you are not like most _________?” I’m curious to hear your experiences.