Black people’s “mean” facial expressions

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  • #3276

    Raul F.
    Member

    Why is it that black people often seem to have a look of resentment, or an angry, belligerent sneer, on their faces, even when no one is looking at them? Is it a reaction to the racism they are surrounded by? Or is it just the way their faces look, and white people misinterpret it? Granted, people of all races can have a sullen look on their face, as many can have a cheerful look, but why does it seem that black people make themselves less likeable by looking so resentful?

    User Detail :  

    Name : Raul F., Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Bisexual, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Jewish, Age : 40, City : Denver, State : CO Country : United States, Occupation : cataloger, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #18617

    Janis C.
    Member

    Hi Raul, I have been married to a Black man for over 20 years and have had many interesting experiences with the Black community as a result. I believe you are misinterpreting their expressions, as a rule. Some people, of course, are just grumpy, but I believe what you are looking at is often what I would call a ‘closed’ face. Many people tend to keep their expressions neutral when in public or insecure situations, and it would be easy to interpret a lack of a friendly look as a mean look. (If the mean looks you see are coming from some lowlifes — whatever their color — you see as you drive through their neighborhood, these are probably genuine mean looks!) Raul, next time you have the opportunity and it’s appropriate, try being the friendly one. If you’re being genuine, you’ll probably be surprised at the change in a person’s face. What you give is what you get back (remember how their expressions affected your feelings?) I’m always astonished, considering the history Black people have with Whites, at how friendly and warm the majority of Black people have been to me.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Janis C., Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 50, City : Long Beach, State : CA Country : United States, Occupation : copy editor, 
    #24655

    Jacqueline-C21030
    Participant

    I have also heard black people wonder why white people walk around with goofy grins on their faces all the time. I think its a cultural thing. White people are raised to put on a happy face and give the outward appearance of friendliness. So when they interact with black people who don’t wear the goofy grins, they may assume the person is mad or unfriendly – esspecially if they are already uncomfortable, self-concious or afraid of being mistaken for a racist.

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    Name : Jacqueline-C21030, Gender : F, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 26, City : San Jose, State : CA Country : United States, Social class : Middle class, 
    #18028

    Sherman A.
    Member

    I will by no means claim the authority to speak for Afrikan Americans collectively, but this theory is without doubt a plausible one: In general, a person of Afrikan descent in America has little or nothing to justify the pasting of a permanent smile on his or her face. This issue dates back to our kidnapping from our true home and being brought here to suffer some of the most heinous atrocities ever committed against humankind. Think of it like this: imagine a stranger breaking into your otherwise peaceful home and then raping, robbing, maiming, torturing and otherwise dehumanizing you in every imaginable way (and some unimaginable ways), slaughtering your brothers and sisters before your eyes and then forcing you into complete bondage and servitude to him. Understandably, a single episode of this magnitude would induce severe levels of trauma in an individual, so just imagine the application of this to an entire people repeatedly for more than 400 years. As far as ‘making ourselves less likable by not smiling,’ I must ask just who is it who does not like us? Perhaps it is time we stopped smiling for the sake of granting comfort to oppressive forces and let how we truly feel show. Why should we worry about ‘being likable’ to those who smile at us as they subject us to less-than-favorable conditions, and then smile even more after the deed is done? I could not care less if a white man ever saw my teeth again.

    You have no idea what my people have been through and continue to go through. There are those who would say, ‘Remember the Holocaust,’ but ours continues even today at the hands of those who make, break and ‘enforce’ laws – they are all one and the same.

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    Name : Sherman A., Gender : M, Race : Afrikan-American, Religion : Muslim, Age : 30, City : Calumet City, State : IL Country : United States, Occupation : Communications, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, 
    #32459

    Jane
    Member

    I think this is a personal observation of the people you have encountered in your area. I am an African-American female (from the South, so I actually have a reason to look sour) and am constantly being told I am so approachable and friendly. I constantly receive the comment ‘What the hell are you so happy about?’ on a daily basis. Perhaps the look you are seeing is one of tiredness, or boredom, or even depression. One can never truly tell what is going on in another’s mind or what their true feelings may be, but to assume someone is less ‘likable’ based on what you consider to be an all-around trait in African Americans is a little broad and invalid. Keep Smilin’!

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    Name : Jane, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Bisexual, Race : Black/African American, Religion : Agnostic, Age : 28, City : San Diego, State : CA Country : United States, Occupation : Paralegal, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Lower middle class, 
    #47245

    Denise25835
    Participant

    I observe many white people looking pretty depressed and angry, too. I think our society has become so impersonal and violent that people are afraid to make contact and smile. Sometimes I get comments that I should smile more, but I may be thinking about something or just not in the mood. However, we should all make an effort to smile and say hello to more people each day.

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    Name : Denise25835, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 35, City : Hartford, State : CT Country : United States, Occupation : IT, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #25554

    S.s.
    Member

    I have often wondered that myself being black. I cannot answer for everyone, but you are correct in that a lot of what we deal with from whites and others has caused us to become untrustful and angry. I hate to always use slavery, but over the years that anger has not subsided, because of the struggles we have gone through to get the things we deserve in the first place. But when I look at pictures of Africans, I notice they have that look, too, so maybe it’s just our culture.

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    Name : S.s., Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Black/African American, Religion : Christian, Age : 25, City : Houston, State : TX Country : United States, Occupation : student/Admin Assist., Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Lower middle class, 
    #31265

    K26966
    Participant

    Leaving aside all of the obvious historical, socioeconomic issues for a moment, in my opinion, some of the ‘black frown syndrome’ comes as a result of conditioning from others. I am generally a very friendly person, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve smiled or made eye-contact with a white person, only to be ignored or scowled at. After a while you just don’t bother being pleasant anymore. It feels better to do the rejecting first, by maintaining a ‘leave me alone expression,’ rather than always being the one who gets rebuffed. C’est la vie.

    User Detail :  

    Name : K26966, Race : Black/African American, City : Chicago, State : IL Country : United States, 
    #43447

    TRUE
    Participant

    about you being bisexual? Seems like you have asked a question based on your inability to perceive reality. Black people in particular have a lot to be angry about. Your Jewish ancestors have schemed to oppress them. You should think about the plan God has for you. I’m am certain that God is offended by your choice to be bisexual and wishes that you would stop going against the natural order He designed for pleasure and reproduction.

    User Detail :  

    Name : TRUE, City : Bigcity, State : AL Country : United States, 
    #18248

    Manani K.
    Member

    I find it hilarious that the only time whites are happy (i.e. relaxed, comfortable) with blacks is when blacks are ‘clowning’ or ‘shucking and jiving,’ or present whites with that ‘subservient smile’ of a butler or maid. What whites have to understand is that blacks are just as serious as they are. I use public transportation every day, and boy, you should see the faces of some of those whites. Some of those ‘scowls’ could be straight from the horror department in Hollywood. Bottom line: Even though it’s true blacks do not have too much to smile about, they continue to take their responsibities just as seriously as whites.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Manani K., Gender : M, Race : Black/African American, Age : 34, City : New York, State : NY Country : United States, 
    #29499

    Pako-C
    Participant

    Just because an African American is not always walking around wearing a ‘Kool-Aid’ grin doesn’t mean he/she is making himself/herself ‘less likeable by looking so resentful.’ It doesn’t mean he/she is mad at the world. You may be misinterpreting the expression on someone’s face. I’m black, 6’5″ and 250 lbs., and I hardly ever walk around with a huge grin on my face. It doesn’t mean I’m resentful. Actually, 99 percent of the time, it doesn’t mean a thing at all. But you’d assume something different. That look you mistake for meanness may be that person’s normal facial expression. I’ll bet if you were to put that same look on a white person’s face, it would no longer be a mean look. It would be an even-keeled, serious or neutral expression. To me, your generalization of black people wearing permanent sour looks on their faces is an example of the often gross misconception/lack of understanding that whites share when trying(?) to understand(?) black people. Here’s a suggestion: Stop looking so hard for reasons to see black people as different from yourself. And let me always smile and grin with watermelon in one hand and fried chicken in the other, lest all white people think I’m resentful. Absurd!

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    Name : Pako-C, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Black/African American, Religion : Baptist, Age : 27, City : Washington, State : DC Country : United States, Occupation : software engineer, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 
    #14506

    Annette
    Member

    I had to respond to you. I lived in New York for 10 years in the early ’80s to the ’90s. I loved it; the subway was the great equalizer. We all had scowls on our faces, just trying to get to work and back home in one piece.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Annette, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Humanist, Age : 40, City : Washington, State : DC Country : United States, Occupation : Media, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 
    #36364

    MIKE20430
    Participant

    DID YOU EVER CONSIDER THAT MAYBE YOU HAVE A PRE-DISPOSITION IN THINKING THAT WAY. ARE YOU LOOKIN FORWARD FOR BLACK PEOPLE TO HAVE THIS CERTAIN LOOK ON THEIR FACE, BECAUSE IF YOU ARE, YOU WILL THEREFORE ALWAY’S SEE THIS. AND, IF WE DO, ARE YOU AFRAID OF SOMETHING, GUILT MAYBE…UNDERSTAND, THAT FOR CENTURIES, BLACKS IN AMERICA WERE NOT ALLOWED TO LOOK IN THE FACE OF A WHITE PERSON, SO IF OUR FACES LOOK UPSET OR FILLED WITH HATE … FIGURE IT OUT…

    User Detail :  

    Name : MIKE20430, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Black/African American, Age : 25, City : BROOKLYN, State : NY Country : United States, Occupation : STUDENT, Education level : 4 Years of College, 
    #40634

    DL31840
    Participant

    Perhaps if you pointed out certain African-American celebrities, we could all see an objective example of what you believe you are seeing. Does Oprah Winfrey have this ‘mean’ look? Maybe Michael Jordan or Denzel Washington? How does their expression differ from white people’s on television? Short of a continual harlequin grin, what constitutes a likable look? In my experience, few people walk around always smiling or always scowling or always looking contemptuous or sullen, whether they are black, white or whatever. It seems untrue to say that certain groups have a characteristic expression (especially since expression seems highly correlated with emotional state, itself a highly fluid quality) on the grounds that to do so denies 1) Individual emotional autonomy (so we would all feel the same way at the same time, everywhere) and 2) General and individual receptivity to emotion-causative stimuli (so in effect we would feel the same way all of the time despite changes in stimulus). I don’t believe this has been demonstrated to be true of any group of people.

    I’m also unaware of any white consensus on a universal ‘mean black look.’ Perhaps you are projecting your cultural associations and authoring a reality that is fictional and uniquely solipsistic: you don’t want to like something, so you invent something unlikable about the thing, proffer it as objective fact and proceed to dislike it. This is a specious justification that starts from highly questionable, untenable and self-referential premises.

    User Detail :  

    Name : DL31840, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Gay, Race : Black/African American, Religion : Agnostic, Age : 26, City : Los Angeles, State : CA Country : United States, Occupation : Student, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #43825

    Jake21066
    Participant

    I’m Korean, and people think I’m p***ed half the time because I don’t really smile unless there is a good reason to (a great joke, a promotion?). Incidentally, Koreans have very angular, chiseled features that make us look very ‘hard.’ In stark contrast to Chinese or Japanese, I’ve had white/black people tell me I look intimidating. But I can also understand why some blacks would have such sullen, even p***ed-off expressions. They’ve been through a lot, and they still go through a lot.

    I tend to be reserved around white people, and I don’t smile much. Most of the time, it’s because I’m sick of having to put on a fake smile and pretend I’m having a fantastic day (even when I’m not). This, I think, is a tendency of people in ‘White American culture.’ Basically, the idea is to show your pearly whites in public, then grumble in private. I don’t subscribe to that.

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    Name : Jake21066, Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Korean American, Age : 20, City : Los Angeles, State : CA Country : United States, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 
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