Black people don’t go green or live to the end of a horror film. They don’t get plastic surgery and aren’t feminists. Black people also don’t adopt kids, join the NRA or tip at restaurants. These are just a few of the assumptions highlighted and explored by filmmaker Angela Tucker in her irreverent web series, Black Folk Don’t.
The weekly series was featured in Time magazine’s “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life,” and it’s currently in its third season. This time around, Tucker headed to the West Coast to interview a new crop of Black folks on common conceptions of Black identity and behavior.
“As only about 6.6 percent of the population, Black people are far from the majority in California, and that intrigued me,” she says. “I found that people in Oakland, Los Angeles and San Francisco had such diverse views of the world, leading to a real clash of ideas this season among the interviewees, more so than in past seasons.”
Season three also features interviews with celebrities like John Norwood Fisher of the punk band Fishbone, director Ava DuVernay and actress Lisa Gay Hamilton. EBONY.com caught up with Tucker to discuss Black Folk Don’t, the work of complicating Black identity and why Black people don’t ski.
EBONY: How’d you get the idea for Black Folk Don’t?
Angela Tucker: Black Public Media was doing a call for a web series. I had just finished directing a documentary called (A)sexual, so when the opportunity to do a web series came around, I thought it would be really nice to work on something I could do quickly.
I was trying to think of an idea, went for a run and the idea “Black folk don’t” just popped into my head. I think that came from being someone that has heard a lot in their life that I do things that most Black folks don’t. So I sent out an email out to a bunch of friends asking them for thoughts on some things Black folks don’t do, and it created this huge discussion. That’s how I knew there was a solid idea—it started conversation.
EBONY: You’re now in the third season. What have you found are the most common themes of what Black people don’t do?
AT: One thing across the board that people say Black folks don’t do is winter sports. Skiing, snowboarding. Everybody says that. There are a lot of things that go into that, including socioeconomic factors. I went skiing and it was so expensive. Also, culturally, many of us are from warmer climates and just not interested in snow. That’s one thing.
Then there are other ideas we deal with that are difficult realities tied to history. For example, Black folks don’t go to the doctor. The data suggest that Black folks don’t go in the numbers that they should, and I really wanted to interrogate that, particularly for older people. I found out that it’s tied to there not being enough Black doctors, and a history of experimentation on Blacks that makes Blacks suspicious. Topics like that are the most interesting to me, because you’re able to reveal all the context and history behind a lot of things.
EBONY: One of the upcoming episodes is “Black People Don’t Do Feminism.” Talk to me about that idea and the episode.
AT: I was interested in the topic, partially because we were shooting in the Bay Area and there is a very strong Black feminist activist presence there. Also, I was having conversations with a lot of young people, and they seemed to not have much connection to the feminist movement and really didn’t understand Black women’s role in it. Finally, I knew just the title “Black People Don’t Do Feminism” was going to make the Internet explode. I think it’s a really interesting topic, and I wanted to have conversations with people about that.
I would say that there were surprises in it. We went to Stanford [University] and talked to some students there, and the women very much called themselves feminists and felt connected to the movement. But, with the man-on-the street interviews that we did, mainly in Los Angeles, those people saw feminism differently. They saw it as “woman power,” á la someone like Beyoncé. I will say though that every single person I interviewed and asked to name a feminist named his or her own mother. That was fascinating.
EBONY: Why aren’t there non-Black people featured in Black Folk Don’t?
AT: There will be a time, probably at the very end, where I interview non-Black people. I’m slowly accumulating interviews, and that will be like a final blowout episode, but I haven’t done it yet. So far, I’ve wanted the series to really feel like you’re present for a series of conversations that you might not have access to otherwise. Black people can relate to the conversations, and people who aren’t Black can feel like they’re getting a window in the Black community.
EBONY: What do you hope comes out of these videos?
AT: I definitely hope that people enjoy them, share them and have conversations. I hope people have cross-racial conversations, because I think each episode acts as a tool to do that. I’ve gotten to see and really enjoy all the back and forth that happens online about each of the videos when they’re posted. When a topic hits a nerve and people become irate, I really enjoy that. It’s supposed to make you think. I hope people have conversations and allow themselves to think more broadly about what it means to be Black.
Black Folk Don’t runs weekly on Mondays for six weeks through January 6.