High school senior Brandon Allen is only 17 years old, and he’s already tired of being stereotyped based on the color of his skin. Naturally, then, when it came time to choose a topic for his TED-Ed Club presentation, Brandon chose to use the platform to debunk some of the most pervasive and frustrating stereotypes that he and other black men encounter on a daily basis. We caught up with Brandon to talk about his presentation and how people can fight this destructive brand of stereotyping in schools and at home.
Why did you choose this topic for your TED-Ed Club presentation?
My TED-Ed Club presentation focused on the perception of the African-American male and the ways that we can work to defy these personas.
I found this subject interesting because throughout my 17 years of life, I’ve experienced the looks, heard the commentary, and dealt with the emotional backlash as a result of the stereotypes that society presents upon my culture (and all others for that matter).
What do you think people can do in their schools and communities to fight stereotypes?
I think the goal is to start at the home front — to create positive habits within ones own household. Its unreasonable to expect society to just change its way of thinking after so long. The reality is that civilization is stubborn, which is why values must be instilled early on.
Schools and teachers can foster the work that has been done at home. Regular meetings should be held at schools that create less of a divide and more cohesion.
The format for your presentation was really interesting. How did you decide to set it up that way?
I decided to begin my speech in a spoken word format and create a character completely opposite of myself so that the audience would immediately judge. Halfway through, I switched to myself – a more conservative business professional. This was intended to create a complete change of perspective of myself by the audience. I wanted them to explicitly see my point. I took a different approach to the topic in the hope that that viewers would be more receptive of it.
What was the most memorable part of your TED-Ed Club experience?
By far, the editing process of writing the speech itself. It was amazing feeding off of my peers and taking their advice to make my speech better. We videotaped each other, watched them play back, rewrote and videotaped again. This process was repeated several times. Just being able to hear how people from all different backgrounds feel about African-American stereotypes has helped me to become more open-minded to others’ viewpoints.