Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Public Service Announcement

Published 11/15/2014

I really don’t mean to sound like an angry black woman but… I feel like that’s an appropriate way to preface this because I’m often greeted with a very similar “Not to be racist…” or, “I’m not trying to offend you…,” before friends and acquaintances proceed to utter some of the most ignorant, egregious and racist statements I’ve ever heard.  I grew up in the suburbs and therefore have been accused by many of my own race of being uppity and “bougie” and the like, but that is another matter entirely. The point is that as I am well versed in the nuances of those with paler hues, and I can usually ascertain when I’m in the presence of actual, deep-seated racism or innocuous, if  ill advised jokes. I have learned over the years how and when to address both. 

When dealing with people I encounter every day I sometimes err on the side of laughing at things that I don’t actually think are funny rather than admonishing them for their insensitivity because 1)being an expository token is exhausting and 2) having one educated,  accomplished, well-spoken black friend is not going to change the mind of a person who has a fixed and media-reinforced opinion about an entire group of people, even if I happen to be a member of said group. Trust me, I know this from years of experience.  If I had a dollar for every time I’d been pegged as an anomaly because I don’t do a plethora of things that “most” black people do, I could literally buy a small country. Literally. I find that statement particularly ludicrous because the people who say these things don’t know most black people, and usually they don’t know any who aren’t me. Rappers and people you see on the news or follow on Instagram don’t count. They really don’t guys. If I said to my white friends that they aren’t like most white people because they aren’t serial killers, child molesters, douchebags, convicted insider traders, addicted to bath salts, meth, prescription drugs, or married to their cousins, I suspect that they may find that a tad bit offensive, but I digress.

Those of you who know me, or even if you just read my blog, know that I really don’t enjoy dwelling on racial issues, much like I can’t bring myself to watch movies about urban youth achieving their way out of the hood because I think both are limiting and unproductive. I want to just live my life without making a huge issue about my color, which for me means ballet and sushi and corny crafts and hiking and yoga, and reading the thesaurus for fun to bolster my extensive vocabulary, but I can’t do that without being accused of “acting white.”

This little diatribe is not unwarranted. My week was bookended by two questions which I honestly don’t even understand why they were uttered in this day and age, because the internet exists and common sense is free. I spent Monday explaining to someone that yes, blackface is offensive and not humorous. Because there is still some doubt about that apparently. Sigh. On Friday I had to explain science when I was asked if black people can blush. Well, yeah- since I am a person and blood can rush to the blood vessels in my cheeks the same way it does in any other person, the answer is yes. I’m going to suggest that people a) pay attention in history class, and b) use Google, before asking their black friend and de facto resident expert on all peculiarities of the negro these asinine questions. I suggest this because contrary to popular belief, we go to college and have degrees and think fully formulated thoughts, and like people of all colors who do these things, we think less of you when we are greeted with stupidity.

These two incidents may not have riled me quite so much if it hadn’t come a month after I had to explain to a coworker why it is unacceptable to use the n-word in a group text that includes your black co-worker and two of your superiors. These are certainly not the first incidents like these that I’ve encountered and they are definitely not even the worse. However, when people glibly say things about living in a post-racial America, or that African Americans need to “get over” slavery (which no one would dare say to any Jewish person), I can’t help but to be a little peeved.

I love all of my friends, regardless of their backgrounds, but I have my limits. I hate to bring things like this up though, because saying anything in my defense automatically paints me as angry, and loud and typical, so I am forced into silence, lest I unintentionally reinforce pervasive and maligning stereotypes. I’m sorry, but I’m tired of white people getting offended when they are called out on their racism and forced to deconstruct it when confronted with its ridiculousness.

I ask you, are they also offended when I am the only customer followed around stores? Are they offended when white casting directors tell me that I’m not “black enough” because I don’t have dreads or bullet wound scars or a really big ass? Are they offended when someone walks into Starbucks in Burbank and yells at the top of their lungs that they can’t find a seat “because of all the ugly n*****s in here?”  That actually happened, in the TWENTY FIRST CENTURY.  Also, there were only two African Americans there and there were empty seats, so I’m sorry if being around black people is a new, challenging experience for you and you’re just getting your sea-legs where dealing with diversity is concerned. I however, have been black my whole life and I don’t have time to be befriended because it’s trendy or dated to piss off someone’s parents. My skin isn’t a fun prop that I can just remove when I want to book a commercial or get a job that I know I’m overqualified for, or not be pulled over and harassed by the police because they’re bored.

My skin color is just one small aspect of my identity and it has absolutely no bearing on my character or worth.  You’ll probably never catch me running around wearing a  “Black Power” t-shirt, but you couldn’t pay me to be anything else.  Yes I can get sunburned, yes I can swim, yes this is my hair and yes, I can pronounce “ask” properly.  I don’t think it’s funny when I’m greeted with “Yo,” and I really, honestly do not like hot sauce. I’m classy as fuck which is pretty apparent, and it shouldn’t be weird that I’m refined and also black. Those two factors are not mutually exclusive. So I take that back, I’m not sorry that you’re offended and if white privilege isn’t enough to get you through your day, then you can kiss my black ass. #dearwhitepeople #seriously