I've Never Seen "7th Heaven" and You've Never Seen "Living Single"
Growing up in my Black ass home, I didn’t see White faces much. While in grade school, there were a total of three White people that I had to interact with, the principle, the 5th grade math teacher, and the school’s secretary. I never had any mixed cousins or any uncles that had a thing for White women. Needless to say, my childhood was Black as fuck.
However, this all changed when I stepped my Black behind into my high school that was majority White. It was the type of school where I could literally count all the Black people that were there my entire four years of attendance on my fingers and toes. During this time I had to adapt and adjust to the culture. You know, trying pierogies for the first time type of stuff. Honestly I couldn't stand my high school, but it prepared me for something that I deal with almost every single day-- being the only Black person in the room.
This continued during my college years and went on into my professional life (I’ve always been the only Black person in my office). I’ve had to suffer through countless casseroles at office potlucks and try to have a knowledgeable conversation about Country music as a result of it. Point being, I’ve gotten used to it and I would like to think that I’ve mastered the art of being in a room full of white folk. Additionally, I would like to think that many other Black folk have mastered this as well.
My story, “Being the only Black person in the room”, isn’t unique. Countless Black people have had to make themselves knowledgeable about shit they really don’t care about for the sake of “I have to go to work tomorrow and make conversation around the water cooler”. I guess what I’m trying to get at is… as Black folk, we have to learn about American White culture. We can’t afford to not know about their culture. It’s everywhere. In fact it’s considered the American “norm” because God forbid there be other people in this country with other experiences and stories to tell. We’re force fed “normal American” culture through almost every source of mainstream media and as an attempt to seem “cultured” or “not living under a rock” it’s imperative to learn, rehearse, and engage in this sort of culture while in the presence of White folk.
If I had a dollar for every time a white person gasped and asked what rock I lived under when I told them that I didn’t know who the band “Queen” was or the names of the cast members of 7th heaven, I’d be a rich bitch. Not once did they take the time to think, well, maybe her dad listened to James Brown and the staple sitcoms of her childhood was Martin and Living Single. Instead, it’s assumed that I’m not doing what I need to be doing as a good ol’ American and something must be lacking in my personal, social, or emotional state of being. Again, how dare there be multiple experiences in an America where the White man rules and is supreme?
Flipping the switch. It is rare that White people are often the only White people in the room. This is not their fault in anyway. However, when they are the only White people in the room, they can often act like they’ve been trapped in a cave for 15 years and this is their first human interaction ever. Sitting on the edge of the seat, clutching purses, and standing in a corner as if there’s not an entire room available to them are all signs of discomfort. It’s cool, we don’t bite. We’re just human beings with a lot more melanin than you. That’s all.
Moreover, they often have no fucking idea about the culture. If I have to explain who the fuck R.Kelly is one more time!! ( I almost had a fucking heart attack when my boss hadn’t heard of R. Kelly. While he’s a child predator… he made “I believe I can fly”! He made “Step in the name of love” and all of “Trapped in the closet”) But because we actually don’t think that the sun revolves around our colored asses, we take the time to carefully explain who Diana Ross is and where the beloved phrase “Bye Felicia” was born.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset that White people don’t know about the cultures of people of color. I understand that we struggle to get more representation within mainstream media. So, it may be a little difficult for our cultures to be presented on a platter the way that White culture is presented to us. That being said, mainstream media isn’t the only place to find information. My very first blog posted mentioned how preparing for a trip to Europe would consist of learning the local language, popular customs, and traditional food items. Why then is it so difficult to drive a Toyota Prius from Lincoln Park to the West Side of Chicago and order a 6 piece with mild sauce and bread on the bottom from Uncle Remus? It’s much cheaper than a trip to Europe… and very tasty!
The only thing that can explain this phenomena is a lack of desire for knowledge of our culture. I say this because they know that people of color exist because they will do everything in their power to avoid us and our neighborhood-- unless our neighborhood is close to public transit and in “prime location” with a view that’s to die for. Then they just buy the property at a low cost, flip it, and rent the space out at an unreasonable, unlivable rate. Knowing that there is an entire race of people that live in your same country, state, city, or town should be enough to spark some curiosity. Who are they, what do they like to do, what type of music do they listen to, what’s their popular dishes? These are all questions that I usually have when I want to learn more about people. I go and I try it and I appreciate it the difference in culture… then I stop. I don’t appropriate.
Point of this is basically to say, White people, stop being afraid of people of color. I’ve seen White people travel to the Middle East and risk their lives on a missionary trip, yet come back to the United States and refuse to live within a 5 mile radius of people of color because they’re worried about safety. Us folk of color here in the states won’t hurt you. Also, if you don’t know what to do when you’re around us, ASK. A simple “Could you teach me the Cha-Cha slide?” will actually get you far. Other than that, just act normal. Don’t make me regret inviting you to the kick-back. Most of all, don’t just assume that I should know your culture if you admittedly don’t know shit about mine. In other words, stop being so culturally entitled, closed minded, and arrogant. No, I don’t know that artist, I’ve never heard of that dish, and I don’t remember that dance. Just like you don’t know who Jazmine Sullivan is, you don’t know the relationship with cornbread and greens, nor can you reenact the entire confrontation scene from “contagious”. So, I guess we’re even.
Afros and Ovaries
Eating Flammin’ Hots with cheese, meat, and hot peppers