The definitive guide to not “Doin’ too much” while white

“All of these social faux pas amount to, as the black people might describe it, ‘Doin’ too much.’ A lot of them come from reasonably good intentions, but suffer from god-awful execution.”

#Race #Culture #Funny #Black #Whitepeople

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We all need guides through culture. If you’re headed to Italy, people will tell you to be careful about the words “ano” and “anno,” because they definitely don’t mean the same thing. And for many white Americans, black America can seem like an enigma.

So if you’re having a little trouble navigating racial lines, here are some helpful tips. (Most of these tips apply to strangers, because everybody has different rules with their friends.)

Language

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I went to school for English literature, and I’ve loved to read and write ever since I was a kid, so it’s not surprising to me that I have a large vocabulary. It is, however, surprising to some.

If you wish to compliment a black person on their speech, just say, “I really like your vocabulary” and then (and this is the important bit) STOP. No one will take offense to being complimented on their words, but they will take offense to you going over the top about how “well they speak” like it’s the biggest deal in the world.

Hair

Crazy Hair Italy

If you like a black person’s hair, just tell them. DO NOT just reach out and touch it. Actually, don’t even ask if you can. It may seem nice, and they’ll probably let you, but like a gay crush on a straight guy, it’s probably going to end up in discomfort for all.

If you’re a woman, sure, go ahead and ask, “How do you get it to stay like that?” and other hair maintenance questions. People like to feel appreciated, so they’re most likely going to be fine with your questions.

Sex

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Despite what you may have seen on Pornhub, black men, in aggregate, don’t have any larger business than anybody else. You might think to yourself: “But it’s, like, a good stereotype, right?” Nope.

It’s a lie, stemming from the times that white people justified harsher control on black men because they were supposedly more virile and lustful creatures, ready to rape white women into oblivion (see: Rosewood)

Because of this painful history and the myths that have hurt people for a long time, it is not in your best interest to ask your new work acquaintance the size of her boyfriend’s manhood, or to ask him.

The N-Word

This one is exclusively here for the benefit of white people everywhere, because I don’t even talk to my black friends about “nigger” that much. Like, it’s not usually a relevant topic of discussion. It never ceases to arouse the curiosity of white folk, though.

There have been many, many, many discussions about the word “nigger” and here’s the consensus: If you’re white, don’t say it. It’s really simple. Really, really simple.

“But what if it’s in a song? What if we’re reading Huckleberry Finn? What if a kid is dying of cancer and his one wish is the say ‘nigger’ before he dies?”

To be clear, there is significant diversity of thought in the black community about the appropriateness of the word, and whether it lends itself to a power of repurposing, or whether it reinforces destructive power structures, but you’re not a part of that conversation.

It’s a word that has long been used by the white community in every capacity possible to demean black people, so it’s in your best interest to avoid it. Black people shouldn’t have to give you a laundry list of why they don’t want to hear you use it, and your overwhelming desire to might need to be examined, don’t you think?

Greetings

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How I greet people

If you happen to be the milkiest and pastiest guy from Minnesota, love deer hunting and off-roading, you definitely do not need to attempt to “relate” to me when greeting me. Greeting everyone else in the office with “Hello” and then awkwardly slapping me up me with “What up, my BROTHA?!” is unnecessary and often uncomfortable. I promise I will understand you if you just give me a handshake and say, “Hi, my name is Greg.”

Going out of your way not to say “black”

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I’m black. Sure, you can use African-American if you want to, whatever makes you feel most comfortable. But if I’m standing at the counter and you’re trying to tell an employee who to help, I’ve never been offended by someone saying, “The black guy in the pink shirt.”

There’s nothing shameful about being black, so why would I be upset when you call me that? Now….if you say, “The nigger over there,” we might have a problem. See point four.

Conclusion

All of these social faux pas amount to, as the black people might describe it, “Doin’ too much.” A lot of them come from reasonably good intentions, but suffer from god-awful execution. By avoiding them, you’ll work to build bonds of unity rather than accidentally turning people off from getting to know you before they start.

Suggestions

Do you think there was anything left off this list? What are your favorite racial social mishaps? Be sure to leave a comment!

Thanks so much for reading – subscribe and come back regularly for more posts! Follow me on Facebook or Twitter, and if you’d like a great read, you can buy my book here.

White People, It’s Okay To Feel Bad About Privilege

“The next time a white person blusters at you, ‘Oh, so I’m just supposed to walk around feeling bad about my privilege all the time…?!’, think about what they’re actually saying to you.”

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Photo Credit Below
Every so often, I hear (probably well-meaning) black people say things like “White people, nobody’s asking you to feel bad about your privilege” when having conversations about race and politics, economic inequality, and how that can affect people’s lives right down the color line.

I know that they mean well when they say it, and I know that it’s probably just a response to memes like the that insist that no living white person was responsible for slavery and no living black person was enslaved, and other things like that.

But I don’t think that they should, and that’s because I think it’s okay to feel bad about privilege.

The next time a white person blusters at you, “Oh, so I’m just supposed to walk around feeling bad about my privilege all the time…?!”, think about what they’re actually saying to you. They’re asking for permission to live without empathy.

Empathy is looking around and realizing that other people do not have all of the things that you have. It’s feeling that uncomfortableness that comes from knowing you have a home to go to when others don’t, that you have an education when others don’t, or that you have cool gizmos and gadgets that others don’t. It’s also a complicated system of managing how we interact with the world, how we help others, and how we balance our desire for justice with competing interests – namely our own.

But as they’ve described it, they don’t WANT to have that feeling. “Feeling bad” for people is icky, and they want to live without icky. Definitely without icky. They don’t wish to be reminded of the inequality that exists in the actual world, and instead, prefer a cloistered reality where they don’t “feel bad” because they’ve noticed something outside of themselves.

All of those things that I mentioned are real levels of privilege that I personally have, by the way.

I once had a friend ask me why black people don’t like to swim. Off the top of my head, my first guess was, “Well, black people do tend to live in more impoverished communities that are in the urban centers without much access to bodies of water like pools or lakes, and often lack the monetary resources to be able to afford things like lake houses, ski doos, tubes, boats, etc., and that probably just creates a habit of not swimming very much.

She looked at me, confused, and said, “Are you saying that black people are poorer than white people?”

I’m not going to lambaste her for ignorant, but clearly she lacked exposure. And what people are saying when they ask to not “feel bad” about their privilege is that they like it that way.

Let’s get one thing straight: “Feeling bad” can be a really good thing. What I’m about to say may be heresy in some atheist/freethinking circles, but there are some problems that logic does not crack.

– Americans weren’t always outraged about Vietnam, and were only more outraged when they could see it. That’s “feeling bad.”

– The Civil Rights Movement made grand use of the media to sensationalize the brutalization of black bodies to the general public. That’s “feeling bad.”

– “Feeling bad” is the kind of thing that makes a person realize their LGBTQ son or daughter is a real person, because that’s what empathy does.

Empathy can overcome miseducation and break through barriers that raw logic is not able to penetrate. It can also be a useful surrogate for exposure, because just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean you’re a bigot. It means you’ve been sheltered from it, and empathy is often a great way to build that bridge to someone about something that you may not know a lot about, whatever it is (racism, sexism, or tapioca.)

But you’ll never learn any of that if you run around insisting that it’s wrong that you have to notice other people’s pain, or that it’s wrong for other people to bring that to your attention.

That’s not empathetic. That’s not human. And if you’re gonna feel that carelessly towards other people, that’s what you really should “feel bad” about.

Photo: https://goo.gl/HpDTwf
Photographer: Johnny Silvercloud
License: https://goo.gl/OOAQfn