Wednesday, December 9, 2009

tell black people that they're not black

The following is an email by Michael, a twenty-four-year-old man who said it's okay for me to post it here.


I want you to know that I really enjoy your blog. . . . I wanted to share with you something that I've had white people, usually my friends, do to me all my life. They tell me that I'm "not really black."

A little background on me: My dad is a transplanted New York white man who lives in California with my mom, a transplanted South Carolina black woman. I came out an in-between shade (think Barrak Obama, Tiger woods, etc). We were poor for a long time until my parents got their small business off the ground, so you could say that I've gone through a transition from lower to middle class in my mid teens. Needless to say, I had trouble fitting in, a speck of brown in a sea of white. I was targeted, razzed, discriminated against, and called racial slurs. "Sticks and stones," my parents would say, and so I just soldiered through it.

I was fortunate enough to live in a county with good schools, so my speech and writing was about par for college folks when I got out of high school. I went to UCLA, and always worked hard to achieve academic success. Mostly because of the horrible representation of blacks in the University of California system, the vast majority of the people I interacted with were white (with asians coming in second). Whenever the issue of race came up, they told me that they just didn't see me as black. One white person even had the gall to claim that he was blacker than me.

What is it that makes me unblack? Is it my successes? That I can write and talk like a college grad? I've never seen someone's "whiteness" challenged before. Are people less white if they are unsuccessful and less articulate?

I even know more than a few white people in the media who say that Obama himself isn't really black. It's almost as if they're trying to play down his "blackness" to minimize the pride felt by blacks in America.

No amount of success or education is ever going to erase all of the experiences that I've had that have come from being black. I sometimes tell my white friends about how I was called racial slurs in class, had my belongings vandalized, and even had my house egged because of my race. Their reaction is shocked disbelief every time. "I never knew!" or "no way!" are the most common responses to the revelation that yes, I am a black person, and I have the scars to prove it.

Now I'm in law school and it's happening all over again with my new white friends (because law school isn't terribly diverse these days either). All I can do is take a deep breath and push my palm up to my forehead.

95 comments:

  1. One of my (un)favorites from childhood:

    "I don't consider you black. You don't act black."

    Usually closely followed by a foul mouthed, yet educational tirade from me. :P

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow. He really pinned it down. Been through the same and it's horrible. It's like whites who tell you this actually believe it's a compliment, and get all in a snit when you tell them it's offensive.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting, yes comments vary from "You are different to all the Black people I have ever met" or "You are different to other Black people" or "You are a Black/White person."

    You hear or have to put up with all kind of strange comments as if Black people are supposed to fit into one particular mould.

    Anyway, these days, I speak up straight away about these things more readily as I am not going to put up with it any longer, personally.

    Besides, from my experiences and interactions with White people, mixed race people (mixed looking people or someone they may perceive to be mixed) are usually widely more accepted than someone who is considered full Black. I know this because we have variations of skin tone and complexions in my family and I have seen it first hand.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm Black. Even though it isn't "pc" in the race blogosphere, I wouldn't consider you Black either. Why? I'm not going to ignore your white half. And no, there's no such thing as "mixed-race Black." When you can start pointing to mixed-race whites then I'll think about it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think Political Correctness is ruining society altogether, yet another form of dictatorship of what you can or cannot do or say.

    Anyway, I consider someone who is half Black and half White, and other variations to be mixed. To choose just one side is denying your identity. So, Obama for example is mixed and although he may look more like a Black man in appearance is mixed as a result of his genetics, although some people find it hard to digest, probably because they are being racist and don't want to accept the truth.

    Also, with a lot of mixed people I have met over the years, there can be alot of confusion as to which side to choose and identify with.

    I know a guy in his forties who was given up for adoption by his White mother because at the time mixed people (or being with a Black person) were not widely accepted. Of course, things have changed considerably since then...

    He told me that he went to search for her and she had since married a White man and he had step siblings who were White. He told me that he hated her for giving him away and called her the B word. Incidentally, this guy is married to a Black woman and the kids look like spitting images of their dad, both look mixed and very fair.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey Michael,

    Thanks so much for sharing man. Stories like this are part of the solution and hopefully people view it in an educational light rather than using it against you or other people of color.

    Growing up, I was expected to go to college. Your post was a good reminder that college is really a privilege. Thank you.

    In addition, I think what really shines though in your article are the contradictions that people of color see and feel throughout their lives. Because you were perceived as a Black man, your house got egged. Because you were perceived as Black, you aren't supposed to be in law school. One second you're black, the next second you're not, and it's all being determined by the dominant racial group, not by yourself. And I think that's at the heart of white privilege, the ability to define themselves.

    Growing up, we're force fed this "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" and "freedom to be oneself" mentality. But that's for White Male Straight (etc.) Americans isn't it? Everything we do is racialized or genderized or sexual orientation-ized (lol is that a word?) and its very tough for dominant identities to get past that aspect. Anyway... Good luck in Law school. Kick some serious ass! And thanks again for your post

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've been through the same thing growing up. My non black friends (associates) would comment on how I didn't have a black card or that if a "real" black person knew me, they would have revoked it. At first I would just laugh, sometimes I would quickly change the subject, other times when I would angrily question unlucky offender (not for any answers, but for the embarrassment of the offender), there was even a period when I would just pretend I didn't hear what was said, but now I simply respond, "I'm black,deal with it!" (no history lesson, no explanations, no arguments)


    The truth is for most of my non-black friends (associates) I am the first "other" that they've actually have gotten to know. Since I don't fit the stereotype, in their minds I'm obviously an anomaly. Thus I have taken it upon my self to let them know that I'm not the exception to the rule, because the rule doesn't really exist like they think it does.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Half-White, Half-Latino here. This is perhaps the most frustrating thing to correct with white people around here in Texas.

    When I speak English eloquently and bring up something regarding being Hispanic, people say "You're pretty white, I think. You're not like a lot of Hispanics..." as some type of compliment, as if there is some sort of benchmark that I've scored well on.

    There also the look on peoples faces when they see that I speak Spanish fluently and suddenly want to know how to say some choice phrase for some kind of coolness factor.

    I'll never know what it's like to be mixed-race Black or Black and be told that, though, as being Black in America holds many different connotations than being Latino in America.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I had some idiot in high school (let's call her "Belle") who considered herself very Christian and prided herself on being compassionate and unbiased, tell me that one of my friends "didn't act at all Asian!" I knew what she meant, but with my heart pounding, I pressed her on it anyway in class, asking: "Well, Belle, what DO Asian people act like?"

    She at least had the "grace" to look uncomfortable and mumbled "Well, you know, she's athletic and really outgoing, most of the Asian kids I know are into orchestra, school..." before she finally realized how stupid and racist she sounded. There were 3 or 4 other white kids around, kids I had considered really open-minded and as my friends, all looking uncomfortable and no one said a fucking thing to me about it, all avoiding my eyes. They ALL knew it was wrong - I could tell by their tight faces when she started talking. But NONE of them said anything. NOT ONE.

    The Asian girl she was speaking about kind of shrugged it off. I wonder if it was no big deal to her because it happened so much or if she really didn't care.

    I later went to work with Belle on a project. Her mother complimented me on my "flawless English" and said that she "never would have known I was Asian." I was so shocked I couldn't even respond. She realized by my expression that she had put her foot in her mouth and scurried away.

    Guess I knew where "Belle" got it from.

    Anyway, sorry to derail with my story, I just meant to say thanks for telling us about your experiences and that, unfortunately, I can TOTALLY relate.

    ReplyDelete
  10. @ Johnston:

    >> "Even though it isn't "pc" in the race blogosphere, I wouldn't consider you Black either. Why? I'm not going to ignore your white half."

    But your refusal to call Michael black is light-years away in meaning from what white people mean when they say, "I don't see you as black."

    What you seem to mean is, "You are biracial, and I insist on 100% accuracy in acknowledging heritage." (I'm more inclined to say that people should be identified however THEY choose, but whatever floats your boat, I suppose).

    But what the white people mean is, "Wow, you are an actual human being...therefore, it's simply not possible for you to be black!"

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ah, easy answer:

    Whites are the lord and authority over everyone and everything; thus, it is in their power to label anyone of what they are. You can't. But, they can.

    Yes, I've been through this as a fair-skinned BLACK woman. Please don't tell me what I am. I know what I am. But, do you know what you are? If not, I have a fair share of what you can consider yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think the supposed compliment is mostly and/or usually code for:
    "you're better than those OTHER [read: bad] black people, in fact, you're kinda like ME."

    But I think it is also partly and/or sometimes code for:
    "Seeing as race isn't important to my life [HA!] and you're in it, I'm going to have to ignore that you're black so that I don't have to think about such unimportant things as race and racism. mkay?"

    ReplyDelete
  13. after college i moved about a thousand miles or so from home where i knew no one, had no job etc. my first job was at a business of about 25 employees where i was one of two white employees. it was mostly family owned and run (the other white employee was an inlaw). the family that owned the business sort of 'adopted' me.

    here and there would be some making fun of white people nothing i found particularly offensive (white people can't dance / ya'll get uptight about nothing) but everyone was always careful to say "but you aren't really white" to me.

    in fact, oddly enough, a few months later it came up that i had italian heritage and i was then told "oh, well, why didn't you say so - you really aren't white" i had never heard such a thing. but i digress.

    the point is - when these people told me i wasn't really white it was meant as a compliment and truthfully, i felt complimented for the most part - i did feel a little weird about taking it as a compliment but nonetheless . . .

    in fact - i recently read a white woman's comments on an article about racial recognition in children where she was speaking of her experiences in college. she made the comment that a black friend said she wasn't black or white but grey. she said this was said 'much to my delight'.

    but when i have heard the same type of thing said about black men or women and when i read this post my reaction is so very different - it makes me flinch. i have recognized a difference in the past but reading this post is the first time i've thought - so *why* is this different then my experience?

    i'm not entirely sure i have the answer. i have some thoughts on it. when it was said to me it was by a select group of people who i had already developed a close relationship with where it was meant as a way to include me as opposed to a disparagement against all other white people. of course in the poster's case i have no idea the relationship of the people speaking to him or the context but in the past i have heard it said specifically for the reasons he's illustrated - being educated and well spoken.

    as to
    "I've never seen someone's "whiteness" challenged before. Are people less white if they are unsuccessful and less articulate?"
    i have seen whiteness challenged before and i'm not referring to the above referenced experiences. yes, white people are considered less white if unsuccessful and less articulate. but truly that is just further evidence of racism against black people. this is where the term "wigger" comes in. as if to say that the bad speech and lack of class aren't inherently white traits but rather happen as a result of whites "acting like blacks".

    ReplyDelete
  14. Sr.Thomas said:When I speak English eloquently and bring up something regarding being Hispanic, people say "You're pretty white, I think. You're not like a lot of Hispanics..." as some type of compliment, as if there is some sort of benchmark that I've scored well on.
    ***************

    I've encountered the "you're not like those other blacks" remarks. Quite amusing really as if I'm an exception to the rule.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It's pretty amazing how much them saying "you're not black" says about their prejudices. Black people are not "supposed" to be educated, articulate, successful, or go to good schools in their rather small minds. What bullshit.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Believe it or not, I've had Whites pull the same ish with me. They honestly think it's a compliment. Then they get really pissy when I don't see it that way and refuse to spit on my Blackness with them. That's when I go from "Ooooo! She's not like those others!" to "Uppity, Black bitch! Who does she think she is?!"

    ReplyDelete
  17. >When you can start pointing to mixed-race whites then I'll think about it.

    Mixed race Eurasians are usually considered 'white' in predominantly non-white places (e.g. in Asia). Is that what you mean?

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm fully Black, but I understand and agree completely. I hate the word "articulate." Because some white people love to use it as a condescending complement. The act as if it's some sort of achievement that I don't speak broken English. They attribute everything bad to being black and every thing positive to being white. Even the words black and white have negative and positive connotations that reflect the mindset of this country, which is why I like the terms African and European American more.

    ReplyDelete
  19. @Johnston

    I would consider him Black because he shares the Black experience. I know a girl who is half black/white, but she is dark as dark chocolate. If they didn't see her parents, they would never think she was white, so I wouldn't call her mixed, just Black. Someone else I know is half, but she doesn't look Black at all. She has white skin and wavy hair. I don't consider her Black because she will never experience life as a Black person

    ReplyDelete
  20. Political Correctness is most certainly NOT ruining this country. People who say that are using it as a sort of mask to give them free license to insult others and spew racist venom. At worst, political correctness can be viewed as a sort of institutionalized politeness.

    If the fallout of political correctness is that some politician gets in trouble for saying something racist or sexist or homophobic and some people (let's be honest here, white people) have to think twice about what they say before they open their mouths, then I would say it's a small price to pay for the massive benefit in non-white peoples' lives as they have to worry that much less about being offended, insulted, and discriminated against on a verbal level.

    It's wrong and it's immoral for anyone to make someone who is concerned about the mental welfare of others feel like a killjoy. The people who are against political correctness are the ones who are wrong on a whole number of levels and those of us who think twice before we open our mouths and consider our fellow man's feelings before we speak are in the right and shouldn't feel ashamed about it.

    As the white folks who don't "consider you black", we'll they've just outed themselves as bigots because by saying that they are essentially informing you that you don't fit in with their negative stereotypes of black people and therefore are not lumped into the same group as them.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This post relates to a lot of my own experiences. My current boyfriend has said a couple of times that he doesn't see me as Asian, and I think he means that as a positive, as though race isn't a factor in our personal relationship. On the contrary, I see race all the time, and there is no way for me to separate even my relationship with him from race, particularly because we're an interracial couple.

    I've heard people white people say that I'm not really Chinese because my English is flawless and as a grad student, I hang out with the domestic students. I've heard Chinese internationals say the same for the same reasons because I dress like an American.

    I feel like this is another symptom of the "refuse to listen to POC talk about race." By discrediting our own racial identity, they get to take our opinions less seriously.

    The other thing that I wanted to comment on was Johnston's comment about not considering the author black because he's also half white. I think this is an interesting phenomenon because multiracial people seem to tend to identify as black if black is a part of their racial makeup. I don't know how much this has to do with the "one drop" rule we had in this country. On the other hand, I find that those who are half asian and half white will tend to identify as white if their looks allow them to pass for it. For example, Michelle Branch, Ann Curry, Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Tilly, although this might just be because of how the media perceives them.

    Anyway, I don't know why anybody has to fit us into nice neat boxes or challenge what we choose to identify as. I feel like nobody ever challenges a white person when they say they're "part Irish", "part Italian," or "part Cherokee."

    ReplyDelete
  22. I've found it's black people who wouldn't consider him to be a 'real black person' more than white people.

    What about all the white kids who 'act black'? What does that mean anyway?

    Political Correctness has got to go!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. "He can be half-honkey, quarter honkey, or no honkey, no matter how much of what race, he still a jackass"

    -A relative of this poster

    ReplyDelete
  24. Why should u be referred to as black only? Are you not half white? Why do u deny your White heritage? I find that odd to be honest. You are mixed and that is fact.

    ReplyDelete
  25. No, political correctness does NOT have to go!

    I'm sick of mofos whining about political correctness. What they really mean is "It really SUCKS that I have to think for an extra 0.58 seconds about the drivel emanating from my mouth or that I have to respect this 'other' in any way, shape or form!"

    ReplyDelete
  26. Or if we're going to abolish teh eevul political correctness, then it's gotta be across the board. When some asshat wants to sound off about my race and/or gender, I get to machete him/her right then and there. No cops. No prosecution. No jail time.

    Deal?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hey Pat, if you're going to make a statement like "Political Correctness has got to go!" why not elaborate on your reasoning behind that? I'd love to hear your perceived logic behind it.

    ReplyDelete
  28. As an all black (and pretty obviously so) person, I have also had this happen to me. Most often when I speak to someone over the phone and then meet them in person, their whole demeanor changes and then it is "oh, you don't look like you sound..." *needle scratch* er? What? In college I always got asked where I was from...as if I were some sort of alien because I didn't "talk black" or "act black". Just this last weekend a friend came to visit and his word was "pretentious." Offensive as all hell.

    ReplyDelete
  29. To me, the whole "If you say you are Black and you are really biracial you are denying half" sentiment confuses me because it seems to stem from a logical fallacy. "Black" does not equal "not White", so saying you are Black doesn't eliminate the possibility of you being White too (or vice versa). Just like saying my name is "Jasmin" instead of "Jasmin" [surname] doesn't negate the fact that I have/belong to said surname.

    ReplyDelete
  30. The following is the 2007 winning entry from an annual contest at Texas A&M University for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term.

    The term was 'Political Correctness'.

    The winner wrote:

    'Political Correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end'.

    ReplyDelete
  31. People have a lot of nerve sometimes. I agree with Dan and others in their defense of being "PC" and I really think folks who say they don't consider the author black b/c he is mixed race and who claim to be black have a lot of nerve too. And to Pat, you are full of it, until very recently in history the ONLY people who accepted mixed race people were black people b/c their white parents (especially when they were white male slave owners) and white society would never acknowledge them. Take Sally Hemmings who had a white father and a half-white half-black mother but somehow that didn't keep her from being a slave. Talk to almost any mixed race black person who could not pass for white who is older than say 45 and ask them how many white people in general accepted them and called them anything but black. Also, if you are mixed race black person who is dark skinned see how many people laugh in your face if you try to call yourself white or even mixed race.

    I hope the author hangs in there and when he doesn't feel like educating white folks who tell him he isn't "really" black he should just look at them like they are from outer space.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Sue Percilious said...

    Why should u be referred to as black only? Are you not half white? Why do u deny your White heritage? I find that odd to be honest. You are mixed and that is fact.

    Maybe I read it wrong but I don't see where Michael said he's denying his "white half". It's not his denial of his heritage, it's the denial of white people about the "black half". That's the point, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Barack Obama's ascent to the Presidency brought this issue front and center. If I hear one more white person say "he's not really black..." I'm going to blow my top.

    I guess I just don't get the point of doing that. What does it do to feel like you can decide who is what ethnicity?

    Mixed individuals experience this the worst, I think. I defer to the individual on that one. If he/she defines themselves as black, then so will I; if white, me too... It's not my job to decide.

    I think there's also a different way to read it when a group of people you know do it and an outside group does it. I think when people you know do it, it's to be inclusive (albeit still wrong, and still irritating) and when outside people do it, it's to justify some other feeling. Like with President Obama: They exclude him from being black to implicitly say "I'm not racist because I don't like him..." (why they can't just say that, is beyond me).

    And the "don't deny your other half" sentiment is ignorant. You get no say as to what part of one's heritage they claim publicly. Tiger Woods tried to claim it all and got a lot of sh*t, so they're damned if they do, damned if they don't.

    ReplyDelete
  34. "I never knew!" or "no way!" are the most common responses to the revelation that yes, I am a black person, and I have the scars to prove it.

    100 % *this*.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I feel Michael's pain.

    I used to have a "friend" in high school. One day, I started talking about my cousins, and he interrupted me to say "I can't imagine them being black!" (I guess because he didn't "see me" as black). I changed the subject because I was so floored, I didn't even know what to say. I haven't seen him in a while... I'm not complaining : )

    I also once had a white woman who I baby-sat for act so shocked that I was quiet. Later on her husband asked, "do you have some sort of accent?" (translation: "why are you speaking so properly?"). We live in the same fucking neigbourhood. My parents are Caribbean, so yes, they have an accent, but I don't! I live 5 minutes away from these people!!

    The most recent example was my black friend's cousin. My friend and I were hanging out in a computer lab, and she put me on the phone with him (she told him I'm black, but he still hadn't seen me). I started talking to him and instead of just going along with the small talk, he asked "what are you mixed with?" "you've GOT to be mixed with somehing". When I told him I was half Jamaican and half Jamaican, my friend died laughing, he sounded... confused? I don't know.

    My mom also jokes with us about the white nurses at her job that are so impressed that we're not crack addicts, lol.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I think Dan and LisaMJ are delusional how the real world works.

    We have something called Freedom of Speech in this country. Being politically correct is just another attempt at trying to control that.

    Why should someone who is white feel they might offend someone if they call them 'black' and not 'African-American' while it's perfectly fine for black people to call them 'white' and not 'Italian-American' or 'Chinese-American'.
    Hmm..Sounds like PC only applies to certain people.

    ReplyDelete
  37. IMHOTEP, what are you talking about? You make NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. First of all, neither Dan nor I said anything about it being good bad or indifferent for white folks to call people African-American or black. Second of all you are comparing apples and oranges in talking about the difference between calling someone black vs. African-American and calling someone Italian-American and white. Africa is a continent, not a country, Italy is a country. The majority of black people in this country who are American citizens are the descendents of slaves who were brought whole-sale from Africa and thrown together irrespective of nation of origin or tribe so, unlike someone who is of African descent and is an American but whose parents came from Nigeria who can say I'm NIgerian-American, we don't know, so we might use the term African-American, instead of black or Nigerian-American. Now if you are white and in America there are a myriad of places in Europe or even parts of the middle-east that you can be from and you may well know enough about your family to say, I'm Italian-American or French-American, etc, though most whites are mixed with several things as well. If there was a movement to start calling white people, European-Americans,I'd have no problem with that and would call anyone who prefred that phrase just that, and if they prefered white, I'd call them that. Personally, I could care less if a white person calls me black or African-American. It seems to me IMHOTEP that you not only don't understand how the "real world" works yourself, you don't understand history either or how to logically make a consistent arguement.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thanks for the post. This reminds me of a handful experiences I've had as a brown person in Ontario and Quebec. There's a lot of "but you're not that Pakistani" or "yeah, but you totally act like a white person."

    This strikes me as a racial double-whammy. First, the people who evaluate my identity in this way have the impression that there is only one way to be brown (or Pakistani, or black, etc). In two words: racial essentialization. Second, these people have some kind of jacked sense of the relationship between genetics and social identities. Sure, having parents from two different social identity groups might mean you have a different experience than someone else. But to think that all our social relationships will be mediated through our parents and their relationship to the world is like saying we spend our entire lives holding our parents' hands, letting them do the talking, thinking, and interacting. I find that hard to swallow.

    My strategy for coping with this kind of absurdity has been not to let other people's ideas of authenticity define me. Rather than trying to understand why I don't fit into someone else's box, I subsume the box to what I understand as my own identity. It doesn't win every battle, but it helps you live life on your own terms.

    ReplyDelete
  39. @ cassdawn
    I expressed a similar story via email. What I came up with as the answer to why you and I didn't feel offended and, rather, accepted was that when our black friends said we weren't white, they were saying, "You don't [insert universally recognized acts of ignorance]" like the white people they have known. (Think: not clutching your purse or crossing the road when you see a black man, not saying obviously hurtful or rude things about blacks, not making stereotypical comments, not wanting segregation, etc.) I think everyone can agree that those are negative things. And to be told you don't embody that is a compliment.

    But when a WP says that to a Bp those acts of ignorance are NOT universal. They are the foulest and stupidest shit stereotypes that they have floating around in their heads. (Think: fried chicken, watermelon, and neck-talking and worse - the most obscure BS they've ever encountered). THAT is why it makes you flinch. The stereotypes that the poster is implied to be rejecting are negative.

    Well, at least that's what I gathered it to be. I know the poster's friends think they're being as endearing as our friends are/were, but they're not. They're revealing hidden stereotypes.

    ReplyDelete
  40. In regards to mixed raced individuals, I call them whatever they want to be called regardless of biology. It stings a little when someone I know has white and POC parentage and deny the POC part of the equation, but really, that's none of my business. Who am I to tell you what you feel and who you are?

    In regards to being told 'you're not black' it just makes me sad. I have struggled with this for as long as I remember. Continually meeting people after they've spoken to me and know that my name is Bettie, it is astonishing how often attitudes change once people see a brown face.

    I'm not black for several reasons, apparently:

    My name.
    My interest in art.
    My style of dress.
    The way I speak.
    I do not dance well.
    I read A LOT.
    I'm 26 and don't have any children.
    My frame of reference extends beyond the context of black culture ( "I didn't know black people even knew who Pushkin was!")

    The biggest problem I see with this is that POC's can never be individuals. You have already decided who we are, what we know, and what we're capable of. So now, instead of really learning and getting to know people, you're busy marveling in the fact that we can even spell our own names. I think it makes POC's, or me at least, just so tired because no one can ever really see you.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Okay, I'm tired today and getting a little irked by some of the PC language posts. There's this underlying theme of PC language as censorship and "reverse-racism" in them.

    Has anyone been thrown in prison for saying black instead of African-American? How many people can honestly say they've lost their livelihoods for the sole reason that they said Hispanic instead of Latina. Honest-to-god!

    Just because there are PC(read:respectful) terms and phrases that people would like to see become common usage, that doesn't mean freedom of expression has been muzzled. Or can "freedom of speech" only exist in a vacuum where you can say what you want without having to fret about a verbal dressing down. Talk about muzzling and censorship.

    Besides, don't people have the right to decide how they want to be identified? Don't they have a right to get angry if someone calls them something they find offensive, regardless if the speaker finds it offensive or not?

    ReplyDelete
  42. Thanks for the post. I've experienced this from both blacks and whites alike. I've had people tell me I'm like a white girl trapped in a black girl's body.

    I've often had people ask me if I'm from the U.S. because I speak "English so well." Yes, believe it or not, I've had people say that to me. I had another friend who experienced this and she said that later when she thought about it, she took it as an insult. It seems that if you're a black American, you aren't supposed to speak eloquently, so therefore you must be from somewhere else.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I've only gotten through a few comments, so I'm not sure if this has been addressed by subsequent commenters, but PEOPLE: YOU DO NOT GET TO CHOOSE A RACIAL IDENTITY FOR SOMEONE ELSE. People of mixed racial descent choose to identify the way they do for a reason, and it's not up to anyone else, particularly strangers on the internet, to tell them, "No, you're actually not black; you're mixed" or "You can't just ignore your white half." Besides the fact that we don't actually experience life as arbitrary percentages of our racial makeup, a lot of people choose terminology that both reflects their mixed heritage and their experiences interacting with others and how they are perceived (e.g. the popularity of "black with mixed heritage" as a descriptor for biracial black/white people). For me, personally, I have a similar racial background to this author of this post, but I identify as biracial or multiracial; I also, however, talk about my "blackness." It's not as though I'm immune to anti-black racism, racial slurs, or discrimination. If I were to self-identify as black, that would be my prerogative.

    ReplyDelete
  44. And to follow up on my last comment, everyone who is nitpicking this man's racial makeup is derailing and ignoring the point of the post. The kinds of comments he has heard about not really being black are said to lots of black people; it not about his mixed race at all. It's a reflection that to his white peers, he doesn't fir their stereotype of what a black person is. He's well-spoken, educated, middle-class, etc. and so instead of challenging their own ill-conceived ideas of what black people are like, they characterize him as an exception to the rule.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Besides the fact that we don't actually experience life as arbitrary percentages of our racial makeup, a lot of people choose terminology that both reflects their mixed heritage and their experiences interacting with others and how they are perceived (e.g. the popularity of "black with mixed heritage" as a descriptor for biracial black/white people).

    Thank you.

    And there's also the fact that the majority of Black people living in the US are technically "mixed race" (Thank you, slavery). Not to mention more than a few White people who believe they're "part Cherokee" while ignoring the history of passing.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I am torn on this issue, honestly.

    On the one hand...

    I understand that you see yourself, socially speaking, as black because you've been treated as a black person your whole life.

    On the other hand...

    you're actually biracial, and I don't think anyone should dismiss HALF of what they are. You should be proud of all your heritage.

    But...
    I do understand the frustration that many feel when people suggest that to be black is to act a certain way.

    However...
    It is not just white people who think this way. Heck, there's more pressure from within the black community to conform to a certain stereotype of behavior, dress, speech, etc that they've designated black.

    Hence...

    many blacks make fun of people like Bryant Gumble(?) for not speaking in a deep, aggressive voice.

    ReplyDelete
  47. @Bettie, if any philistine ever expresses suprise that you know who Pushkin is again, you tell them that Pushkin was of African-ancestry (his great-grandfather was African making him in old-time American speak an Octaroon) so some of us black folks know who he was b/c we like to claim our own, he is part of black culture, and that YOU are suprised that THEY didn't know that. That'll shut 'em up.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Mel,
    Where does Michael say that he is dismissing any part of his racial identity?

    ReplyDelete
  49. @Mel “you're actually biracial, and I don't think anyone should dismiss HALF of what they are. You should be proud of all your heritage.”

    The writer is not dismissing his white half, it's white society that is trying to denigrate his Black half. His "buddies" are only willing to accept half of him, the half that looks like them. This should not surprise anyone, because white supremacy makes no allowances for a biracial person. Who are we kidding; white supremacy would more easily condemn a biracial person, than accept them as white.

    @the writer, you want your friends to accept the whole you, and that’s great, but you basically admitted that Blacks are not part of your circle of friends, what’s up with that? I too grew-up in So. Cal, even took some classes at UCLA, I know there are Black folks on the campus.

    There is a racist pig using my moniker. You need to cease and desist with your internet minstrel show, you can’t fake the funk! Use a moniker that’s more reflective of your inane comments, try StupidF****K !

    ReplyDelete
  50. Mel just gave us the "THEY [here: Black folk] do it TOOOOOOOOOO!" excuse.

    Everybody, drink a shot!

    ReplyDelete
  51. Witchsistah:

    And I just got over a stomach virus too!

    ReplyDelete
  52. The way I see it, the only people who hates PC are white folks who believe in their right to call a minority whatever racist label see fit, w/o any regard to the feeling of the people they are addressing. They want to get back the unalienable right for whites to call any black the N word like in the good old days of, say, 30 years ago.

    I'm all for people being un-PC - just don't tell me you're not a racist as well. You can't have both - exhibiting racist behavior and getting away with it.

    ReplyDelete
  53. @ Tivome,

    Well, I hate Political Correctness and I'm not White. What you have to understand is that PC does not just extend to race issues alone eg recently in the UK the Government were saying that people should stop calling young people "youth".

    I wish they would concentrate on the real issues and stop poking their nose into things, which to me are secondary issues when there are bigger problems to deal with.

    Besides, Political Correctness is a form of dictatorship, to me anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  54. i have been reading this blog without commenting and it's the best i have read in a while.

    Many of the experiences here are similar to ones i've experienced concerning white people. They like to lump us people of color in one group, below them, but the truth is that they're the ones nearly all the same. They are all racist and never feel sorry for it.

    keep the good work up on the blog

    ReplyDelete
  55. Saying "you aren't REALLY black" is not a sign of political correctness. It's a sign of the complete ignorance and cognitive dissonance whites have when they encounter blacks who do not meet their preconceived ideas of what constitutes a black person. It is a racist statement, period. All it shows is that the speaker believes stereotypical and generalized "facts", "ideas", and "characteristics" about black people and the ONE black person they run into who doesn't display these characteristics is suddenly *exceptional*. It reminds me of when early in the series of the Cosby show, there were heated debates about how they weren't "real" blacks, and blacks didn't live like that or have jobs like that, etc. (even other blacks said it!). I was floored because except for the fact that my father wasn't funny like Cliff Huxtable (and there were only 2 kids in our family), that was almost exactly my life growing up (we didn't live in NYC).

    I have heard this all through school, including college and graduate school (people always want to know where I got my primary and secondary education and I always say that I went to schools so white, even the janitors were white). I've heard it at every job I've ever had. I still hear it today. And I have to say as much as it chaps my ass when whites say it, it really CHAPS my ass when blacks say it. Blacks are not one huge monolithic group, why is this so hard to comprehend? I've had people INSIST I wasn't American, even in other countries. In fact, the woman in the downstairs condo has decided I'm West Indian. Apparently, I have an accent, oh, and my hair doesn't look like "normal" black people hair (Huh?).

    (white people, though I've had variations of this with POCs as well)
    Q. Where are you from?
    A. Here. The U.S.
    Q. No, where are you parents from?
    A. The U.S., again.
    Q. (sometimes exasperated) Okay, where are your grandparents from?
    A. North Carolina and Alabama. In the U.S.

    WTF?

    @Sue Percilious

    That is a disingenuous statement. Black people who appear black, even when they have one white parent, have ALWAYS been identified by the dominant race as "black". It really seems that the minute these "half" black people achieve something desirable or valuable in the "white" world, whites want to claim them or cry "but they're half-white, too!" Remember the "One Drop Rule"? You think black people thought that up? Really? Whites enshrined that idea into law, and this entire damn conversation is the product of such ideas even though, you know, we're post-racial now. Seriously, please stop. White people don't allow half-black people to claim their half-white side if they "appear" black. Why is it that whites always seem to want to change the rules when it stops benefitting them?

    ReplyDelete
  56. Ugh, I get this all the time. I'm 1/4 Askenazi (German) Jew, 1/4 Korean, and 1/2 Irish. I have red hair and freckled skin, but othewise it's pretty clear that I'm part Asian. My older brother and sister both look mixed-Asian. My father looks like Charles Bronson. And all of us have been told that we're "not really Asian" because we don't look and act like some racist characature people see on tv. Many people would rather spend days arguing with you about whether or not you are what you are instead of stopping and thinking "Hmm, maybe I was wrong about this group of people."

    And I really hate the term "politically correct". It implies that something is only technically correct but socially innacurate. If it's correct, you don't need a modifier on it. Saying "Asians/Asian Americans" insteal of "orientals" isn't being "PC", it's just being right. And if whites are upset because they have to change, too bad.

    ReplyDelete
  57. I consider myself anti-racist but I'm against "political correctness" too. It seems all too often being PC means disguising one's racist thinking behind sweet, carefully-crafted words. So would all the silly gold-standard-thumping racists here please stop being PC and reveal your true colors to the world? No one's stepping on your freedom to prove to the world that you're an asshole.

    ReplyDelete
  58. @ the real Imhotep, I've seen you around on the interwebs and I didn't think that last comment sounded like you but felt I had to set whomever it was straight. My ire was not directed at you.

    ReplyDelete
  59. @Pockysmama:

    It pisses me off when black people do it, too. What offended me about that phone conversation (see my earlier post) was that the way I spoke = "mixed" to him. And I'm sure mixed = "half white" in his mind. He also sounded creepily excited while insisting that I was "mixed with something".

    That being said, I don't get offended when people ask if I'm West Indian because my family is. I can also tell when I'm talking to a West Indian. Once at a doctor's appointment, my mom thought the kid at the front desk was West Indian, so she asked him; he was like me. Does the fact that she's West Indian make a difference? I just figured he reminded her of my brother/cousins.

    "I've had people INSIST I wasn't American, even in other countries."

    I'm abroad in Italy right now, and I've had that happen a few times. They weren't quite insisting, though. My roommate just seemed curious about my backgroud, so that was no big deal. This one kid I met asked me where I was born, even after I had told him. He asked about my parents, and was right, but it still felt... awkward. I haven't had anyone here tell me I'm not black, though : )

    ReplyDelete
  60. You know, "politically correct" is a right-wing term that has successfully been applied to the crazy left-wing concept of calling people what they'd like to be called, which is just a subset of the behavior called "being respectful of others."

    There are no "PC police." Police have guns and can put you in jail. "PC police" just point out when you're being an asshole. Not exactly the same thing. There's this surreal perception out there that there are jackbooted thugs telling people what to say...and yet I've never seen one. What I do see is thousands of privileged people in a snit, pretending that they're being harried by language enforcers that don't exist.

    This recontextualizing of the simple awareness that maybe we should call people what they'd like to be called as some kind of Stalinist plot is probably the most successful chunk of right-wing propaganda in the last 30 years.

    ReplyDelete
  61. @ Pajamas

    It's the thought process behind the statement. If I were West Indian, no problem. But certain whites think that you must be a first or second generation black immigrant because you couldn't possibly be American, because American blacks don't act/live/behave/speak/travel, etc. like that. So they decide you must be from another country that has black people that they find more palatable. And that's what irritates me.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Thank you, TJ!

    I'm sick of folks (of ALL colors) whining about having to be "PC!" Is it REALLY breaking your brains to have to pay lip service to the IDEA of respecting others not exactly like you?! If that's the case then this and other race-related blogs need to just shut down because even ATTEMPTING to institute justice is just pointless if folks are crying rivers about having to PRETEND they're not assholes!

    ReplyDelete
  63. "tell black people that they're not black"

    Actually, I hear far more black people saying this about other blacks than white people.

    Don't believe me? Just check out all the "brotha's not really black" comments from other blacks on Twitter.

    Or does Twitter not count?

    Coincidentlly, I don't think the author of this blog is really white.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Coincidentlly, I don't think the author of this blog is really white.

    I'd take that as a compliment, Peppers, but I'm guessing you didn't mean it that way.

    Anyway, truth be told, I'm really, really "white."

    ReplyDelete
  65. Another apologist saying, "But they do it toooooooooooooo!"

    DRINK!

    ReplyDelete
  66. Being a black female who was born and raised in Holland my experience is different from a person of (any) colour in the US. Yes, you do have white people who are rather surprised that you have a brain, know your world literature and go to the theatre now and again but they all consider me (fully) black 'cause that is what they see and that is what I am (obviously). But the people who really give me stick are other black people calling me not really black for several random reasons varying from travelling the world on my own, going to the opera and having a preference for heavy metal which are considered 'white activities'. Black people (and perhaps people from other races, shades and colours)have just as much prejudice about how a black person should behave as white people have.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Witch, the person above me is also doing the "but other black people do it tooooo and I know because I'm black" derailment.

    Here's a shot.

    Also, Peppers, you've read each twitter by each twitter user? Wow, you have way too much time on your hands.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Imhotep said..."Being politically correct is just another attempt at trying to control that. Why should someone who is white feel they might offend someone if they call them 'black' and not 'African-American' while it's perfectly fine for black people to call them 'white' and not 'Italian-American' or 'Chinese-American'. Hmm..Sounds like PC only applies to certain people."

    Agree with this. I refuse to call anybody African-American because it's a racist label designed by a racist person, and not all blacks in America are African; plus it does not apply to white Africans, which makes it even more racist.

    honeybrown1976 said..."Also, Peppers, you've read each twitter by each twitter user? Wow, you have way too much time on your hands."

    Nah. I just clicked on the "Tiger Woods" trending topic and saw on the first page the numerous "brotha's not really black" comments from black people (which I could tell from their avatars). Didn't take much time at all.

    Actually, I kinda lied. Many of them didn't say "brotha" but said "nigga" instead.

    Have another drink on me.

    ReplyDelete
  69. No, thank you, Peppers. I won't sip your troll juice.

    African-American is not a racist label. Would you call Italian-American, Irish-American, or so on, racist? Of course not. It's only when one group decides to create aspects of life on their own, without white participation, is it called divisive, racist, etc., It's pure b.s.

    Also, many white Africans are actually Afrikaners, born of Dutch ancestry and benefitted from Apartheid and other divisive systems. Thus, they've separated themselves from use of the moniker.

    ReplyDelete
  70. Believe it or not, people. Black folk are not a monolith. We didn't have an international meeting to discuss "Black stuff" and make determinations about what "Black stuff" is and is not. That's up to each, INDIVIDUAL (yes, we ARE individuals and not just representatives of a group), Black person to decide that if they so wish to even be bothered with it.

    So that does not mean you get to dismiss what one Black person says is racist because you managed to find another Black person to co-sign your POV. Same for being a Black person. YOU may not feel such and such is racist or may not feel that such and such doesn't actually happened because hey, it didn't happen to you or happened differently and you're Negro through and through. That doesn't mean it wasn't and that another Black person doesn't get to see it as such. Hell, there were Blacks that didn't think slavery was all that bad, but that doesn't mean I should feel like choppin' cotton for free and servicing Massa against my will.

    Also, Black people are PEOPLE, not some perfect moral beings. Black people are under no more of an obligation to be such than any other group of people or any other individuals. We can be happy, sad, angry, irritated, mean, gregarious, isolated, jealous, vengeful and pissy for all the right and wrong reasons just like anyone else. We just don't want to be punished for it due to or have it attributed to our Blackness. So quit it with the finger-pointing of "They do it TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" as if somehow that just all erases White folks' bullshit. And I just find it very interested that so many of you are willing to give White folk a pass on their racism but are willing to fry Blacks on some of the fucked-up reactions we've established DUE to White racism.

    I also find it interesting that yet again, Black folk are accused of kicking Tiger Woods out the Black Club. Um, he didn't wanna be in it in the first damn place. Made that VERY plain to all and sundry YEARS ago. It's funny. If Black folk try to claim Tiger we're limiting him, denying his other ancestry and really trying to damn him to the same inferior Negro fate as ours. If we don't and say what he's BEEN saying for YEARS ("That brotha ain't Black") then we're being exclusionary meanies.

    Folks, if you're gonna pedal anti-Black rhetoric, do me a favor and PICK A SIDE AND STICK WITH IT!

    This is not the "police Black people's behavior" blog.

    ReplyDelete
  71. "Mostly because of the horrible representation of blacks in the University of California system, the vast majority of the people I interacted with were white (with asians coming in second)."

    "Now I'm in law school and it's happening all over again with my new white friends (because law school isn't terribly diverse these days either)."

    These two quotes from the post struck a nerve for me. I completely understand the concept. I went to an Ivy League school and got the gasps and disbelief as well.

    I guess I don't understand how in the entire University of California system and at your current Law School, there are not black people that live up to your expectations/requirements.. or even why you feel the need to include that in the post, as an explanation for why you have so few (if any) black friends.

    It seems to me that you may hold some personal prejudices against black people, and some preconceived notions about how "they" are that prevent you from seeking out those relationships, ad that also compel you to explain your lack of Black peers in this post.

    This is worse than my white friends who use me as proof that they aren't prejudiced. I guess I simply bring it up because if a white person said the two quotes above, I would never accept this reasoning as okay or appropriate.. and I would feel the need to point out these notions as prejudiced at best.

    ReplyDelete
  72. I really think people need a refresher course on what Political Correctness actually means:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpK0Ad8hD0I

    (the part you want starts at 0:45)

    ReplyDelete
  73. Damn Macon,
    You got a whole slew of trolls who decided to come over here and piss in everyone's collective cornflakes over the weekend and post all over your site.

    Now I don't know what kinda black folks you all have met who are questioning your blackness but as a black female who grew up in a majority white town and except for pre-school always went to majority white schools, and as someone who "sounds white" listens to rock music, not rap, who was an anglo-phile as a teenager (I'm in recovery now :-), who worshipped the Beatles in the late 80's as a teen, who has done too many "non black people" things to count and actually does more of the stuff on the site "stuff white people do" than on the "what educated black people do" sites, I can only recall two times when black people questioned my blackness. One was in high school when another one of the few black kids asked me if I was a communist b/c I critiqued American domestic and foreign policy and generally refused to say the pledge b/c I didn't think the line about liberty and justice for all" applied to my people or if pressed I'd not say that line. Anyway, when I told him I wasn't but I was an Anglo-phile he told me black people didn't live in England (not true). And once when I was younger I was playing with some nice girls at my god-mother's house in the city and my Mom over heard them saying later that I "talked funny" that is about it. Other than that the only time my blackness has been challenged is by white folks. Now maybe I've just been lucky but for me personally this black folks reject black folks meme is crap. Also, you know sometimes we kid about this stuff, like when we say "Michael Steele's black card should be revoked" but I bet if he got into some kind of big trouble we would have his back, just like we did with OJ. And though I've gone back and forth over Tiger over the years, right now I have his back and believe that this incident has been so blown out of proportion b/c of his black 1/4 than anything else and I get sick of hearing people say crap like "it's OJ all over" please his wife tried to BEAT HIM and he's been compared to a man who was accused of killing his ex-wife. That is some racist bull-shit.

    Oh and why do folks keep jumping on the brother who wrote this post saying he must not like black people. Where the hell did that come from? He is talking about how white folks have treated him. Also, he didn't say he doesn't have black friends or that he didn't meet any black folks in college, he said there were more white folks and he met more of them than anyone else. Makes sense to me. Also, why is it when black people mention they have lots of friends of different races they are somehow shunning blackness in some people's eyes but then when black people hang together, we are "self-segregating." Some bull. I remmber a professor coming over to me and the only other two other black girls at a reception once b/c we happened to be talking and asked us why we were self-segregating. One of them pointed out that it was just as easy for any of the white people to come talk to us. NOw as many all white environments I'd been in, and as many white folks who I know have hung out with befriended and in one instance b/c I happen to be talking to some black folks, I'm self-segregating? Some bull-shit.

    ReplyDelete
  74. >I remmber a professor coming over to me and the only other two other black girls at a reception once b/c we happened to be talking and asked us why we were self-segregating.

    Uggghhhh. I'm hearing a similar version of this over and over and it is so damn annoying. So who were all the white ppl talking to? So he's saying there wasn't a single group with only white people? Go overseas. White ppl do this ALL the time too.

    ReplyDelete
  75. While some may believe that there’s no such thing as a mixed race black, I consider people who are part black who were born in America to be African Americans because they are descended from the same enslaved Africans as I was. Therefore, same history, same culture. In that sense, yes, biracial people are “black.” But, it’s up to the biracial individual to decide with which culture they choose to self identify. I’m very proud that President Obama self-identifies as a black man, and I’ve been disgusted by whites who try to insist that he isn’t an African American.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Listening to these comments it’s clear that all PoC have experienced a form of I don’t consider you a fill in the blank. It’s evidence that racism against blacks, Asians, biracial individuals, and Latinos is well in effect in 21st Century America.

    Whites believe that black people are the pathological, criminalistic other; that all Asians are foreigners who speak heavily accented English or represent a “model minority” that is upstanding and gets good grades, and that being a PoC in general is inferior to whiteness and that if a PoC is educated, articulate, or doesn’t conform to a stereotype then they are “good” (synonymous with whiteness) and have earned a the privilege to not be lumped in with the others.

    I am soooo thankful for this blog. America, particularly white America, NEEDS this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  77. LisaMJ,

    I'm not even denying that other Blacks meet out this treatment to their "culturally challenged" brethren. It's happened to me too. It's happened to damn near ALL Black folks who do anything considered "not Black." I've had Black secretaries ask me what I was doing with a passport when I brought it to fill out the I-9 employment form. I've had Black folk on public transportation disdainfully ask why I was reading a non-fiction book if I wasn't taking a class in the subject. I've had Black folk give me the side-eye when they found out I've traveled overseas. But this kind of stuff has happened to damn near ALL Black folks who do anything considered "not Black." I'm not special because of it and neither are other Black folks who've gone through it.

    But all of that STILL doesn't excuse White dumbassedness. And to pretend that it somehow does is racist. How are Black transgressions somehow worse than White ones.

    ReplyDelete
  78. I just wanted to take a moment and amend my comment... well not amend but my new perspective..

    In talking to my mother I realize that the first quote was not horrible as in the way black people represent themselves, but horrible as in numerically small (and that's a bad thing).. and so in speaking about that... I would temper my remarks.

    So, while I still don't necessarily understand the need to explain the racial make up of your relationships as it relates to white people saying you are not black...

    I want to let it be known that I don't think that not having black friends in anyway takes away one's blackness, I do find it curious when people explain why they don't have friends of a particular race, or more friends of one race than another. Because any rationale always seems to fall flat.

    ReplyDelete
  79. native new orleanianDecember 14, 2009 at 4:01 PM

    My president if half white and don't YOU forget it!

    ReplyDelete
  80. Native New Orleanian,

    The sky is blue. Trains go choo-choo. Dogs bark.

    Any new information you care to share?

    ReplyDelete
  81. @witchsista, why are you directing those comments to me? I NEVER said that black people play the you aren't black card more than whites do; every single one of my comments say the opposite. ??!!! WTF

    ReplyDelete
  82. The color line in America is very slim, the one drop rule is there for a reason and we should never forget that.In this country no matter how you identify,you are black, it is the unwritten law of the land...and there are Millions of black people passing!

    A nation wide DNA test would be awesome in it's revelations.

    After over 60 years on this earth I can not believe Black people still care what white people think of them.

    It is a waste of Precious Time.

    ReplyDelete
  83. I was thinking about something similar recently, because a dear friend of mine is Korean, and I remembered that one time I referred to her as a "twinkie" (yellow on the outside, white on the inside). I said this to her intending it as a compliment. She took it as a compliment, but a couple months ago (about six years after originally saying it to her) I heard someone call somebody else a twinkie, and it reminded me that I'd said that to her. I called her up later that evening.

    Me: Hey, you may not even remember this, but about six years ago I called you a twinkie. I'm sorry.
    Her: What? I don't even remember that.
    Me: Well, I did. And I'm sorry.
    Her: Why are you sorry?
    Me: *fumbles putting it into words* Because calling someone a twinkie as a compliment is like saying that being white is superior. Kinda like saying, 'you can't get rid of your Korean exterior, but at least you've become white on the inside, and of course it's best to be white'.
    Her: Oh. I didn't take it that way. I just saw it as a compliment.
    Me: Well, either way, I'm sorry.
    Her: *silence*
    Me: Should I not have brought it up?
    Her: No, it's not that. It's just that now I have to think about why I considered it a compliment. Internalized racism is a bitch.

    We ended up having a really good discussion about it, and I've been thinking about it periodically since. I think a lot of people who say such things really don't even realize just how a statement like that is through-and-through white supremacist - that it's holding up white as the ideal, and something all PoC should aspire to as much as possible. I know I certainly saw being a "twinkie" as a positive six years ago. :(

    ReplyDelete
  84. Robin,

    You need to know that it's awesome you called your friend. I'm sure many of my white friends can think back on less than stellar things they said (albeit all in good fun) but would now never admit to it.

    Hell, outside of race issues, we all can think of things we said out of ignorance yesterday that were less than stellar but we'd never call to rectify.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  85. @ the writer:

    I've been called "Oreo" most of my life -- you know, black on the outside, white on the inside? When I was a teenager, all of my white friends called me this, and if I said I didn't like it, they'd say, "What? It's true!" like that was funny.

    Apparently I'm "white on the inside" because of the way I speak, the books I read, the music I listen to, the clothes I wear, my table manners, my ambitions in life -- and especially the way I sing. I was in a semi-professional children's chorus for most of my childhood, and it seems I don't sing "black enough" -- i.e., I don't belt like Jennifer Hudson or croon like Rihanna, which is all black people are capable of, I guess? IDEK.

    I went to an overwhelmingly white and rich private school for middle school, and my white friends' parents loved to exclaim to my mother (who is white) about how "articulate" and "polite" I was, which they never did to other white girls' parents.

    In my Cuisines of the Americas class at culinary school, every single one of my twenty white classmates had something to say about the fact that I'd never made fried chicken before. "Are you sure you're black?" "Hell, I'm blacker than you!" They'd make jokes about wanting me on their team to make the chicken, as though my blackness, though inferior, would somehow work some hot crispy magic.

    On a recent occasion wherein I tried to explain to a group of my white friends why racism hurts my feelings so badly, one of the (many and useless) things they told me was that I'm "not that black". My most problematic friend (from a wealthy white suburb in North Carolina, and who used to wear a sweatshirt with the Confederate flag on it until I asked her not to) told me, "I don't even think of you as black. You don't act black. I only remember you're black when you do something different, like wear your hair in an afro."

    ... Okay.

    @ Pockysmama:

    I just wanted to empathize on the "Where are you from" question. I get that all the time. I like to draw it out and make it difficult for people, because I'm petty that way and I need to get something back somehow.

    I've had PoCs ask me that question, but usually it's PoCs who, themselves, are from another country, so when they ask the context is different -- as in, my family's from Barbados, does your family come from the islands too? When white people ask, it feels like they're telling me I'm not American. Sometimes I'll ask, "Well, where are you from?" and whites always look bewildered. Like, what do you mean, where am I from? Clearly I'm AMERICAN.

    When we get all the way down to them asking about my ancestors, because my answer that my father and mother were born in the Bronx and Baltimore, respectively, isn't what they want to hear, I'll tell them, "My mom's family came to the U.S. from Latvia in 1887. My dad's family were slaves in North Carolina before the Civil War." Usually then I get a hurt look for bringing a topic as implicitly accusatory as slavery into the conversation.

    ReplyDelete
  86. Do What I Tell You To DoJanuary 5, 2010 at 7:59 AM

    If your mixed you are not black and neither are you white, or anything else.You're MIXED. Stop trying to identify with one side of the family, its disrespectful of the other side.

    ReplyDelete
  87. Do What I Tell You To Do,

    I'm more inclined to think that mixed people should have, and do have, more freedom than that to identify however they like racially (and culturally, and in other terms). Are you saying Obama, for example, shouldn't self-identify as "black," because half of his family background is white? If so, I disagree with you.

    On top of that, how slightly mixed does one have to be in your terms before one can call themselves black, or white, instead of mixed? Authoritative estimates state that a huge percentage of African American people have white ancestors, and quite a few white people have black ones. Should those large percentages also call themselves "mixed," in order to be "respectful" to certain long-lost ancestors? And what if, for instance, the person responsible way back when for a black American's drops of white blood was a raping slaveowner? Do you expect that person to declare themselves "mixed" in order to "respect" that person?

    ReplyDelete
  88. @ Do What I Tell You to Do,

    I'm biracial (half-black, half-white), and I choose to identify as black. I don't think it's disrespectful to my white mother, who raised me. It doesn't mean I deny her or reject how much she means to me. What is does mean, for me, is that when I look in the mirror, I see a black girl, even if she isn't as dark as some other black girls.

    I also self-identify as black because I spent twenty-odd years letting other people talk about my race for me or tell me what I really am -- i.e., since I'm half-white, I can't "really" be black, or since I'm half-black, I can't "really" be Jewish. Your telling me I'm neither black nor white is more of the same crap, and it also denies me a solid group of peers.

    And that connects to the part of this that isn't a choice for me -- because while black people will accept me as one of their own, if I called myself white I'd be laughed out of the room. If I called myself white it might be a fun way to confuse other people, but the only way I can exercise white privilege is if my mom uses hers on my behalf.

    So don't tell me I can't join the Black Student Union if I want.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Zara,

    Do is trying to give you a PROMOTION! You don't have to be stuck in the ranks of lowly Negrodom with the rest of us darkies. You can actually go UP in rank if you just claim to be mixed. Why you're not taking Do's sage advice and elevate yourself is beyond hir.

    Macon,

    Of course they wouldn't want African-Americans claiming mixed heritage. That would degrade the designation. Can't have us lowly darkies touching it or we'll get our icky Negro all over it and it'll be worthless!

    ReplyDelete
  90. I think it's just their way of admitting that you don't fit their stereotype without taking a critical look at that stereotype.

    It's so common that it has a name: the no true Scotsman fallacy.

    ReplyDelete
  91. thank you for this, another mixed person understands, this kid at school told me, "i hate it when mixed kids try to understand what a true black is going through", honestly, WE HAV IT WORSE, because ur whole life people question u, and 99% of the time it comes from whites, because aparantly they like to beleive they get a gold metal for proving ur not black, ytf do they care? and remember this, noone in their right mind, besides god, has the right to tell u who u are, im sick of it, cant i just say im black? whats so wrong about that?

    ReplyDelete
  92. Isn't saying that akin to saying, you do not fit a stereotype? That would be something to be proud of right? We're not happy with the stereotype, so hearing that should help dispel the stereotype in their ignorant mind? I've never had anyone tell me that, so I'm working through this without knowing where you folks who have heard it are coming from.

    ReplyDelete
  93. @Gorgo: the problem is that it *isn't* dispelling the stereotype. By telling someone, "I like you, so you aren't like [insert minority here]," what they're really saying is, "I still view all those [insert minority here] as [bad, lazy, stupid, etc] - but you're an exception to the rest of your race!"

    ReplyDelete
  94. @gorgo - the trouble is that meeting someone that doesn't fit the stereotype should lead one to question the stereotype and not the validity of the person's "blackness" (or anything elseness for that matter)

    there are more layers there but that (to me )is the worst of it. particularly when the stereotype is SO insidious.

    ReplyDelete

Please see the "commenting guidelines" before submitting a comment.

hit counter code