It was less than 30 minutes after my boyfriend's graduation. We were all sitting in his parents' van on the way to a celebratory dinner, when one of my boyfriend's sisters said, "Those black people sure were loud." My teeth clenched, because I knew, rather than use this moment as a learning experience, their dad would agree, thus perpetuating a stereotype for their familial racism. Sure enough, their dad answered, "I think they were the loudest ones in there!"
Let's back up to the actual graduation ceremony. The seats are packed. Several groups had to split up in order for everyone to be seated. Friends and family are all excited to see their respective loved ones graduate with medical degrees. The class size is two-hundred. Three of those are black med students. In the audience, there are three distinct groups of black friends and families.
The names begin to be called. There are cheers for each student as they make their walk across the stage to claim their medical degrees. Soon, it becomes a contest between each group of friends and family who can make the most noise to celebrate their loved one's achievement. A group of white guys in the back begin a chant for their friend as he accepts his medical degree. The chant is loud, and goes on longer than their guy is on stage, and the announcer must wait for them to settle before speaking the next name. Two white women in front of us bark when their loved one goes across the stage, one taking so long that the audience laughs when she finally finishes.
One of the black students is called. As he walks across the stage you can hear his family cheering. One man even shouts "Yeah! That's my brother!"
More loud cheers from white families, each one trying to outdo the last. Another black student crosses the stage. Her family stands and cheers for her. They are a larger group than a lot of the white families, and they cheer loudly for their loved one, but no more loudly or enthusiastically than the white families. No more than is deserving of such an accomplishment.
I regret not saying anything, not speaking up for my friends and family, for my future sister-in-law. For a point of reference, I'll direct you to this post, which is a precursor to my absence from the internet (and incidentally the worst depression I've had in years), since my boyfriend's parents' hatred of me has escalated their attempts to get him to break up with me. These are people who are deeply racist. Example: his dad's "ace in the hole" to try and convince my boyfriend that I'm not date-able, or marriageable for that matter, is that I've dated black men -- which is just rife with racist assumptions about black men, hypersexuality, and this supposed ultra-purity of white women, which is apparently destroyed by black men. I bring all this up to illustrate that the comments made in the van are not isolated incidents, that it's not just me looking too much into it.
The fact that the black families' responses to a happy occasion required comment is quite racist. White celebratory responses are cause for amusement and laughter. But black families, god, they're just so loud, you know? If anything, the black families had more to celebrate that day given the obvious racial disparity among the graduates (oh wait, that just means that black students don't work as hard, right?).
It's a common white tendency to comment on the behavior of black people in public. Some of you may remember a post I wrote a while back, where a coworker of mine demanded to know why black people can't behave in public. Even if someone is being obnoxious, it should never be attributed to their skin color. And in this case too, apparently the behavior of black people is always under scrutiny by racist white people, even when the situation calls for loud celebration.