Thursday, March 16, 2006

grey matter

why it gotta be all that? we some sensitive people sometimes, and i don't mean black folks, i mean folks, period. those poor white folks on black/white, unh, unh, unh... they are fish out of water, ain't they? so unaccustomed to thinking about things in a racial context. so unaccustomed to the mine field of talking about race without pissing people of other races off. you know what i got from the show last night?

first, i think that at this point, the black couple is digging for information, trying to find out juuuuuust how racist white folks can be when we are not around. interesting? yes. tempting? yes. would i have tried it? yes. but i don't think that should be the sole objective of their endeavors. aren't they also supposed to be trying to find out what "whiteness" is like?

which brings me to the other thing i got from the show last night. we need to stop acting like there is no such thing as "whiteness." our society's established patterns of talking about race are skewed to a point where "white" is "white" and everything else is an "other," or "ethnic," or "cultural," or "racial." but arguably, "white" is indeed ethnic, cultural, and racial. ask people from countries where the majority of people aren't white. shooooot, ask the people who were here before the white folks got here whether or not whites are "default" or "other." ask that white girl on the show, rose (i like this kid), who has been appearing black to black kids her own age - ask her whether or not she feels really really really really white right now. y'all know those kids are calling rose a "white girl" behind her back, or are at least thinking it.

contrary to what yet another hapless bar patron thinks we think, our idea of "acting white" is not solely based on a drive for achievement and educational attainment. i could hear mary mcleod bethune and booker t. washington turning over in their graves during his "black folks celebrate stupidity" litany, which i'll revisit in a moment. besides that, we also pin acting white on cultural things, like what music a person likes (rose said she liked the cranberries instead of fronting and saying D4.L or lu.dacris or alici.a k.eys, and that was step number one to her culture showing like an errant slip). or perhaps her cultural slip was showing when she did that ridiculously wack freestyle (for entirely too long, i might add) without at least prefacing it with, "i can't freestyle, but hold up, let me play with this for a second," or at least following it up with, "sike, y'all, i was just playing." her cultural slip was showing when she did a poem about race, without capturing the heart of how a person who is experienced in thinking about and navigating race from a black perspective would speak. it simply didn't resonate with her peers. because while all are american, they are still experiencing life from two culturally different vantage points. rose has a culture, and that culture is whiteness.

not necessarily the bullisht "i didn't know 'bitch' was offensive to black women" whiteness that her mother batted her eyes and welled up with tears about in last night's episode. (i understood her desperation to not seem racist, yet was simultaneously not impressed with her horrible judgment and assumption that we all use "bitch" affectionately.) whiteness is also not necessarily the getting-nice-treatment-in-the-shoe-store whiteness that the black man attributed to his white appearance in the first episode. but there's something there, and it would be interesting if the black folks started to experience it, besides rehearsing misconceptions by regurgitating racist and recycled jokes about how black people run from strange sounds and white people go to (stupidly) investigate them and get killed. i understand that an answer to this could be, "but black folks know what whiteness is, because we have to understand it to navigate this white man's land daily." ahhhh, but grasshopper, slow ya roll. have you had on a white man's moccasins? huh? what does it feel like to be vilified and called devil, not because they think you'll rape their wives and your doppleganger's mug shot is on the news every night (like what black men go through), but because you are the rapist of the world's resources, descended from heartless slave owners, rapists of black women, mercenary and conspiratorial, like all the minorities say you are? what does it feel like to have black friends/associates/colleagues and not know what to say around them, 'cause their sensitivity is something you don't understand ('cause you don't necessarily have to) so conversation is like a mine field? how do you answer your kids' questions about race and the accusations that they are, by default, racists? i don't know. i'm just wondering. and i think that's something worth understanding.

but i gotta get back to my homeboy, gomer, in the bar. (no, his name probably wasn't gomer, but isn't that just fun to call him?) *sigh* first of all, gomer's dumb, 'cause he should've known better than to say those things to a black woman's face, unless he doesn't mind being seen as a racist, and a stupid one at that. but i think that gomer is a victim of the don't-talk-about-my-family-'cause-only-i-can-talk-about-them double standard. he said the same thing bill cosby said - the same thing many of us, or at least our parents or grandparents have said - about black children not being encouraged to excel, and about ignorance being celebrated. hayle, i've said it mydamnself on occasion. (dr. bethune, i wasn't talking about you, honest!) and not nary one of us gets the screwface for anything except maybe classism. but gomer? i bet there are black folks right now who are ready to put a klan sheet on gomer's head. he's just repeating our dirty laundry. you know what gomer's problem was? gomer let his guard down and was honest, and said, "you know what, the hayle with this mine field, this pretty and nice black lady makes me comfortable," and he just let 'er rip. and she (wisely) just kept okaying and mm hmming, giving him rope to hang himself (or perhaps to hang ignorant black people???) 'cause remember, the cameras were rolling.

anyway, i ain't mad at gomer. i applaud his honesty. not his painting black folks with broad brush strokes. and not his well-you're-a-good-one-though-so-i'm-not-talking-about-you condescension in the guise of acceptance that we coloreds hate so much. but i liked his honesty. i wish more people, of whichever race, would stop being sensitive and cautious and just let 'er rip. i'd rather we all know what mines are laying under the dirt.

we can rebuild after the riots.

i had to leave the house about 15-20 minutes before the show ended. so i missed rose's confession and the poetry session at the house and the "beautiful black creature" incident, all of which i caught on saturday night. i'm proud of rose for being honest and going with her gut. and i agreed with the guy in her poetry group for being honest about his feelings to rose's face and not behind her back. i appreciated that he took some time to work it out and reconcile as a friend with her afterwards.

*sigh* now, about carmen's "beautiful black creature" comment. i know in my gut that she didn't mean to call that black girl sub-human to degrade her. but see, it's moments like that the bother the hayle out of people. that word "creature" still rankled in my ear, even though i mentally knew that carmen meant no insult by her words. now, to ask bruno, her husband, the one who thinks most racism is a result of our sensitivity, and he would probably say i'm reading too much into it, because carmen is white, and black folks are just looking for carmen to say something racist. to ask the black couple, they would say, that's just more evidence that carmen and her husband are racists - maybe not cross-burning, nukka-pick-that-cotton racists - but people who either consciously or subconsciously think of black people as something that's somehow "less than" white people. and i honestly don't want to argue either side, 'cause i think there may be truth in both. it's hard to tell. that's the problem with race relations today. you never know. because it's never fleshed out. because noone wants to talk about the hows and wheres and whys. because every one is so sensitive.