Sunday, August 17, 2008

Don't be cruel to a heart that's true...

So a couple of weeks ago, I was invited by a good friend of mine to take part in a little pub trivia put on by a company called geeks who drink.

Like I said in my very first post, I know thing or two about a thing or two, and I enjoy searching the corners of my brain for some fact I learned in third grade in the quest for a free pitcher of beer. When it comes to bar trivia, I prefer trivia face off , but that's really neither here nor there.
We were nearing the end of the game, and for one of the questions the announcer said the name of a room and you had to say if the room was in Graceland or The White House. The first was the Raquetball room. Any guesses?
That one is Graceland.
The second one was the impetus for this post, The Jungle Room.

There were a group of white people behind me and while they were going over their answers, one of the guys said, "The Jungle Bunny room."
Hee hee ha ha ho ho.

For those of you that may not know, jungle bunny is an offensive term used to describe black people. On the one hand, I should be glad if there are people that have never heard that term. On the other hand, I should be not glad to know that I just heard some dude behind me at trivia use it. Even when I went to urban dictionary to find that link, I saw some disturbing entries that were being used for the definition.
There were two things that bothered me about the incident. Well, I guess three.

1. It's sad that there are people in the world that use racist terms. In public. Seriously, if this is the kind of -ish he says when a black person is right behind him , what, pray tell is he saying when he's in the comfort of his own home?

2. His friends said nothing. There was a chuckle or two, but silence from the rest. I'm going to go out on a limb and say one of them was thinking, "Dude, there's a black chick right behind you!" Some others may have thought it was clever. But from the silence, I'm going to guess that the majority were offended. The silent majority, that is.

White people, silence is not an effective strategy for dealing with these sorts of situations. It's not enough to talk about what a jackass the guy is/was when he's not around , you have to deal with it in the moment. If you think it's not funny, then say it's not funny. When you say nothing, he's just left thinking--" I guess no one heard my totally hilarious comment. It's ok, I'll get 'em with my next one." If we're really going to do something about the people who are still thinking like it's 1952, they can't be allowed to through life thinking that most people agree with them; which is what they think when no one calls them on it--
silence = consent.

3. The most important reason--what if this guy is a cop or a loan officer or a car salesmen or a hiring manager? Do you really think that a person that uses language like this really sees people as being equal and treats them as such professionally? This is when it starts to affect my life, and when it starts to affect my life is when I start to get pissed.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Peace, Love and Understanding

So I'm reading this book from the Opposing Viewpoints series called Interracial America It's kind of an old book, but I don't know that the arguments would be any different if it had been written today. It's a collection of essays dealing with various aspects of race relations. It's funny because I read one article and agree with it, and then I'll read the next one that is saying the exact opposite and agree with that one too. The book has got me feeling like both sides of this issue need to take some steps toward the middle. You know the Truth and Reconciliation Project in South Africa?
I feel like white people need to accept a lot more truth, and people of color need to be open to a lot more reconciliation.
For hundreds of years, white people were given advantages at the expense of people of color. I'm talking about a direct connection: white people gained precisely because black, brown, red and yellow people lost.
At the same time here in 2008, I think most white people consider themselves basically good, and are disgusted by acts of overt racism that they see today. Most white people are not out to get people of color, and they're not plotting in meetings about how they can keep us down. do we make peace with the past? How to we move forward in a meaningful way? Certainly not by just forgetting about it, because the remnants of the past are still with us today. But also not by just throwing it up in someone's face, so that all that they feel is guilty or defensive or scared. I don't know what the answer is, but you can bet I'm gonna keep thinking about it...

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Here's an interesting link that a friend shared with me a few years ago. It's easy to say (and sometimes even do) the "politically correct" thing--but the unconscious mind doesn't lie. This survey allows you to gain some insight about how you view many different groups of people. I found it to be quite illuminating, I encourage you to check it out and see what you learn. Because of the nature of this blog, I would encourage you to start with the Race IAT. If you feel so inclined, share your thoughts and feelings in my comments section.

What do you see?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

We don't die, we multiply...

Awhile ago I heard a story about a couple that got into a fight about what gang their four-year old was going to join. Maybe you did too, it's quite the "what the hell?" story. Apparently, the guy went into his babymama job at Hollywood Video, they got into a confrontation, and the police were called. Here's the part of the story that troubles me...

"The girlfriend told authorities they were fighting over which gang their son should join. The girlfriend, who is black , is a member of the Crips, while Manzanares, who is hispanic belongs to the Westside Ballers." (emphasis added)

Why is this relevant? The story wasn't about some ethnic strife, it was about two people who were in gangs.

Contrast this with another, "What the hell?" story

"Cops: Video shows Ohio man forcing toddler to smoke weed"

Some highlights...

"WBNS-TV says the footage came to light after Melvin Blevins, 18, pawned his video camera."

"His 16-year-old girlfriend has been charged with corrupting a minor."

Um, where is the Melvin Blevins who is white and his 16 year old girlfriend who is also white ? Why is race relevant in one story but not the other? Every time white people do something crazy no one says, "Hey this person was white." And every time a person of color does something and we do make a point to say, "Oh yeah, this was a person of color," it just serves to reinforce stereotypes.

I could go on about what causes people to see gangs as a reasonable lifestyle, or what would make an 18 year old want to give a toddler pot, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. For now, let's ponder this question about why these stories were reported differently, and how that impacts how we view different groups of people in our society.

As a sidenote: I can see that my readership is slowly but surely increasing. Whoo hoo! I may not post often, but when I do--I'd like to think I have something worthwhile to say. :) Bookmark me and keep coming back. Then you can say, "You knew me when." Also, if anyone has any questions or comments, please shoot me an email--I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

White America, I could be one of your kids...

Not me (unless you adopted me because no white babies were available :p) That's a line from an Eminem song. Music is the topic of today's post. Have you ever seen a black artist with white backup singers? Sheryl Crow was a backup singer for Micheal Jackson during his Bad tour--but can you think of anyone else? I can't.

How many times do you see white artists with black back up singers? Justin Timberlake, Amy Winehouse, Natasha Bedingfield has a video where she's got a whole black gospel choir backing her up. These are just three I thought of off the top of my head, I'm sure there are more.

What is this about? My first reaction is that white artists use black support staff 1) because they can sing 2) they lend them a certain amount of cred (credibility for you older folks). What originally prompted this post was an irritation that we rarely see the person of color in the spotlight while a white person is in the back ground. This isn't true only in music--it's also in movies, government, etc.

As I was typing, I had a realization. At least part of the reason you don't see white people as backup for artists of color is because those artists are probably very interested in helping out "their own kind" by giving a fellow person of color a job. Also, if black people add to cred then having a white backup would detract from your cred--This is true if you're Justin Timberlake or Usher.

But what about all the white singers with "soul" that aren't attractive enough to be out front on the mic? I guess they're screwed.

I have more to say about Eminem, but I'll save that for a future post. As always, I welcome your comments/questions.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sexual Chocolate

I'd like to ask that my skin tone no longer be referred to as some kind of food. I was in Target the other day, and I saw this book called Mocha Moms (or something like that.) It was a survival guide for black mothers-to-be. That got me thinking: black people's skin is often referred to as mocha, caramel, chocolate etc. This is annoying--do you ever hear white people's skin called, "mashed potato" or "rice cake?"

I didn't think so.

Granted, you do hear white people's skin occasionally referred to as "milky," But you don't have books coming out called, "Milky Moms: A how-to guide for white moms-to-be." What gives?

I assert that this whole food/skin tone thing is another part of trying to dehumanize people of color. I know, I know "dehumanize" is a very strong word, and I don't intended to throw it around lightly. However, if we look at the definition, it fits here. When we're associating certain groups of people with certain foods, we're not associating them completely just with being people.

It's like calling Latino's "spicy"--you're not talking about a person, you're talking about a pepper!

Think about it.