Friday, February 27, 2009

"It's true, it's true--we're so lame..."

So I just came across this story about a mayor in California who sent an email of a picture of the White House with a bunch of watermelons on the front lawn. The caption reads, "No Easter egg hunt this year." I wish I knew how to spell that wonh wonhhh sound they play in shows and on the radio when someone does something stupid, because I think it's pretty appropriate.

For me the funniest part of the article is when the mayor says that he was unaware of the stereotype that black people like watermelons. Well, if he's unaware of the stereotype, why in the heck is he forwarding the e-mail? I need a comedy person to explain to me what level of humor that picture is working on, if not on the stereotype about black people liking watermelons.

As a side note: when I first read the headline, I thought it said the Mayor of Los Angeles and I thought to myself, "Uh oh--bye bye job, Mayor of Los Angeles." But when I reread and saw it was some small town I'd never heard of, two things happened. 1) I immediately thought that the guy would no longer lose his job over it, and 2) I thought, "Oh, that makes more sense." What's up with that?

My thinking on number one is that the more power and influence a person has, the more they're going to be expected to not say things that others might consider offensive. But why? It doesn't matter how much power and influence you have, the things you say and do can hurt other people's feelings. And on the second point: that's my bias that people from small towns are more likely to do racially insensitive things. Is that accurate? Is it fair? Why or why not?

For the record, I'm black and I do like watermelon. And my mom is black too, and she really likes watermelon, she might even consider it her favorite fruit. I'm not really sure how that is funny, noteworthy, or relevant to much of anything.

This article got me thinking how many scores of e-mails there must be out there like this now that Barack Obama is president. I haven't gotten any--have you? If so, how did you respond?

As always, I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My pinky's valued over $300,000...

So the topic of today's post is about "talking black" vs. "talking white." Now, I have to be honest and say I know exactly what people mean when they say someone "sounds black." We like to get all indignant when people say stuff like that, like when Prince Harry said something recently to a black comedian. But what exactly are we getting upset about?

I want to take a detour here and share the first time someone decided to call out how I spoke differently. And newsflash: it wasn't a white person, it was some black kids from my grandma's neighborhood. I was about six or seven and visiting my grandmother in Cleveland. My grandmother lived in a predominantly black neighborhood, and I was outside with some of the neighborhood kids. The conversation went something like this:

Them: Are you here visiting your grandmother?
Me: Yes.
Them: Is (insert myblackfriend's mom's name here) your mom?
Me: Yes.
Them: (getting somewhat exapserated) Don't you know how to say, "Yeah?"

::wait for it::

Me: Yes.

Now, I don't actually remember these kids explicitly saying, "You sound white," but that was certainly the implied message. Because, I didn't use more informal language, something was weird or different about me--and they needed to make me aware of that. Now I know they were just kids, but the fact of the matter is even today in 2009, a black adult can tell another black adult that they sound white, and the "white sounding" black adult is the one that is supposed to feel bad.

Let me shift gears a little bit more. I'm going to link to a video and say that it is NSFW and has what some people might consider offensive language.

[Edited 4/2017: Chris deleted his youtube channel, so here is the same video that someone else reposted. Nothing you post on the internet goes away.]

So this guy is clearly white, and he "sounds black." There are lots of other white people in the world who talk like this guy, too. How do we explain this? Maybe because it's not your skin color that determines the way that you speak.

I also want to make it clear that I am not saying one way of talking is inherently better than the other way. Some people might argue that we should all talk the "white way" and those are the same people that think everyone in the world should speak English. That's boring. It might be a little harder to understand someone who speaks differently than you, but that's your opportunity to turn your ears on and work your listening skills. You might also learn some new words. And all people, need to lay off the idea that people who's skin is a certain color need to speak a certain way--because that's just wack.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Crouching Tiger, HIdden Dragon

So the other day I was on a message board (don't act like you don't go to message boards. You're reading this random chick's blog, so I know you get around on the internet,) and a woman made a comment that irked me. She was talking about how she was going to have a day of pampering, which included getting her nails done. She was very excited and she exclaimed, "It's going to be a really nice manicure, not on from one of those ghetto Asian places!"


I'm glad to see that ghetto is now not only derogatory for blacks and Jews, but Asians too. We really are moving forward in this country.

Once again we have an example of something that is non-white being synonymous with bad, substandard, run-down etc. Now, it is quite possible that this woman has been to some crappily run nail salons, and that those crappy nail salons have been run by Asian people. but to use the words "ghetto" and "Asian" in such a way that implies they are essentially one and the same is dangerous. She's associating them in her own mind, and in the mind of the readers of her post. It is statements like this that produce results we might not like to see on this test.

Now some people might think I'm overreacting, but I really don't think I am. This woman is most likely very nice, and probably treats most people she encounters (even the Asian ones,) with respect. She wasn't intending to hurt anyone's feelings, and probably made the statement without even giving it a second thought.

And that, my friends, is exactly the problem.