Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What're you looking at?

Have you ever noticed that when you're watching stand up comedy, and a white comedian makes a joke about black people or some other group of color--the cameraman almost always puts the camera on a member of that group in the audience?

What's up with that?

Related: Whenever you are about a marginalized group, and there's a member of that group involved in the discussion, do you (in)voluntarily glance over at that person? I do--or at least I used to.

What's up with that?

For me, I would look over at a gay person whenever I was talking about something related to gay people. I wouldn't stare at them the whole time, but I would definitely take a quick glance. And I noticed in classes, that if the discussion was something related to black people, I'd get a look from the speaker as he/she was talking.

So I started thinking about why this happened and came up with two theories:

1) You're looking at the person to make sure they're not getting pissed off. This is what is happening during the comedy, the director is saying, "Look white person, the black person is laughing--so it's okay for you to laugh too."

2) I just thought of this one, so make it three theories: It's like the whole elephant thing: If I say, "Don't think about an elephant!" what do you do? You think about an elephant. So, you're telling yourself "Don't look over there!" But that just makes you want to do it more.

3) I think this is the most disturbing one: You're doing it to say, "Look at me, aren't I so cool for talking about your issue, person from a marginalized group? I'm not even in your group and I'm sticking up for you--what a great ally I am, huh?"

So, I don't do this anymore. I consciously make myself not take that quick glance. Because the things that I am saying are not about that other person. They're about me, the speaker. I also know that I don't like being looked at when black comes up, when I wasn't being looked at before.

I don't want to say the things that I say because I'm trying to curry favor with certain people, I want to say them because they're the things I believe. And so if I'm not actively looking for that positive reinforcement to come my way, it is another way to let myself know that I should do something because it's the right thing to do, not because some group of people might think I'm
"down with the cause" for speaking up.

As always, I welcome your comments.


  1. my feb.16th entry explains my meaning of being socially awkward a bit.

    and regarding your blog- i totally agree with the first two theories... im not too sure on the third one though :P

  2. Anonymous11:55 AM

    Great Reading, Defenitely food for thought. I guess the mouth might be decieving but the body doesn't lie.

  3. Anonymous4:09 PM

    I have a passion for immunizations. In meetings when we talk about imms, most of the people look at me because I am very voval about them. It is human nature.