Internet memes love to focus on the tooth-deprived, heavy-set, or more flamboyant sector of blackness. It’s like when ‘Precious’ came out. All the Hollywood (white) actresses raved about her, loved taking pics with her. I don’t remember that level of fanfare over Thandie Newton. Uh HUH.
It makes me laugh and die a little when I see black women in ill-fitting clothes held up for ridicule by social media. What makes it sad is the women see themselves as multi-faceted individuals and think everyone else does too.
These women are in booty shorts with grills and 4-inch fingernails, but they also have jobs, spouses, children, and artistic interests. Too often all we see are the two minutes they let their hair down after a 50-hour work week. But, like those Hollywood actresses, people love to laugh at the poorly dressed, heavy-set black woman because they feel superior to her. They need to believe that lie, because their own self-worth is based on a hierarchy that is itself based on a lie.
Working in Advertising I’m usually (if not perennially) the only person of colour at the agency - this is something I’ve grown accustomed to, and honestly, hadn’t seriously considered until I read your hilariously erudite piece of literature - it was empowering.
I’ve found very nuanced ways of tactfully calling people out on their - sometimes varied - ignorance as opposed to my prior habit of laughing off those awkward situations. Case in point: here’s how a mate of mine *casually* described a girl he wanted to set me up with: “Dude, she’s great! She’s a lawyer, has a great sense of humour and not like *insert neck roll gesture* Shanaynay… she’s white-washed… like you… you two will get along”. In an equally casual tone, I told him that the term “white-washed” isn’t exactly complimentary and he seemed genuinely surprised. This in turn led to an honest conversation about the problem with stereotypes (how they are incomplete and ultimately flatten people’s experiences) and a profound learning experience for the pair of us.
Cheers a ton for such a capital read. Your acerbic and bone marrow dry humour made for numerous laugh-out-loud-at-an-ungodly-hour-type-scenarios.
How do you define a racial identity? Can “blackness” be defined simply by a person’s skin tone, hair texture or facial features? Can we define it by the way someone walks or talks? Can it be a product of someone’s cultural affinities, regardless of what she looks like?
Just finished. Folks, this book is very very good. Far better than The Accidental Billionaires. It’s much more of a novel than a typical business book. Nick (disclaimer: he is a friend) did a masterful job weaving these threads together. I actually think it’s important for people to read this. Lots of lessons about how not to treat people. Lots of insight into how and why twitter is as important as it is – View on Path.
I don't know about ALL Black people....(Have you ever been asked to speak for all Black people)
Special thanks to this submission. I’ll consider a disclaimer in future printings :)
As I was sitting in the line for the screening of another big-budget summer film I made the mistake of telling a non-Black person I was reading your book. As such I became trapped into a 45 minute discussion explaining to him why I don’t know why ALL Black people do what we do.
You may want to preface your next book with a warning that merely being in possession of your work may embolden well-meaning but somewhat annoying non-whites to ask all the questions they ever had about us.
Nonetheless, I LOVED your book and look forward to more offerings in the future.
"Post-Racial My Friggin' Ass" or, "My Authentic Whiteness Is Questioned"
Not that many years ago, I worked for a large tech contracting company that I can’t name, called Accenture. It was a horrific experience on so many levels that I can’t possibly catalogue them here, but what’s a bit scary is, the Indian guys on H1B’s said it was a vastly better company for them to work for than the previous firm that lost the job to Accenture, because the previous employer had made it clear, that if they didn’t want to work long overtime without pay they would yank their visa and see them deported ex post haste.
At this particular job, a giant mult-million dollar debacle on both sides of the contract, there were large swarms of kids fresh out of college that were wandering around with scared looks on their faces, noone mentoring them, noone offering guidance; hell, they were lucky if they had a task more concrete than “write some requirements for a system to collect personal information” or “Create a database schema for information about people”. Or, my favorite,
Boss: “Figure out why this software isn’t working right” Programmer: “What is it supposed to do?” Boss: “I don’t know, figure that out from the current system.” Programmer: “But if it’s not working right, how am I supposed to know what it’s supposed to do?” Boss: “I don’t have time for this, you’re supposed to be smart, just do it!”
There was one freshout (as us grizzled veterans called them) working on Business Analysis, writing requirement documents, fielding questions from customers. He seemed bright enough to me.
So I was stunned, and disgusted¸when a friend of mine passed along the supposition that he’d gotten hired as part of some “government program”. I just stared at her, and finally asked her “what makes you think he didn’t get the job the same way you did, by going to college, working hard, getting good grades, and being smart?”
Because this kid was black, from the East Side, a hometown black muslim, all the white kids fresh out of college had assumed he’d somehow wangled a free ride. Now, there WAS a super dumb freshout that I can only assume cheated his way to his degree or forged his resume, because you cannot graduate from an accredited university with a degree in Computer Science and not even know how to declare a variable. But this kid was not that kid, and I didn’t assume the other kid had cheated because he happened to be black, I assumed he had cheated because he was dumb as a post, and on top of that, lazy. This other kid was really friendly. He shared his tea with me for Christ sake. Probably because I was the only American working there that didn’t treat him like he was a foreigner. If recollection serves, he was one of only four black people in a job with hundreds of employees, and when the only other guy is a fool, and the other two are French-speaking Nigerians who like to hang out speaking French, you have to talk to someone. Maybe having a lot of grafts on my family tree has made me more accessible, mabe being the queer outcast all of my childhood has made me more sympathetic to outsiders, or maybe I’m just an all around saint.
In fact, one of the guys I worked with there and liked, a friendly red-headed guy, actually asked me in private if I was white. I kind of stared, mouth open, and then laughed. A little hysterically, I have to admit. This is the deep south. People asking you that is usually Not Good. Turns out like me, he was just confused. He said, “well, I thought so, but I mean, you’re kind of… down on white people is all.” He wasn’t being ugly, but Jesus! Hating haters isn’t the same as being a “race traitor” is it??