Our Perceptions of Others Trap Us
Okay, short rant. This wouldn’t be a big deal if it didn’t come up so often. Why does it come up so often? Well, it’s kind of written . . on my skin. Somehow, people think that my being mixed means they can say whatever they want. As if I’m in some undefined race purgatory that exempts me from being offended.
Over the years I’ve gotten used to the repeated requests to touch my hair, or the blatant disregard for my opinion and the people that touch my hair without asking. But I can get over that. I’ve even gotten used to the “Where are you really from?” as if “Florida” isn’t an exotic-enough answer.
No, what really gets me is when people somehow decide they know how I should act.
“You’re the whitest black guy I’ve ever met.”
“You’re really bad at basketball for a black guy.”
Or my favorite.
“You’re like an Oreo! White on the inside, black on the outside!”
Sorry, but I must have missed the seminar growing up that would teach me to be “really” black. Because apparently my personality is “white.” Aside from that being an extremely dense comment, it’s derogatory and borderline discriminatory.
It perpetuates this mindset of everything being black and white. Literally. We draw cultural, societal, economic and caste lines still based upon race. And the larger racial issues, the widespread problem of implicit bias, starts with small prejudiced concepts like this.
I understand maybe it’s funny for you seeing someone mixed who enjoys reading books, writing, talking about social issues and being in nature. Because we don’t associate those with being “black,” do we?
Or how shocking it is because I like music artists who happen to not rappers be (God forbid). Yes, my ears also enjoy the sound of the acoustic guitar in indie music and the occurence of melanin in my skin doesn’t mean I listen to rap and only rap. I listen to whatever sounds good.
It’s this belief that somehow clinging to racist subculture will be funny. Hint: it’s not. Especially when it comes from someone who—quite frankly—has never had their habits questioned because of their race. So, without further ado, here’s a short list of the top things that annoy the hell out of me.
Things That Bug Me
1) You don’t have to try and fist-bump me or go full on LeBron handshake when you meet me. A handshake is fine, really.
2) Please don’t ever, ever, use race as an icebreaker. Because, quite frankly, it’s tacky, uncomfortable, offensive and just not funny. Making mention of how few other black people there are in the room does not break the ice.
3) Oh? There’s a black girl in one of your classes? You’re right! This must mean we’re automatically compatible. By all means, set us up!
4) Yes, I understand when I walk into a room I am often the only person of color in the room. Staring does not change this fact.
5) Parents of girls I have dated: asking your daughter “how she feels” about dating me due to my skin color and “if she’s okay with it” is just poor judgment. Oh and racist, yes, it’s also racist.
6) Girls I have dated: most people consider it pretty shitty when someone goes out with you just to say “I’ve kissed a black guy” and then never talks to you again.
7) Citing the course of history to “prove” that black people have lower IQs.
8) Saying that I look like _____ (insert random black icon who I look nothing like).
9) Asking me for permission to say nigga. If you have to ask, just don’t.
10) Acting shocked when I say I don’t like watermelon or Kool-Aid. Or really, just bringing that up in general.
Basically, just don’t be a dick. I understand a lot of things done and said to me have been done out of ignorance and not out of any actual ill-will against me. However, racism on the basis of ignorance doesn’t make it not-racism. Let’s call it micro-racism.
I’m very aware and proud of my mixed heritage and culture. When I meet someone new, I don’t distill who they are down to their skin color and then make assumptions on how they should behave based upon that. So, please, don’t do it to me. Because one day you might read a post where someone calls you out for your micro-racism.