Friday, July 25, 2008

Yes, I'm Sensitive...You Are Also An Asshole

Being Black in America is like being a fine maid in Strom Thurmond's house.

You have to keep your head on a swivel if you want to avoid getting fucked.

This reality can make black folks a little jumpy. Having to constantly decode conversations and personal encounters to make sure no hidden racism exists is a challenging job with no benefits. You don't feel better when you find racism. It doesn't improve your life.

In fact, finding racism is a lot like stepping in dog shit.

The smell lingers with you and makes interacting with folks a challenge.

I said all of that because certain white folks love to respond to a black person complaining about racism or racial bias with comments like "You're thinking about it too much." Or, the old favorite, "Stop being so sensitive."


I'll admit it, I'm sensitive.

My guard is always up. I'm always analyzing people's comments, their facial expressions and their body language. I replay encounters and conversations with folks over and over in my mind trying to glean more facts about individuals' motivations and their goals. I'm constantly searching for the meaning beneath the surface.

This habit means that I tend to attribute certain mindsets to people after speaking with them. I assign people to boxes that allow me to easily process who they are and what type of threat they represent in my life. It's something of a survival tactic in a country where certain white folks love to think of creative ways to screw black people. I believe it keeps me safe and sane.(However, I'm wondering if makes me a bad Christian.)

Some people think it makes me "sensitive."

There are people of all races and both genders who believe that everybody in the world should be ok with them saying whatever they want. These people reference the First Amendment and constantly complain about political correctness. They then label anyone who doesn't agree with their worldview as "sensitive."

I believe these people are assholes.

Assholes are convinced that the shit they spew smells lovely to everyone else. They are convinced that if something doesn't align with their view of the world, well it just can't be real. All of us non-assholes need to consult them before we even entertain the idea of getting upset because we just don't know what's offensive anymore. They're the only ones that know that.

Assholes can tell black people when it's time to get upset about racism. They can tell gay people when something crosses the line into being hateful. They love to tell Muslims what's right and wrong with the Quran. Assholes love to tell everybody else what to think, all while claiming to fight for the right to open discussions and arguments.

Like I said, assholes don't come in only one shade. And assholes can be regular people about a plethora of issues, but turn into assholes instantly when certain topics are discussed. Race is one of those topics, religion is too. But, despite their many different forms assholes are rarely hard to identify.

Just follow the smell of shit.


A.F. said...

"These people reference the First Amendment and constantly complain about political correctness. They then label anyone who doesn't agree with their worldview as 'sensitive.'

I believe these people are assholes."

I second that belief.

(Former)Chaser said...

big man,
do you really consider yourself a non-asshole? i think we're all assholes or have asshole tendencies. it's just that the most egregious of assholes are the racist ones, the homophobic ones...those that find ways to, have the ability to and think it's their right (or job) to persecute others because of their beliefs.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Co-signing on a Friday morning! And of course my Friday post is filled with TRIFE.


Big Man said...

Chase (you still are)

I think you're right. I'm probably still an asshole. In fact, my wife would tell you in a minute that I've never stopped being an asshole.

Anyway, I think I tend to focus on certain types of assholes, and like most people I'm prone to ignoring my own asshole tendencies, or writing them off as no big deal.

Anonymous said...

Okay I have some honest questions here (I'm white, ta-da!) I wonder this a lot but it seems you have answered this question in your post. But I'll ask anyway:

Do "you" (as in you, the poster, not "you people") walk around all day thinking "I'm black"? And "this guy behaves this way because I'm black"? I always wonder that when I come across a black person and how much that must suck. I don't think Asians do that.

Also, a weird thing I catch myself doing: a lot of days I'm pretty grumpy, I'll be pretty cold to all the people I encounter, even what you may consider to be an "asshole" so to speak. That's just my personality, oh well. But only to non-black people. When I come across a black person I make sure to perk up and be very friendly and in a good mood because I don't want him to think I'm behaving that way because he's black. It's ridiculous. I work with a lot of Indians and some of them are just as dark as African-Americans but I treat them with the same disregard as I treat white people. What do you think about that? I'm definitely discriminating. This post proves that this is necessary otherwise you will indeed think I am being a prick because you're black.

Also, when I'm in a meeting, usually with a white minority and mostly Asians (including the aforementioned dark Indians), everybody is pretty frank and rude and everybody cuts each other off and everything, you know a common meeting where people exchange ideas n stuff in a passionate manner. However, when the rare black person is in a meeting, I notice that everyone, including all the Asians, are especially courteous to the black person. Nobody cuts him off, nobody criticizes the idea without a very considerate response, and everybody listens to a standstill. Weird eh? I mean, "we" (as in we people) don't want him to feel we're being rude because he's black you know?

Also, I suggest you (as in you, the poster, not "you people", relax) observe people's behavior toward random white people as well as toward you (you, not "you people") before you make your determination.

So whattaya think? Am I a racist asshole? Or what?

Obligatory disclaimer: I voted for Obama and I have a token black friend and I don't say the N word ;)

Is this that long-overdue frank dialogue everybody says we need to have? And yes, I'm posting as anon because I don't want anybody to get all uppity and sue me or something, in case they're offended or what not.

Big Man said...


YOu racist cracker!

That was a joke.

You asked some very good questions. In fact, I would like it if you have any other burning questions for black people that you send them to my email address on the side of the blog. I would like to do a post where I answer some commong white questions.

1. I do think about being black every moment I am not among other black people. Period. When I am around only other black people, I don't think about being black at all. This is why I loved going to an HBCU.

Yes, it does suck. Yes, it's partially my own problem. But, it is what it is.

2. I've learned recently that the thing you mentioned about white people getting nervous around black people seems to be very common. And now I understand why so many white people complain about black folks and their "special treatment."

Personally, I think you treat everyone with respect. And I think the fact that you worry that a black person would think your were a racist for being rude to them is more about your understanding of how black people get treated by other white people than about black people's extreme sensitivity. See, if you weren't aware of that fact that black people regularly get shitted on for being black, you wouldn't worry that your poor behavior would be seen as racially motivated.

3.You treat Indians and Asians with less care because you see them as being closer to white. You really do. You see black people as the "extreme other" which makes you and your fellow minority workers more uncomfortable around them. Plus, because black people are a rarity in your company, you are unsure and uncertain around them and are worried you will say something stupid. With the Indians and Asians you hang out with all the time you have more of a comfort level. If you had a black co-worker who was sitting in every meeting you would soon treat him the same as every other co-worker.

This is one of the benefits of diversity. It creates familiarity, which reduces nervousness and eases resentment. In some ways it's natural for white people to resent having to "kowtow" to black people, even if that reality is only true in their minds. It's important to show white people that black people do not get treated better than everybody else, that's a false reality.

Anonymous said...

Well you could just use the questions in the post as the basis for a post no? Thanks for the responses, very cool.

But yea to tell you the truth it does piss me off a bit that I have to be so careful. I understand why, from "your" perspective, but it sucks you know. I don't see any other way for either of "us" but still it sucks.

You mentioned diversity. Now I must let you (you meaning you ;) ) know what I think about affirmative action. I actually don't know what your (you) stance is on it but let me just assume that you support it for the sake of the argument, no offense.

I think it's extremely harmful to those who it is intended to help. In the meetings I mentioned, I-- as well as probably many others-- are left to wonder if the black person got their job because they are black. I think that may be part of why "we" are so courteous. And when his or her work is sub-par, rather than just being a normal dumbfuck, we wonder if it's because he wasn't really qualified. If there weren't aff action then it wouldn't even be an issue. And when the person did make a mistake "we" wouldn't be as forgiving because we'd just assume the same level of competence.

Now, let's talk about affirmative action in education. Yes, it is needed there. HOWEVER-- it should be exclusively based on economic status, NOT race. The benefit of this is that (sadly) the majority of those being helped by it will be black, and it would not discriminate against the white janitor's son from Appalachia. It's hard to argue that the Obama kids need special help getting into Harvard no? Doing it solely on the basis of race serves only to send a signal that black people are somehow helpless basket cases who are inherently unable to compete on a level playing field, which I feel is extraordinarily racist. Don't you agree?

One more thing, regarding black people's behavior amongst other black people. I have noticed that black people, when amongst mostly white people, will speak differently to each other than to the rest of the folks. They'll use less sophisticated grammar and change their tone of voice or accent or what have you. That's just an empirical observation, I'm not trying to be condescending, I'm just saying I have observed this many times. I think it's absurd and counter-productive. Like it's a means of achieving some kind of solidarity or something.

And now here comes a bomb that may very well get be declared as racist: I have even noticed this phenomenon with Barack Obama when he is speaking in front of black audiences. Not the grammar, but the speaking style. Kind of like how Hilary Clinton tried to sound more "southern" when in Mississippi or wherever the heck she was that one time, and was widely mocked for it. Of course no-one would ever dare mention this about Obama in the media but I'm just saying. Or did I imagine this? Am _I_ the one being too sensitive?

Finally, I'd like to say something regarding a thought I had, and I think Chris Rock touched on this when he once said how no black "C" student could ever be president. It occurred to me that I can be a lazy fuck at work and nobody will think anything of it except that I'm a lazy fuck. On the other hand, if I were black, I'd have to be pretty exceptional all the time. If I were a lazy fuck then people would think "ah, well no wonder, he's black so what do you expect?" but on the other hand, nobody would confront me about it whereas as a white lazy person I would be confronted about it you know? I don't have any solutions or anything for this, just another thought / observation. I feel "your" pain ;)

Big Man said...


You have some common white misconceptions.

1. Black people get confronted at work all the time. When people think you only got your job or your place in school because of your skin color they tend to treat you with disrespect. They also are more likely to blame you for mistakes they make on their own. Black people do not have a "low expectations" card that they get to play that absolves them from blame. In fact, studies have shown that the low expectations many white people have because of their views on affirmative actions lead to white people refusing to higher perfectly qualified black people for jobs. I think you may have seen my post on people with black sounding voices or black names getting the shaft.

2. Affirmative action was created to force white institutions to fairly consider all applicants based on merit not on the color of people's skin. This did no work because white people are stubborn in their racism and refused to comply with the rules that would have established the meritocracy so many white people claim to want. So, because white people refused to do the right thing, the government had to mandate that they higher or allow into their institutions a certain "quota" of black people. Once again, stubborn racism made white people refuse to higher more than the quota and also made them seek out poorly qualified Uncle Toms instead of more militant educated folks.

Simply put, the effed up actions of white people created the need for affirmative actions and then the continued effed up actions of white people ruined the program.

You cannot do affirmative action based solely on money. The problems for black people in this country, our lack of access to jobs and educations, were directly tied to the color of our skin. That's why the solution is based on the color of our skin. If white people would start giving people jobs based on their qualifications and not on the fact that that applicant makes them "comfortable" more black people would be working.

3. Unfortunately, you do not feel my pain. You missed a key point in your story. A mediocre white person can still earn more money than an exceptional black person simply because they are white. This does not mean all white people are less qualified than all black people, it just means that being white is an advantage. The point of the Chris Rock joke was that white people don't want to acknowledge that being white means they get extra benefits. The point was not that white people have lower expectations of black people because of affirmative action.

Why don't white people have lower expectations of each other given the well documented history of racism that has caused less qualified white people to be hired for jobs over more qualified minorities? Why don't you all assume that your white co-workers got their jobs because they were white and when they fuck up, that they get to keep their jobs because they are white? There is far more proof that that's the case than there is proof that the black person you work with got hired because of affirmative action.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

wow! the AA argument WOW! Affirmative action might get you in the door at the job, Anon but believe if you are not performing the job YOU BEST BET you black azz will be fired. I've seen it.

Also no one is going around hiring dumb phucks to fulfill the AA "quotas" I work with a dud now who is beneficiary of Good Old boy hook up. I and my minority counterpart KNOW circles around him, yet he is employed to "learn" and we teach him probably get paid to close to the same rate. That rarely EVER happens for blacks, although many whites like to sell this story. There are far many people benefiting from privilege than there are benefiting from AA. .

Obam'a children will not have a hard time getting into Harvard because they will be Legacies the biggest chunk of college admittance goes there. Legacy is the white mans AA, because you see in many institutions, not Harvard blacks been going there since the 1800s, the first black graduates just started to produce legacies something whites have had the benefit for years. The person who is more of a threat to the white janitor’s son is the rich Oil Tycoon daughter who just donated 3billion for a building in his name to his beloved alma mater. I went to a very prestigious southern PWC (predominantly white college) and I ran into far many more dumb rich white legacies than I did dumb black kids.

Do you even know what affirmative action says? It says ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL higher the guy or gal that is least like you, because I know that it is human nature to higher admit someone the differs the least from me, if it wasn't we wouldn't need AA or Diversity. The Obama kids would not be in the same pools with some poor white kids because they are different socioeconomically. I get so tired of people hating on AA and not even knowing what it says or means.

Let me tell you now there is NO DOUBT when I open my mouth in a meeting or even back in the day when I turned in my test, that I am where I am because of my merit. The amount of hits my resume gets daily and the phone calls I receive let me know that. To most employers my black female status is a bonus that allows them to check of a few more boxes while getting the best qualified candidate.

And TRUST many black folks get more than confronted abut their behavior I just had a friend laid off for it, I told him it was because he wasn’t puling his weight he agreed…OH look we all do not play the race card when treated unfairly. I had to once put a girl in check for trying to play the race card with my old white manager when she and I BOTH knew she wasn’t doing the work. So your insinuation is not only racist it’s a but a little insulting. Maybe if you knew the black lazy phuck you could tell him to man up and as a friend he might listen to you, instead you run around being scared to tell somebody hey YOU ARE NOT DOING YOUR JOB. Newsflash racist acts have to be proven and last time I checked calling a spade a spade (no pun intended) is not racist especially when you have the facts to back it up.

Oh and the thing about the speech, all humans do it. Its called idiolect look it up it is the vernacular one slips in when he or she feels at home or most comfortable. Foreigners do it, even country azz white folks do it , I’m from the country. We all actually do it. You must admit your cadence and tone changes from business partner to fraternity brother, right? I would hope so.

Big Man, I am sorry to just go off on your blog but that last post was a little too comfortable for me, if you know what I mean. Anon, I didn’t mean to read you the riot but you gotta know as a black person in America we read and hear comments like this on the daily and it angers me because most of it is generalization based on one instance or some with person’s limited exposure to black people.

You see as black people we are forced to know about white people and who you are etc even if we don’t want to because it’s a fact of living even in the blackest of places, btu whites don’t have to know SHYT about black people if they chose not to, and nothing in their lives will be affect it will keep on rolling like Proud Mary. Ya dig? Oh wait to put that in white folk’s professional lingo Do you understand where I am coming from? *lol*


OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Big Man,

Sidenote: Hey where did you get that pic from? Do great minds think alike? I had to interupt my Friday trife to post that pic on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Interesting points, I had never thought of it that way before.

I guess all of these ideas precede my generation or at least my socio-economic circle. However, you do have to admit that regardless of anything else, it's fucked up that the Obama kids get special consideration getting into Harvard :)

Also, I think that at least in my company black people are a precious and rare commodity so the compamy will go out of its way to make sure nothing happens, so as to keep Jesse Jackson away. That's nobody's fault, but I do think it's true.

I work in a field (software) that has surprisingly few African-Americans so it's probably different than marketing jobs and stuff. The school I went to in Illinois had a very large black population and yet there were ZERO in my engineering classes, very weird.

I have not been a reader of your blog for very long so I am not all that familiar with your positions :)

I'm sorry that you feel I do not feel your pain, is there a way that any white person can ever though? I mean do you think white people are capable of ever knowing? Would we have to reverse roles?

I know a guy (white) who grew up in Detroit, and went to a mostly black school and I guess he's got an experience that is as close as it gets. He says everybody was very nice to him and he actually helped a lot of people with their homework and stuff (he's a total utter geek.)

Anonymous said...

og, I apologize as I think I pressed your buttons. I did not mean to do so.

I guess Harvard is a poor example, you're right about the legacy AA. Apply the argument to a non-Ivy league institution though.

And I was not implying that black people in companies are necessarily incompetent or anything like that, I am quite sure that you yourself are where you are due to merit, and I know that the black folks I have worked with are indeed competent. I'm just telling what people may *wonder*. It's the truth, don't get angry with me for telling you the truth.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...


I work in IT and have been working in IT for over 10 years and my best friend is a manger in IT for the same amount of time. I find being few and far between has made me have to be at the TOP of my game, while I watch counterparts especially white female ones do less and be promoted quickly. Not all, because my first mentor was a white woman and she was on her game and I learned so much but, really in actuality she got her job because it was a hook ‘em up from an old family friend. Just so happens she learned how to be a good manager, she wasn’t at first. There are many that never learn but keep benefiting form their privilege. So we are there and I have had to do more than work my azz off at every turn. I’m glad I have done that because now in my seasoned years it makes me very marketable, I get calls everyday from recruiters asking me am I interested in coming to XYZ to work fro ABC. My first job in this role I actually end up taking a lead position from a white male because I was undeniable better at it than he was, he even said it. And was happy for me to be his lead.

There are not many whites in IT, besides management, as most of it filled with Asians (mostly Chinese and Indians- Indians are Southeast Asians) are doing the developing and worker bee jobs. Usually for contract and not employ It’s funny that you say keeping Jesse away because my manager came to me first when the girl who was wrong wanted to claim racial and religious persecution. Which was funny because I don’t even think my manager knew she was Muslim? I told her that was totally disrespectful to the blacks out there who really were being discriminated against and let her file that claim. Because actions like that become stories for people like you to point to as an example of the system going wrong instead of the exception to the rule. Plus Jesse Jackson is not looking to fight on that small of scale. He wants big money, like Texaco black jelly bean money!

For the record many black engineers go to HBU’s and that is where many engineering companies recruit for them. There is also and NSBE Nationals Society of Black Engineers. My ex boyfriend is in IT as well. My best friend in Seattle both she and her husband work for MS (He’s from Detroit too super genius been working for the ‘soft since he was 18- summer internships). Yeah come to think of it, I know quite a few black IT professionals from Hardware to Software Development. So there are far many more black engineers than you could even imagine look NSBE up it’s a pretty powerful group of black geeks.

Oh and sure privilege sucks whether its class, gender, or race however THAT’S LIFE!


Anonymous said...

I have _never_ worked with a competent female developer. That's empirical truth, sorry to say. They are good managers, though.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

I’m not angry with you for the truth, more so like Big Man said I am angry at the fact that people don’t wonder the inverse way.

I'm not angry with you just frustrated that your opinion exists, not because its bad for the thoughts to be had but because no one thinks of privilege like Big Man said. How often do you think that a lazy white co-worker or even a mediocre co-worker gets the pass because of their privilege? You don't. I mean even the Presidential elections look at home much Barack Obama has to prove to people he can run this country when that dim wit W just waved a Jesus flag and talked about rumors on the internets.

Like I said, blacks are forced to some degree to learn and know abut white life and cultures your trials your tribulations etc. The fact that you lose young white blonde women at an alarming rate, while if you as a white person chose not to come here and ask questions and engage in dialogue, could go on believing the things you believe based on limited exposure to blacks. That angers me more than you. Actually it saddens me, because that is what diversity should do. It should foster the friendships necessary to learn from one another.

The white friends I have now understand things that many of the general white population don't, but every black person can't always be the one to build the bridge and I applaud you for coming here to learn more.

Harvard isn't a good example because Harvard has had blacks attend since the 1800s. For the record, all universities have legacies, all of them, even State Universities. In some university legacy get weighted points like the Ivies and in others they get an automatic in like at State Universities.


OG, The Original Glamazon said...

I'm not a developer, and the few I know personally (black and white) are now managers. Most of my friends are in Dev management. *lol*


Anonymous said...

Okay lemme change gears, I have a burning question that I've always wanted answered (hah! this is like Dave Chapelle's "Ask a black guy" segment? j/k)

I occasionally listen to "rap" music. I find it to be very entertaining. In fact, I find it downright hilarious. I mean the profanity, the funny comparisons.

I happen to speak fluent French as I studied it and traveled in France quite a bit and I like French rap too, it's pretty much the same, all the same themes and rhyme styles.

Anyway, a friend of mine (white) says he is "offended" that I find it funny. I insist that it's intentionally funny but he insists that it's an expression of culture and angst and that my taking it as humor is insensitive if not downright racist.

Now I'm sorry but come on, I appreciate that the humor is probably a side-effect and that indeed originally the idea is to express angst at the environment the rappers come from but if so then it has gotten out of hand because I very much doubt that that's what it's about anymore.

Now, it seems to be extreme caricatures of "gangsta" life, the Scarface wannabes. That is, the common themes seem to be:
- The mistreatment of women
- Glorification of violence
- Delusions of persecution
- Disrespecting other rappers
- Boasting about sexual prowess
Take Ice Cube's "Today was a Good Day". I _love_ that song, and I smile every single time I listen to it, it's just absolutely hilarious to me. However, if _that_ is the expression of angst my friend insists that it is, then it's really really horrible because the song mentions nothing about career, family, or education.

Anyway, sorry, rambling, but what do "you" (I mean "you people", sorry, don't know how else to put it) think about finding it funny?

Likewise, there is a movie about disaffected black youths in Los Angeles called "Menace II Society" which I also find to have some incredibly funny moments. Again, my friend believes that it is inappropriate for me to laugh when the the kid tells the guy he's carjacking at the drive-thru: "I want your bling, your rims, and I'll take a double burger with cheese." Now come on. You can't tell me the writers didn't put that last part in for chuckles.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

This ain't my blog, so I will defer to Big Man before I weigh in, because I'm a GRITS (Girl Raised in the South)! *lol*

However I find the fact that you find it funny, amusing and the fact that your friend is all feel the angst. I guess like I find the fact a multi millionaire like Cobain was so tortured - oh wait I'm waiting on Big Man.


Anonymous said...

I'm like that guy in "Office Space" who is listening to rap on his commute and turns it down when he sees a black man walk past when he's at a stop light. I've done that.

Big Man said...

Well, this comment section has taken off.

OG, you're always welcome to comment as much as you like. You don't have to wait for me.


I find rap funny, although probably for different reasons. I you find jokes funny, that's fine. There are jokes in rap and jokes in gangsta movies. If you're laughing because black buffoons crack you up, well you might want to check yourself. Or not.

Since I don't know what your motivations are, it's hard for me to tell you that your actions are ok.

What I will tell you is that no black person can give you a magical "white boy" pass that allows you to behave anyway you want to with every black person. No matter how many questions I answer (and I don't mind answering them, although I would prefer the email) you will still have to deal with each individual black person as an individual. You don't get a pass with all of us because some of us give you the benefit of the doubt.

I think I might make a post about that concept.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Thanks Big Man! So here's my answer.

I think there is some rap that is a caricature of the life and some rap that is the life. And that wildly violent life is where you have art imitation life. You have young boys who grow up in the street life and look to learn how to live that life the same way. They have more than rapped about being Tony Montana they have been Tony meaning the guns the women the violence the drugs. However there are plenty who grew up in better neighborhoods than you( meaning “stereotypical white suburban raised white boy you!)

Ice Cube song was something real and you are right there is a whole segment where hustling (dealing drugs, running numbers, pimping hoes, making money outside the legal societal norms) is a way of life and a good day is EXACTLY what Cube is talking about. However just like every white kid ain’t jumping into mosh pits high on Meth every black kid ain’t in the streets hustling.

I mean, what you think about rap that is just about being gaudy and flashy about your swagger, like Kanye or rap that is conscious like Mos Def or Lupe Fiasco? I mean there is so MUCH Hip Hop it just depends.

Often when I watch music videos of these kids making it rain and then lyrically assaulting lesser MCs I think lord how much more, but I’d rather them do it on wax than IRL. I also have wondered what do white folks think when they flip on BET and see some dude shooting stacks of cash on mountains of black azz. I guess now I know at least what one white guy thinks.

I guess I am really not offended as some of it does seem like caricatures, but know some of it is SO REAL. For instance I always tell people to watch the Wire, from the real street cats I know that is the hustler’s life. What is funny from the hustlers I have know many don’t like rappers they consider it dry snitching. Which I think means telling the cops the tricks of the trade with out telling them who is doing said tricks.

How ever people sing, talk, and write about best, the things they KNOW and live or in some cases think would be cool to live.

Anon, do you have any black friends or co-workers you feel comfortable with? Just a question. Big Man is right though you shouldn't take one black person to speak for us all , just as I don't take your views to speak for all whites. I would hope you would just generally start trying to get to know black people on different levels as people. Don't dismiss their blackness but also don't make them a science experiment either.

I have an e-mail too on my blog if you are so inclined to ask more questions.


Anonymous said...

I have watched the entire "The Wire" series, it's great, it definitely feels "real"

Like I said I have one token black friend (a joke expression taken from Colbert) but we're not close enough where I feel comfortable asking this sort of thing. Other than him, no, but I've been in contact with enough "suburban" black people that I am well aware that the thug-life culture does not apply to all black people (plus I watched The Cosby Show when I was a kid.)

I am pretty shielded though. I live in the Silicon Valley area in California and quite frankly there aren't many black people here. Whites are a minority-- to Hispanics and Asians. But black people, very rare. You have to go to Oakland or the east-bay in general to find large concentrations and some of these are tragic environments, the kind you see on "The Wire". I have never set foot over there except downtown Oakland, but only in broad daylight.

I've never been to a meth & mosh pit event so I wouldn't know heh. But your point is well taken. And yah I know that the "war on drugs" is quite racist (coke is less criminal than crack, etc) but I am against the drug war in general and the ridiculous incarceration laws that go with it.

Anyway, it's been fun, I'll keep reading :)

the uppity negro said...

To address the main topic:

I think black people have earned the right to be sensitive. Aside from all of the instances that have incited said sensitivity, a black person's sensitivity is not really an offensive mechanism, but rather a defensive mechanism. To use your analogy of dog shit, our sensitivity to the smell will in fact prevent us from stepping in it. When black folk refrain from being sensitive, or try and act like everything is okay, that's when we step it it--and your right, it lingers.

With this internship, every so often, I have to remind myself that these are white people and I'm black. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty much relaxed around them, and I'm sure vice-versa, but still at the end of the day, I'm black and they're white.

And I'm sensitive.

Tell the jokers to build a bridge over your sensitivity and get over it.

Anonymous said...

Big Man, you are not the only sensitive Black person. Even with so-called white friends, I will replay things and go did that happen because I am Black or did it just happen? KWIM?

I think the longer you live is hard not to be sensitive, 20 years ago when I was a young girl in the world and still willing to give white folks the benefit of the doubt, I got burned. Too many times being burned has taught me to get sensitive, if nothing else its a coping device to keep me sane.

Good discussion but I am trying to limit my online time so I will try to come back later.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

ok ralph tresvant

Deacon Blue said...


I was raised in Silicon Valley myself so I understand your point about Hispanics and Asians being common and African Americans virtually absent from the picture.

I would not discourage you from seeking answers to your questions about the "black experience." I would, however, encourage you to look far and wide for answers from many different black sources. As Big Man has noted, every black person is an individual, and even though blacks share a great many angst-ridden experiences overall in a way that whites, as a group, do not...that still doesn't make them a monolithic entity.

Of course, you could always marry a black woman like I did, stay married to her for more than a decade and you'll learn a lot from her and from your in-laws. As long as you don't stick your foot in your mouth too bad and get a pan of hot something or another sloshed onto you, at least. ;-)

On the serious advice route again, though, aside from looking at many different sources (and the blogrolls here, at The Field Negro and at many other black blogs will give you a huge window into the black blogosphere, with a WIDE range of opinions and views)...another thing you can do is stop worrying about the race or skin color.

I know that sounds simplistic, but it isn't, really. You are in the Silcon Valley, where whites are not as much a force as in other places. To live there means that, by and large, you cannot be thinking in too many racial stereotypes if you are going to be effective and sane and get along with folks. When I left the Bay Area for college, I didn't bring racial baggage with me in terms of stereotypes. It's not that I tried or made a special mission of it; I just didn't GET the idea of treating a person as a race instead of as JUST A PERSON.

You, it seems, need to be a little more deliberate about it. But I think that you can do consciously what I did by reflex, and that is to remember that you already deal with difference. Encountering black folks is just another kind of difference.

Yes, blacks do have some specific beefs and challenges. So do Native Americans. Both of those groups have some serious reasons to be pissed off. But Hispanics have some baggage with white folks too, and I imagine you aren't thinking of them as a monolithic group. At least I hope not.

It's all about listening, man. When someone complains or points out inequities, the first move shouldn't be to get defensive but instead to get reflective.

In most cases, you cannot go wrong by simply addressing a black person in the same way you would anyone else. Respect and decency will get you a long way. You might even make a real black friend instead of having token one or mere work acquaintances.

As a white person, never forget that we got most of this nation by taking it from other people and by taking advantage of non-white folks. I say that not to put you on a racial guilt trip but just for context. You may not want to bear the sins of your forefathers, but you really have no choice. As long as whites continue to have the upper hand, and they do (and it you don't think so, you need a LOT more educating), we cannot, as whites, approach any person of color with an attitude they we have paid our dues yet or that they owe us some sort of thanks or explanation.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Man this is a great post. You rocked it.

Big Man said...

I think this might be the most commented on post I've ever done.

Thank you all for your insight.

Eric's SoulFunkPunk Experience said...

This country can pass all the Civil Rights Laws, elect all the Biracial Presidents or mixed marriages but it will not lead to reconciliation because deep down inside our collective memory we as Black Americans will never forgive the United States of America for that great crime and instead of fighting the enemy they truly want, (which I think is the American White Man) knowing that the war has moved on from battles of blood and struggle to systemic issues that are complex in nature and can’t be solved by a gun they implode upon themselves.

Welfare and the Great Society did not destroy the Black Family as many whites and some black intellectuals like to say, but historical memories now that legal apartheid has ended we can now look back at what happened for the survivors and those dead and left behind, are the consequences of Black Americans fighting to survive for 365 years and that has resulted in a anti- Assimilation of their white enemies just like Bosnia and Serbia.

It may seem cynical and paranoid, but this a cold war between American BM and WM and CNN special just illustrated what I personally believe is fact underneath all the political posturing, ideological jousting on both sides is the same struggle since 1619. Jefferson and De Tocqueville knew that Black Men would never forgive America and it’s citizens for what was done to their humanity (which was to destroy a male of that race’s sense of worth) and White Men will never grant Black Men their full humanity at any cost.

It may sound racist but I think it’s more truthful than anything said on that special but like those Serbs and Bosnians who are still fighting I think deep down in our collective memory we will always consider the American White Man as our enemy.

MODI said...

Wow! Big-time post and big-time discussion!

Firstly, I don't know if "sensitive" is the best word. Perhaps "aware" is. And "awareness" is a good thing. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is still ignorance.

To Mr. Anonymous: On the hip-hop music front, I would argue that the music made is diverse as it has ever been, but that the music industry usually promotes the worst 10% of it (lyric wise). Since 75-80% of rap is produced by old white men, and purchased by young white kids, I would argue that change must come from within the white community. The NAACP could have N-word funerals all day, but if white communities do not engage in self-reflection on why we and our children only really purchase the very rap that we often condemn, then this discussion will go nowhere. The WHITE side of the hip-hop issue always gets ignored, yet we are the biggest customers. The best thing that white folks can do is go out and start purchasing albums from positive artists. Here is my more elaborate take on what white people could do:

MODI said...

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