ink for thought: but you don't really know, do you?

Saturday, 31 October 2009

but you don't really know, do you?

it's a touchy subject but I'm in the mood to push some buttons, and first, just so we're clear - the next person to tell me they 'know what it's like being black'.....beware.

I mean, dammit people...growing up around black folks gives you as much insight into our lives as growing up around cars makes you run on gas. just because as a kid your loud caribbean neighbour invited you over to dinner 2/3 times a week, your dad let you listen to his UB40 collection and you smoked your first roll up behind the bicycle sheds at 14, that does not make you James Meredith, heck, it doesn't even make you Uncle Remus.

let's look at the flip side for a minute. I've lived in england for a little while and so I can honestly claim to have grown up around a lot of white folks. believe me, I don't know what it's like to be white. I don't know what it's like to walk into a store and not have security follow me around. I don't know what it's like to run pass a police man, trying to catch a bus, and not have him try to stop me. I don't know what it's like to stand in a playground talking to friends and not have a teacher split us up for 'conspiring some sort of mischief'. I don't know what it's like to be called to the front of the queue and served in front of patrons waiting patiently before me. I don't know what it's like to be preferred for promotion, not pulled over for driving my new (-ish) car or not asked for class A illicit substances by random strangers.

my point is this, I don't know what it's like to be white. and that's not a bad thing, because I'm not. it's our differences that make us who we are. but it's rude and condescending to assume that being black is the food I eat, the clothes I wear and the music I listen to. as if being black is a trend to be analysed and adapted to.

being black is a history and a heritage, a birthright and a responsibility, it is to be borne and to be gifted, it is to be lived as much as it lives through us. simply put, being black is a way of being.

I believe this is the same for any other people group. to know it, is to be it.

so don't tell me your-brother's-best-friend's-cousin-went-to-school-with-a-guy-whose-sister-played-on-the-same-hockey-team-as-a-girl-whose-brother-shared-a-taxi-with-a-black-girl-once, so you what it's like to be black. it's ignorant and demeaning.

and for the record, I don't have anything against white folks, some of my best friends are white.


Nsoromma...Child of the Heavens said...

My goodness I was having this EXACT same thought yeasterday! I work with a white guy who says things like 'wagwan' and 'you get me' only when I am around and I just give him blank stares and go 'huh? what's that mean?' though I secretly want to punch his lights out. Oh and the white people at work are scared of me, for no reason. All but 2 I think and I work with LOADSA white people. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

M.J. said...

I agree that it's wrong for someone to claim to know exactly how you feel or what you've experienced, but at the same idea I hate when people act like you can't empathize or haven't experienced similar things because you're not the exact same people. For example, I can't claim to know everything about you, but I can empathize. I think it's bullshit that someone would treat you like a criminal based on nothing but your skin color I hate that people are so ignorant that they're afraid of Nsoromma purely because she's black. I don't know what it's like to be able to be pegged as "different" by sight, but I have had to endure hateful remarks made by people who don't know I'm of the religion they're bad mouthing. I have living family members who were taken from their homes and were thrown into concentration camps because of their heritage. Those who lived came to this country, to England or went to Israel with nothing and made lives for themselves. To this day, there are campaigns against shopping at Jewish-owned stores in this country, and "jew" is used as a derogatory term. No. I can't understand exactly what you went through, but I have experienced unfounded hatred, as so many people have. I think we could benefit by acknowledging our different experiences while finding the similarities among them. We have a better shot at ending discrimination if people who have experienced hate band together instead of fighting among one another. That's just my take...

joe ordinary said...

and I think that's kinda my point. I can't begin to understand the pain that comes with a Jewish heritage and the discrimination faced today.

and I don't need to feel it in order to empathise with it, in order to be reviled by the obvious injustice and inhumanity of the whole situation.

I guess I'm ranting about people who use scant, superficial interaction with black folks as grounds for minimising the difficulties, historic and contemporary, faced.

sadly enough there are those in my everyday experience who say "I know what it's like to be black, it's not that bad at all" based on nothing more three music videos and a few sports celebrities splashed over tabloid centre folds.

discrimination finds it's roots in ignorance and so open discourse as we're having here can only be a good thing. annoyance aside I think it's quite likely we agree a lot more than it seems.