All Articles Tagged "privilege"

When “Small Talk“ Isn’t So Small: Unpacking Power & Privilege When You Say “Hello”

May 16th, 2014 - By Kara Stevens
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A friend of mine was on a flight from New York City to London for business. He sat next to a white man and they engaged in a small talk and talk that was a little bit bigger than “small talk.” They talked enough to figure out that they liked each other.

After a while, the white man asked my friend, Shim, where he was from. When Shim, half-Ghanaian and half-Chinese, told him that he was African, the white man stopped speaking with him immediately.

Shim never found out why the hot-then-cold flight buddy rejected him, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to speculate that the white man did not like Africans, despite making an organic connection with the individual.

That story had me thinking about what really happens when two strangers introduce themselves in a business setting: what are the explicit and implicit messages, markers, and signals that influence our assessment of the other person’s worthiness or concept on normalcy? What makes one person decide that the person in front of them is worthy of their time or in the case of business, their money?  Is it religion, pedigree, fashion sense, occupation, sexuality, or political party affiliation? And how do we feel and respond when those that we met are not who we expect them to be based on our own biases, assumptions, and expectations?

In particular, I started thinking about small talk between black women in the professional setting. I have noticed that  it doesn’t take long before we are having conversations that move from the professional to the personal.  After a few exchanges of what we do, I have noticed that we pivot to discussions around black men, marriage, finding love, and church. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with these topics, conversations like these remind me that many of us walk — even in the professional setting — in the assumption that every black woman that we encounter is heterosexual, is Christian and is exclusively interested in finding and sharing their lives with black men.  Conversations that include, “How was your Easter?, “You know how it is for us single black women out here?” , “Pray on it,” or “Look at all of these fine men up in here” are not uncommon.

And as a black woman that lives on the margins of this seemingly light and innocuous conversations because I am not Christian, I feel slightly uncomfortable  when I share that I don’t read the Bible and that Easter and Christmas are not major events in my life. And to be honest, depending on how I feel, I may not share this part of my identity.

These types of conversations also make me aware of my own privilege in these conversations because I am married to a black man. No one is going to give me a side eye when I talk about how we met. In fact, I am often encouraged to share my advice and insight about our love.

But what about our black queer atheists sisters, our Muslim transgender divas in search of love, and our sistergirls that love the swirl that practice Santeria? How can we make sure that our introductions are not simultaneously exclusions?

Connect with Kara @frugalfeminista. Learn more about The Frugal Feminista at www.thefrugalfeminista.com

Madonna, Chelsea Handler and White Woman Privilege

February 13th, 2012 - By Charing Ball
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How come every time a white woman entertainer feels the need to affirm herself, it is always a person of color who has to bear the brunt of her license of liberation?

Like for instance, last week Madonna took to the airwaves to express her “disappointment” with M.I.A, international electronica-star and rebel rouser.  You see, Madonna was gracious enough to invite M.I.A, along with Nicki Minaj, to engage in a little girl power by being muted (if you count the 30-second “verse” they were allowed to spit), cheerleading bookends to Madge’s awesomeness. However, M.I.A, being the bad girl she is, decided that doing all that wasn’t enough and flipped the bird at the camera.  Tsk, tsk. According to Madonna, who gave her two cents during a conversation with Ryan Seacreast, M.I.A.’s one-finger salute was simply “out of place” at a show characterized by “such a feeling of love and good energy and positivity,” and was totally a “teenager … irrelevant thing to do.”

This is coming from the woman whose claim to fame was using taboo religious imagery in “Like A Prayer,” putting out a book of pornographic self-portraits, gyrating butt naked in the banned from MTV “Justify my Love” video and only a few years ago, engaged in a little tongue action with both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera on a music station known for appealing to young viewers. Likewise, how is a 51-year-old woman bouncing around in cheerleading outfits and pom-poms chastising others about maturity and relevance?  I love Madonna but she truly has some nerve. The queen of shock is policing another woman about how she chooses to be equally daring?  Classic.

But that’s not the only thing I’m irked about. Last week, a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook with Chelsea Handler dishing about her relationship with 50 Cent, particularly the reasons behind why they broke up. According to Handler, 50 had called her wanting her to listen to a conversation with his ex-girlfriend Ciara. She said that 50 said that Ciara wanted to get back with him and he wanted Handler to listen in, and I guess, mock the poor girls pleas for a second chance.

Handler, disgusted by 50’s immaturity, decided that she had enough. But in the mix of her telling him where to go with his childish antics, Handler also let something else out the bag. According to an interview with Howard Stern, Handler said, “I think I called him the worst thing you could say to a black person short of calling him the N-word. I said something like, you’re like a street person basically. Something along the lines of being a gangster, and it was really, really offensive and I hung up and I’ve never spoken to him again.” This was followed by a laugh.

When pressed about what exactly she said that wasn’t quite “n*****” but just as bad, Handler said she couldn’t remember but said that she said something like that. “I said, ‘You have no business even talking to someone like me, and it was very mean.’”

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