Should Black Folks Feel Obligated To Speak To Each Other?

March 20, 2012  |  

So over the weekend I was in a more affluent part of town, getting my dog some natural and organic dog food. I know, bourgeois , right? Whatever, I care about my pup and his health. I mean, it’s not recommend that folks consume a steady diet of highly processed foods all day so why then should Coltrane (my dog)?

Anyway, it was s a sunny, unusually warm day outside, and there were plenty of happy, mostly white, folks milling about. They were eating their crepes at the sidewalk cafe and window shopping in their Birkenstock sandals and having play dates with their children and pets. Oh and they were abnormally chipper that day -perhaps because of the warm weather or maybe because they were trying to fill me out as to if I was friend or foe. I know it sounds bad but I had, and still do, Trayvon Martin on my mind so I was just as cautious around them as they might have been around me.

So, I’m walking down the street when I see a tall brown skinned older man walking towards me. Finally some color up in here, I think to myself.  As we got closer I felt myself, for some reason, getting more excited. I had the kind of excitement that only comes from being one of the few Black persons in a sea of “other.” Like I wasn’t alone anymore and if anything happens, at least I have one person to have my back. Or so I thought.

I’m beaming from ear to ear walking towards the man. I give him the customary smile and “how you doin’ but to my chagrin, he didn’t return the gesture. Instead he managed to do a move that I didn’t think was physically possible; he lowered his head and looked straight at the same time -almost as if he was avoiding any sort of acknowledgement (including eye contact and a simple “hello”) of me at all.

Now maybe he was having a bad day or caught up in an internal dialogue that prevented him from noticing the overly eager person smiling and speaking at him. However this isn’t the first time this has happened to me. It seems like every time I’m in a room where I am only but one of maybe two or three other black folks, we end up staying as far away from each other as we can.  It has happened so much that it got me believing that this can’t be an isolated incident.

I’ve always lived by the unspoken rule that Black folks should speak to each other, even if we are strangers, if not to show some camaraderie but just in general because it’s courtesy.  There is so much Black on Black hate in the world that we should try to be more civil with each other. Likewise, being in predominately white environments where folks have to navigate cultures between two worlds, I would assume that it would be nice to come upon someone else who shares your same predicament. But that’s just my thing. And I too recognize that not every brother (or sister) considers himself a brother (or sister). So should we be under any obligation to chum it up with a person of the same color at all?

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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