Wait Til You Get Home: 6 Things You Don’t Do in Front of White Folks

September 4, 2012  |  
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Remember in Save the Last Dance where Kerry Washington’s character, Chenille, told Julia Stiles (Sara) that black people and white people live in two different worlds? Julia Stiles quickly blurted, “There’s only one world, Chenille!” to which she responded, “That’s what they teach you. We know different.” Whew! Now, I can’t say I completely agree with Chenille, but I will say there are plenty elements about black culture and heritage that a lot of white people know very little to nothing about. And since we don’t have time to educate all of the world’s ignorant, there may be so behaviors we don’t exhibit in the presence of those who just might not understand. Click on to see what I mean.

Break out in song/dance

Music is a part of every culture; but for black people there’s an increased level of importance because music, at times, has been one of the few weapons we’ve used to fight against the oppression we’ve experienced. From the fields, to the marches and rallies and even gangsta rap all used music to serve as a way to express our current situation and our dreams and aspirations. Music is important. So, in the black community it’s not uncommon for one to break out in song or do a little two step in the middle of the work day. This is the way we live. But if you’ve ever sung a little tune or shuffled your feet in just the right combination in front of a white person, you may have found they looked at you in complete wonder and awe. For some reason this behavior is a bit novel for them and now you’ve become the star in a one woman musical. But you’re really not here to entertain anyone. So maybe the next time you hear the music, you restrain the urge to cut loose, just to be sure your little ditty or jig is not seen as some type of shuckin’ and jivin’ routine.

Talk about those ignorant shows you watch

When I first moved to New York, I was working at a large television company. Needless to say, it was a predominately white environment. There was one guy, a black guy, who’d I speak to every morning as I fixed my hot chocolate. One day we extended our conversation past the kitchen and we somehow landed on the topic of TV shows we liked, some of them guilty pleasures. I had just named a show and it was his turn to share. Before he opened his mouth, he looked around to see if anyone was paying attention, leaned in his eyes lighting up with excitement and mischief as he whispered, “I loved ‘Flavor of Love.'” His hands clapped together to emphasize his point,  “I loved that ignorant isht.” I bust out laughing. Not because he loved ‘Flavor of Love;’ (I know I certainly did too.), but because he went out of his way to hide this fact from our coworkers. The thing is, being a minority, you never know how much exposure the dominant culture has had or will have with black folk. There are truly some folk who think “New York” and Flavor Flav represent the totality of the black experience in America. Very scary and very true. No need to confirm those ideas by openly admitting that you like or even support those and other shows.

Talk about politics

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised to learn that one of my white friends or associates was a Republican. Ugh. It’s a troubling realization. Not only because of the political ideologies; (I don’t understand why folk can’t see the Republicans are just about money.), but also because the Republican party has been known to associate and or attract the type of folk who cling to racist, sexist and classist thoughts and even behaviors. There’s the tea party folk, the Todd Akin type dudes and most recently people who can’t act like they have a modicum of sense or even humanity, at a convention where the party is supposed to be putting their best foot forward. Why didn’t they get the memo that it’s not ok to throw peanuts at a black woman?!

Eat Chicken/Watermelon

I, for one, don’t have a problem eating chicken in front of anyone. I don’t subscribe to the belief that black people have an irrational affinity for chicken. I know people worldwide love the bird. The same goes for watermelon. Though I might pay more attention to how I eat it, if it’s sweet, nothing can stop me. But I know some people, black people, who refuse to indulge in these delicacies in the presence of white folks because they don’t want to further perpetuate a stereotype. Are you one of them?

Use Ebonics

Hip Hop culture and vernacular, which relies heavily on Ebonics, is so prevalent now, that you’ll find that many Americans can understand the general message. But though they may understand it, I still find myself speaking my best version of the King’s English when I’m in the presence of white people and not just professional settings either. I speak one way around my family and close friends and entirely differently around white people, simply because I don’t want to give off the impression that I’m somehow uneducated and inept when it comes to what should be my “native tongue.”

Talk about Race

I like to talk about race with non-ignorant people. If those people happen to be white, great. But more times than I’d like to remember, some white folks have been completely oblivious to what it means to be a minority in this country. How many times have you heard a white person ask, in all seriousness, “Where is White history month?” or state “I don’t see color.” or “Black people are always pulling the race card.” Statements like that will cause you to look at a person you once liked in a whole new, unfavorable light. To avoid the grave disappointment, you might be so inclined to keep race out of it.

What things do you avoid doing around white people?

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