If You’re Married To A Black Woman, Does That Mean You Get To Make Stereotypical Black Jokes?

January 9, 2017  |  

I remember in high school I had a White sociology teacher who was married to a Black woman. I liked him even before I knew this fact; still, his marriage certainly made me view him more favorably. But quite a bit of the shine wore off when he talked about his mother.

In class one day, he was trying to tell us that although his mother was a proud, southern woman and had Confederate Flags decorating her house,  she wasn’t racist. In fact, he said that the flag, to her, didn’t have any racial connotations. It was just her taking pride in being from the south. My high school was 50% White and 50% Black. And I remember the Black kids attempting to explain the flaw in his logic. As someone who had been taunted by the Confederate flag at a very early age, I wasn’t here for his argument. If his mother, herself wasn’t racist, that flag stands for racist ideologies, almost solely. After all, the south wanted to separate from the rest of the country so they could maintain the institution of slavery. And I dare anyone to try and convince me that slavery wasn’t racist.

We know better.

Furthermore, the fact that it is still so prominently displayed throughout the south, speaks to the fact that the region is still rather salty about losing the war and the right to keep their slaves. If they weren’t the flags would have been discarded long ago, like Nazi Germany’s Swastika. I could speak about the Confederate flag for days really, but that’s not the purpose of this article. I tell that story to talk about Atlanta Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox.

During an event called “Chalk Talk,” Wilcox sat down with a group of 200 season ticket holders and fielded questions. At a point, folks started arguing about what the team needed. Wilcox, in an attempt to be funny, made a joke about his Black wife.

“I know you guys may be angry with me, but I’m used to it because I have a Black wife and three mixed kids, so I’m used to people being angry and argumentative.”

Ugh.

Don’t let your marriage to a Black woman have you out here talking crazy. One of the main questions people have about interracial couples— when one party is Black—is whether or not the other– who is perhaps White– will truly understand his or her plight. The answer is no. But it’s not necessary for people to fully understand their partner’s experience. After all, men will never know what it’s like to be women. But you would hope that your husband, your partner doesn’t use your identity or stereotypes associated with your identity to make ridiculous jokes, in front of a room full of people who likely don’t understand what it means to be you. And can’t understand the pain said stereotypes have inflicted on people like your partner. Just like you would hope that my former sociology teacher wouldn’t fail to see the ways in which the Confederate flag his mother loved so much had been used as a symbol of enslaving and then oppressing his wife and her ancestors.

After Wilcox’s comments Clarenton Crawford, one of those season ticket holders let Hawks CEO, Steve Koonin, know that he and his wife did not appreciate the joke or the fact that Wilcox turned to another White man to ask if it was ok.

Koonin responded to the email and completely missed the mark.

Crawford replied.

Koonin tried to get in touch with Crawford over the phone but he was away for Christmas and didn’t answer. He said eventually the two had a chance to meet and chat. And shortly after that, Wilcox issued this apology.

“At an early December chalk talk, I made a self-deprecating comment at my own expense regarding my family, which is multi-racial. This joke offended Mr. Crawford and his wife and for that, I apologize.”

As a result of his comment, Nzinga Shaw, who is the Hawks’ first diversity and inclusion officer, will be counseling Wilcox. We hope she gets him together.

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.” You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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