by Guest Contributor G.D., originally published at Post Bourgie
Okay, so we know we pick on The Root a lot around here. It’s not that it always sucks, just that it routinely offers up some real head-scratchers.
Por ejemplo. In today’s edition, Delece Smith-Barrow offers her rationale in deciding to go to a predominantly white university. Seems pretty innocuous, right? I mean, most black college students/grads claim ‘white schools’ as their alma maters. But just in case you don’t think so, Smith-Barrow has some some preemptive and completely unsolicited defensiveness for that ass.
At my private, predominantly white high school, I was one of eight African-American students in my graduating class. After that, the idea of being in an all-black academic setting seemed overwhelming. I would have to go from one end of the racial spectrum to the other, and after four years of all-white, all the time, I was tired of extremes. While the idea of going to school with more people who looked, acted and even sounded like me was definitely alluring, the idea of various shades of humanity co-existing within the parameters of one campus intrigued me much more. I wanted to be a part of that experience. I wanted to teach others about my race while also learning about theirs through everyday interactions, dynamic classroom discussions and events that promoted mixing and mingling across color lines.
Get it? See, she was ‘tired of extremes,’ and so opted for an environment that was most like the one she was leaving. Annoyed yet? No? Okay. Here’s more.
We could teach other races an important lesson on what it means to be black and nix some erroneous, preconceived notions about our race. For the white student whose only knowledge of black people has come from BET, we could show him that we don’t all aspire to be rappers. This learning experience could also go both ways and prove to blacks that not all white people are The Man.
Ah, there we go. That good problematic, served up piping hot. Now, one of the problems with debunking stereotypes is that, well, there’s no real way to do so. Whenever a white teacher told me I ’spoke well,’ I was never operating under any assumption that this ‘compliment’ would spur some reevaluation of her ideas regarding the intellectual capacities of Negros in general — in her mind, I was just not like the rest of them. If you’re a Jewish person who also happens to be a spendthrift, to the bigot who lazily clings to that stereotype, you’re just the exception to the rule.
There’s no winning this game, folks. And of course, trying to ‘disprove’ stereotypes validates the stereotype in the first place. Madonna/Whore. Niggers vs. Black People. And so on.
And while no one should knock anyone’s decision to go where ever they want for undergrad, who’s really trying to play racial ambassador for four years? (Well, besides Lando?)
Oh, and then there’s this doozy.
My experiences on the teaching side of race relations assured me that my presence and those of other blacks were needed at my non-HBCU. While taking a class on contemporary cultural issues, I was able to introduce my oh-so-knowledgeable and well-rounded professor to the concept of men on the “down low.” Of course, closeted gay men exist in both white and black communities, but I was able to benefit from the dialogue that had started in the black community, thanks to E. Lynn Harris and his novels and J. L. King’s book, On the Down Low. To my professor, the idea of men who had sex with other men in secret but often paraded around with a woman on their arm to display their heterosexuality, was unheard of. When I turned in a paper on the topic, I was sure it was not news to the rest of the class. The lively discussion that followed proved me wrong.
“White People be closeted like (*in stereotypical white guy voice*) ‘Hey, Tom! I’m totally straight, bro! No way that I’m a homo!’ But Black people??? We be bringin’ a whole different flavor to it!” — Some ComicView-ass comedian.*