by guest contributor Philip Arthur Moore, originally published at TheThink
Before taking my first ever study abroad trip, I was told that there would be certain social and cultural norms that I would have to adapt to without pressing the issue too much. I knew that as a visitor into the Vietnamese community, no matter how odd, foreign, hypocritical, or just plain weird the people seemed, it wasn’t my place to call them out on it. To be sure, I found myself frustrated at times that I was unable to cause some sort of communal change in areas that I found a bit off, but that was the price I paid to study abroad. I knew that no matter how close I got to the community, through my acquisition of the Vietnamese language or friendly conversations, there were some things I just could not do as a non-Vietnamese person.
It is with this train of thought that I feel the need to enlighten some of my white brothers and sisters about how not to approach the black community in the United States. Now, I realize that black Americans and white Americans live in the same political state, but often times they might as well be defined as two separate nations. Young black children in predominately white schools might as well be on a study abroad trip as far as I’m concerned. White Americans who dare travel into predominately black, brown, or yellow neighborhoods often feel like they are living in another country among a sea of non-white people.
Little is admitted about the real lack of integration in our nation while whites kick back and enjoy television shows like Flavor of Love and think they’ve truly just enjoyed a slice of black life in the U.S. Non-whites watch television shows like Friends and think that most white people drink bowl-sized cups of latte. Many watch the newest season of Survivor (Cook Islands) and actually believe they’ve been schooled on diversity.
Of all the races in the United States, white people have the hardest time understanding racial oppression. This is a fact. Much like the men (including myself) in the United States who just cannot understand what it feels like to be a woman who is judged by her bra and waist measurements, white Americans cannot put themselves in the position of racial other-ness on a daily basis. Unless of course they go abroad or to New York, Chicago, DC, Altanta, Detroit, Philly, LA, Houston, or anywhere else with more black people than say, Altoona, PA. This is not to say that white people cannot understand racial opporession. It’s just that, well, most of them don’t.
With that said, I’ve put together ten pointers that will help my fellow American citizens integrate themselves more easily into a black America. Granted, many of my white brothers and sisters will never feel the need to voluntarily put themselves around people shades darker than themselves (unless it involves sex, economic or sociopolitical domination), but for those who do want to take on a grand adventure of integrating themselves with blacks in a comfortable fashion, look no further.
What follows are ten rules that may help you blend in easier with black Americans and reduce frictions between yourselves and them. Consider it a study abroad guide to black America. Now, surely there will be some white people who read the following rules and get upset about them, but just remember, when you put yourselves around a lot of black people, you are on a study abroad trip. Suck it up, deal with it how you must, and keep it moving.
Things White People Shouldn’t Do…
(10 Rules from your Half-brother, With Love)
Rule #1: Say the word “Nigger”.
This one’s pretty self explanatory. I understand that a number of my white brothers and sisters feel the need to sing along with rap songs and repeat a lot of the things that black rappers say. But, I asure you, this angers a great deal of black people. Many of us are very uncomfortable with the word “nigger”, and far fewer of us use it than is portrayed on television. For your own safety and the safety of those around you, please avoid using this word. For more explanation, please continue reading about the word “nigger”…
Rule #2: Throw “ghetto” parties (unless one actually lives in the ghetto) or dress up in blackface, brown-face, yellow-face, or any other-face that contradicts one’s own skin tone (Halloween exemptions on a case by case basis).
It seems that as of late, white people have been on the up and up when it comes to throwing ghetto parties. Perhaps this coincides with the birth of hipsterism, I’m not sure. In any event, these ghetto parties can lead to nothing but sore relationships between black Americans and white Americans who believe that dressing like black people is flattering, funny, entertaining, or harmless. For your own safety and the safety of those around you, please avoid painting yourself with shoe polish for kicks and giggles. That hurts black peoples’ feelings, and you wouldn’t want to do that. Would you? Continue reading