We’re more than a decade into the 21st century. I’d hoped– in vain– that some basic understandings of how non-Black people should interact with Black people could be something I could take for granted. But no. Somehow there are “those people” who remain entirely clueless, so much so that they will call a 9-year old the c-word, or paint a white model bronze-Black, or not even, as so-called, journalists, bother to learn the pronunciation of an Oscar nominee’s name. This is unacceptable.
Recently, I read the comments section of a post on Clutch where a male reader was baffled as how to initiate a conversation with Black women and asked for some rules. Several helpful women obliged. In the same spirit of combating ignorance, I offer rules for non-Black people to engage Black women without causing offense. If you can manage NOT to do the following, you can probably come across as a decent human being.
Humbly, I submit a basic list, my Rules of Engagement, and ask you NOT to do the following (and encourage Black women to add to the list in the comments):
1. Talk Bad About (Black) Kids
It seems ridiculous that this has to be said, much less lead the list. I’d assumed everyone knew better, but apparently not. (And you know what “they say” about assuming.) Look here, dissing kids – all kids, of all races, creeds, and color is UNACCEPTABLE. You want to talk greasy about your own kids? Eh… still unacceptable. Kids are off-limits. Period.
2. Touch Our Hair
I know our hair– braided, permed, natural, whatever– is pretty great. We treat it like art because we can and well, it is. However, it is never, ever, EVER okay to touch the hair of a random Black woman you’ve just encountered or even the familiar Black woman who you share the cubicle with. The world is not your personal petting zoo. Black people are, well, people. DO NOT TOUCH US (without permission).
3. Mispronounce Our Names/ Rename Us
Look, all Black folk don’t have multi-hypenate names. We have Janes, Marys and Beths too. And somehow our single syllabic sisters learn how to pronounce names like La’Taquisha, Marquaysa, Taiwanas, etc. You know what our secret is? Lean closer.
I’m a four syllable girl with an uncommon name (in the States.) I know it’s a challenge to pronounce and I am never offended by anyone asking, “how do I pronounce your name?” However, I am offended when you, a stranger, butchers it without care or tries to nickname me like we’re friends. Take the time to learn my name and maybe, I’ll offer my nickname to help you out.
4. Paint Yourselves Black/ Bronze
I know it’s Halloween or for my Jewish folk, Purim. I get you’re dressing up, but Black skin is not a costume. If you want to try out “ghetto” for Halloween, go right ahead. There are plenty of so-called “ghetto” white people. Wanna be a rapper? Great! Bubba Sparxxx’s, wherever he is, wants you to remember him. A basketball player? How creative of you! Just be a white one, or if you just have to go Black, get a jersey with the Black guy’s name and number so everyone knows who you are. (This means you NY Assemblyman Dov Hikind.) There’s no need to go all bronze or Blackface for that. Oh, and while we’re at it, leave off the afro/dread wigs. (I know, I know, some Black people wear other people’s hair so that seems hypocritical, but just trust me, no, the wigs just come across offensive— unless of course it’s a Jew ‘fro, which we totally give a pass to.)
5. Paint Others Black/Bronze
Do you know how hard it is for a working Black model? Of course not, because you would have to hire one to interact with her and learn what it’s like. Let me fill you in: it’s hard. And you, editor, are not making it any easier on Black models or your make-up artists by hiring white women and spraying them bronze/brown/Black. Leave the white person white or just hire a Black model already, and make it easier on everyone.
6. Try to Hook Up A SBW With the One Other Black Person You Know
Hook ups are always tricky, and I know your heart is in the right place here, but um, stop it. Just like, just how you wouldn’t introduce White Rebecca to a guy just because he too is also White, you shouldn’t try to hook up Black Regina with a guy just because he’s Black. If Regina is single and looking, introduce her to someone who she shares an interest with and you have a reasonable expectation she might click with. If he’s Black, great. If he’s not, that’s still great.
7. Drop the N-Word
Celebrities keep doing this sh** like it’s okay. Because “they”– that means you, Lisa Lampanelli – think it’s okay, you need to know that there’s no trickle down theory on this one. It doesn’t matter if it ends in “-er” or “a”, or you hear your Black friends or even your favorite rapper say it. It’s just not for you. When the lyrics in a song get to the n-word, go silent. When you’re retelling a story where someone dropped an n-bomb, just say “n-bomb” to be safe. Understand that by actually using the n-word, you not only are likely to offend every Black person in hearing distance, you will also be perceived as a racist and you may get confronted and/or physically harmed. The N-word is a fighting word. And while I, like many Black people, don’t condone violence, this is an instance where I understand.
8. Diss Michelle Obama
You got Jackie O and Princess Diana. We get the First Lady (and Oprah). You don’t like her? Think her arms are too bare? Her bum too large? She shouldn’t be dancing on Jimmy Fallon or presenting at the Oscars? Great. You’re entitled to your opinion… but tell someone else.
9. Change to the Local Hip-Hop Station When A Black Person Gets in the Car
My white friends never did this, which is how I ended up with the Oasis, Green Day, Jewel, Alanis Morissette obsession. This one is really for my cab drivers who are usually not white. I actually don’t mind AM news, and I like oldies, and rock, and jazz, and even some country. What I actually don’t like is most commercial hip-hop. I’ll take talk radio, lyric-less music or a plucked guitar over shout outs to “hos” at Spelman, wanting “hos” as birthday presents, or a “man” lamenting his inability to avoid “ratchet p****”.
10. Auto-Assume the Other Black Woman Shopping Must Work There
Every woman is not a salesgirl. Every Black woman is not a salesgirl. Say it with me: EVERY BLACK WOMAN IS NOT A SALESGIRL. More often than not, salesgirls or salespersons or whatever PC term is used now, are not wearing purses and coats on the sales floor. Salesgirls often have a name tag or a uniform and often they come right up and ask “Can I help you?” Those are salesgirls. The Black girl/woman with the coat and big-ass purse, who’s holding up the dress in front of herself in the mirror or searching the rack for her size? She’s a shopper just like you and is in no way is obligated to tell you where the [whatever you’re looking for] department is. If you ask her and you get a curt, “I don’t work here” as a response? Yes, she’s being rude because you’ve been ignorant.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life”. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk.
Dr. Boyce & Yvette: Whatever Happened to Al Sharpton’s Black Agenda?
Its hard to ignore the fact that a lot of focus has shifted away from the Black community and has moved on to other things, such as the Fiscal Cliff. While it is true that the Black Community is not the only “agenda” that the Obama administration should be worried about, it is becoming increasingly hard to ignore the fact that the Obama administration seems more interested in Black people’s voting power than the actual people.
Dr. Boyce Watkins recently had a discussion with political expert, Yvette Carnell to discuss this topic. The discussion is below:
Dr. Boyce: Hi. I’m Dr. Boyce Watkins from YourBlackWorld.com. Today I was thinking about something as we start the New Year. I was watching MSNBC and I happened to catch some of Al Sharpton’s new show, “Politics Nation.” The show seems to be doing really well. The ratings are really high and I think it’s because Reverend Sharpton is a sharp guy. He’s smarter than most people give him credit for.
But, one of the things I can also say is that I noticed that the rhetoric has adjusted since the election. I noticed that the engagement with black folks was at an all time high right before the President was attempting to get reelected. Much of the prodding resulted from this constant conversation about, “Oh, they’re trying to take away your voting rights. Dr. King died for your voting rights,” and all this other stuff. But, when black people showed up and said, “Well, what about our unemployment rate? What about our mass incarceration issue? What about the other things that we have concerns with but the politicians don’t have time anymore?” So, I think the ultimate measure of whether or not the Democrats and the Obama administration care anything about you is how they are responding to you right now.
So, to talk about this issue, I wanted to bring in my homegirl, my partner in crime, Ms. Yvette Carnell.
Happy New Year, Yvette!
Yvette: Happy New Year. How are you doing?
Dr. Boyce: I’m doing very, very well. Now, I wanted to ask you about something. About two months ago, I had become very frustrated with these meetings that were happening in the White House with Ben Jealous, Al Sharpton… the usual suspects. Nothing seemed to come out of these meetings. It almost seemed as if they had these meetings so that people could say that they had meetings.
Yvette: Well, I’ve observed the same thing. I mean, right before the election there was sort of a rallying cry in terms of, “Black people, you have to go out and vote. You have to vote for this guy because if you don’t go and vote for this guy then we’re going to have a problem. You voting rights…people died for them.” Just like you said before, that was the rhetoric. They were intentionally targeting black people.
But, what you notice here is that it’s almost as if Al Sharpton is just doing what he has to do. There are enough black people now who say, “Okay. There’s some credence to what Yvette Carnell’s been saying. There’s some credence to what Dr. Boyce has been saying. We do need an agenda.” So, what they came out and did in order to respond to that is they had a meeting and said “We’ve come up with an agenda.” Which included a lot of things that were just kind of general. First of all, some of it mentioned the fiscal cliff. Okay. They set up this fiscal cliff, but that’s not a black issue. The fiscal cliff is an American issue. They said something about, “It impacts black people.” Well, yeah, that’s true. But that’s not black stuff. We need targeted issues.
So, it’s almost as if they used that meeting just as window dressing to say, “Yeah. We’re doing something. We do have a plan.” But, there’s no plan to put that plan into action and quite frankly, I don’t think there ever was.
Dr. Boyce: I think it’s funny that we often accuse black Republicans of being poster children for their party, basically being puppets or being used by their party just so they can save face. Honestly, it seems that this happens also on the Democratic side. You have these black individuals who are chosen by the powers that be, to allegedly represent the black community and, effectively, they don’t have any power. They can’t walk into a room and command much of anything because, ultimately, their overseers don’t respect them very much.
And, I think that when you talk about what Sharpton, and Morial and Jealous . ( and I’m not as critical of Morial because I actually like Morial ,) in terms of what he’s trying to do with the Urban League,) but Sharpton and Jealous I have some serious concerns with. When you listen to the way they approach the black agenda and the way they approach the African American issues, it’s incredibly sad and timid. And, you notice there has been a dramatic shift in the rhetoric since before the election. Before the election, all the Obama surrogates where going into every black church, every black organization they could find, gathering as many black people as possible, warranting every black media outlet, and literally poking at us and saying, “You know what, those white people are trying to take your voting rights. Dr. King died for you to have the right to vote. Are you going to let them take your right to vote?”
What people don’t understand is that while you’re getting pumped up and saying, “No, I’m not going to let them take my right to vote,” guess what? They’re pushing you to fight for your right to vote so you can keep them in power. So, my question is: That same rhetoric; that same energy that they had before the election when they were pushing us to go out and vote, do they have that same rhetoric now when they’re trying to fight for our right to get a good education, fight for our right to have a job, fight for our right to get out of prison? When you’ve got all these black men in prison over laws that are no longer in effect. You have laws from the war on drugs that having been adjusted when they changed the crack to powder disparity, but there are still people who are still in prison under the old laws. So, if you are going to come into the church and fight for us to go out and vote for you, you need to go into the church and fight for the right for us to go out and vote for ourselves by getting things done that are going to actually help our community and not just help you. Yvette?
Yvette: Well, I agree. But, here’s the issue that all black people need to face: You have to face the fact that your leadership is a representation of you. And, we have to face the fact that too many of us are not serious people. Let me just say what I mean by that. People are going to say, “No, we are serious. We’re just like every other population.” No, we’re not because when you look at the Jewish community; when you look at the gay community; when you look at other contingencies; when you look at the Latino community, these people judge their leaders by their effectiveness. It’s not about how many times you’ve marched. That’s wonderful. That’s great. We appreciate your service.
But, in terms of what we’re doing right here and now, everything you do is about your effectiveness as a leader. What have you moved to the goal post? What have you achieved for us? Show me the legislation that you have pushed through. Show me the legislation that you forced the President to sign and other members of Congress to develop. Show me that. And they can show you that. They gay community can say, “Look, we got Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, that we’ve been working on”. The Latino community’s leaders can show you, “Look, we got the dream back. We’ve been working for our people.”
Al Sharpton and Ben Jealous can’t show us anything and yet, we rally around them as if they have achieved some monumental level of success. It is our fault that they are still able to have that spotlight and still go to meet with the White House. In any other community, they would be finished. There would be someone else who’s holding that job. They would have been given their pink slips and the people would say, “You know what, we appreciate that you’re a part of this community, but you’re no longer leaders of that community.” The fact that we can’t say that; that we can’t look at them with clear eyes and say, “Yeah, they may be good people but they are not the people to lead the black community in the 21rst century.” That’s a problem that we have and we need to face that in our community.
Everything isn’t about who can give you a good sermon, who can give you a good speech, who can tell you what they used to do in the 1970′s and where they marched, and tell you about when they moved into Harlem. All of that stuff, that’s not leadership. So until we get to the point where we can understand what leadership is in terms of what leadership is supposed to get us, in terms of the exchange, then we’re going to be here.
I think that black people have to face that. I do hold Al Sharpton accountable 100 percent because I don’t know whether he did this on purpose or whether he’s just ineffective. The only thing that it tells me is that he shouldn’t be the one to speak for black people; to go to the White House and speak for black people about policy initiatives. He’s not that guy. So, I think the black community has to face that and be like, “We like you but you’re not that guy.”
Dr. Boyce: I agree with you 100 percent. I think that we all are owed an explanation. We need to know what happened with your so-called black agenda that you came up with magically a few weeks ago, or a couple of months ago, (whenever they did this stuff), which I think was just reactionary. I don’t think there was any intention to push this.
I also have a question for Reverend Sharpton: Are these Democrats, your political buddies, going fight as hard for us on specific issues as they expected us to fight when it came to voting and keeping them in power? It’s very easy to go into a church and invoke the imagery of a civil rights movement and to leverage that to your benefit. We will not allow the civil rights movement to be exploited for the benefit of those who seek to keep us in oppression. And, when you buy out the leaders at the top and try to control them, then effectively you are pressing a mess that we cannot accept.
So, I’m going to keep speaking on this. I know that we are going to get criticized for this but, honestly, anybody who knows anything about us knows we just don’t care. Because, when it comes to telling the truth, somebody has to do it because we’re in an era where the BS just piles to the ceiling. We can’t allow this to continue because too many people are struggling.
Thank you, Yvette, for your time. I really appreciate it.
Yvette: No problem.
Dr. Boyce: Thank you all for checking us out at YourBlackWorld.com. Until we meet again, please, stay strong, be blessed, and be educated. Peace.
Kulture Kritic is a leading website for socio-political commentary that reflects conscious and liberal viewpoints. Readers tend to be educated and politically conscious, and of various minority groups. Many issues on Kulture Kritic are those that affect the black and latino communities, from education policy to crime, women, and breaking news.