A while ago, another human being and I had a chat about the lack of cultural awareness in Ireland. Said human being stated that it was mainly due to the fact that “We just don’t know” and, to me that sounds like an excuse which cowardly coats the ludicrous implication that it is my responsibility to let people know.
For all the times that certain people have asked me if they could touch my hair, turned my hand around to see what colour my palms are, or angled their head quite obviously to see what colour my gums are, this is for you…
It is completely understandable to wonder when we’re faced with new things. I remember in my early Senior Infants days that some of my classmates had freckles on their face, that seemed to increase and decrease at certain moments of the year and I really wondered what they were. We are all ignorant to new experiences. I wasn’t even entirely convinced that black people got freckles until I started to get them myself (yup, there’s the answer to the question you’re thinking). Yeeees, even as a six-year-old I knew that it wouldn’t be appropriate to start poking other people’s faces to see if they would come off. I was a curious child… I asked questions. I didn’t laugh, I didn’t poke and I certainly didn’t look down on anyone else.
However, there is a huge difference between wondering and well… feeling entitled to actually put your hands on someone else, to touch their hair, to presume things about them without any information, or to base your understanding of me on TV shows you watched as a kid. You’re totally woke because you watched Fresh Prince of Belair, right?
What, I’m trying to say is that I know as little about you as you about me, my community knows as little about you as you do about it. No community was born with the knowledge of each and every other community in the world yet minorities have to constantly deal with ignorant bs brushed off with “yeah, but we don’t KNOW” comments. Being the “majority” doesn’t actually mean that people know the ins and outs of everything that makes you. Yet, we make the effort to learn these things, ask the questions, and deal with some really outrageous shite.
I’m uncomfortable with all types of generalisations, so I’m speaking from personal experience – as a women of a colour n a predominatly white environment – and I know for a fact that I’m only one of many to have witnessed them. This is not an “oh poor me” post but more of an “absolute shtate of you” post, so bare with and if you disagree, I’d love to hear that too (comments below). I am very happy to take your questions, but I will not tolerate your stereotyping. So, without further ado, this is a public announcement to state that we are no longer accepting “but, we don’t KNOW!” as an excuse for the following things (in no particular order).
- “Nice weave!” “Is that your real hair?” “Omg it’s so big!”
This is for all things hair related. Don’t touch my hair without my permission and for crying out loud don’t just presume it’s a weave because you saw Viola Davis get one sewn in on How to Get Away with Murder. Our hair comes in different textures and lengths, and long hair is not a phenomenon that excludes the black community. Black people are not oversensitive about having their hair touched like many believe, we just don’t appreciate random strangers putting their hands on us. It’s weird, I don’t know you, stop.
- “You’re so black”
I am genuinely shocked every single time someone says this. It’s usually reserved for situations when there is a hint of a stereotypical African or African American traits. They can range from ordering fried chicken in a restaurant snapping your fingers to listening to hip-hop (note that this is stuff that non-black races do too). Not only is it saying “My knowledge of black people is limited”, “I was right all alone”, but it also represents an unwillingness to learn because they think they know you, they know everything that you are, and they are very comfortable with the box in their head that they have placed you in. It is the height of ignorance and will no longer be accepted.
- “You’re so white”
Perhaps even worse than the previous, perhaps just as bad. This is used in situations where there is a lack of a stereotypical African or African American traits. It’s another way of saying “Well, I’ve watched The Wire and you’re nothing like Snoop”. It represents everything that the last point represents, if this person was a robot they would be zooming around in circles with sparks coming out of them screaming “Can not compute” over and over again, unless it had the abilities say “But I thought all black people were the same”, then it would say that instead.
- “It’s just racist banter”
This might genuinely be one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. This is the way of saying “Ehm actually, I come from a society instilled with underlying white supremacy and racist ideals and I’m actually totally okay with that”. I cringe when I hear this coming from someone from a minority group and I pray that they are gifted with the awareness of their unfair treatment and the gift of confidence to call people out when they use this to excuse their poison. God help the next person I hear saying this.
That is all for today but starting from this post, for those too lazy to read – I will be including audio summaries of my blog posts, which contain not necessarily the same content but the same theme as the blog posts. This is the first one. Let me know what you think, let me know what outrageous things you’ve heard to excuse racism.
In the first of many, here is Saharcasm Podcast #1
“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” – Benjamin Franklin