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DON'T Say This to Black People!

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Guest blogger Real Moms Have Curves: I am fed up with dumb comments and questions about my race. Here's why.

Two woman talking

When it comes to blacks and whites talking about race, I understand the inevitable discomfort and struggle for words and opinions that are honest, yet politically correct. If I say this, will I sound racist? Insensitive? Ignorant? Will she take offense? are some thoughts that are bound to come up.

According to the NY Times however, Barack Obama's win has actually become an instant icebreaker, allowing blacks and whites to talk more freely. But before you eagerly hop into these conversations using Barack as a stepping stone, let me give you a few of the top dumbest things never to say to blacks (from my own experience). Trust me, your social life will thank me:

You only like that book because it has a strong black female character (from my college professor).

2. Is all that hair yours? Can I touch it?

3. You don't sound black (which sounds like ... ?)

4. Do people in Africa wear shoes?

5. Kwanzaa is a bullsh*t holiday

6. You don't like fried chicken?

7. Do you have the same mother and father?

Yes, you would think that the above statements would come from uneducated people who have never read a book. Surprisingly, I get these cracks from people who hold degrees from some of the best schools in the country.

So after all the inauguration hoopla is over, the last martini downed and the last cheese cube munched, we will have a "black" president. I hope that he, with his beautiful family, will usher in not only a new day of political and economic stability, but also a time of open dialogue between different races on a worldwide level.

At the bare minimum, I am looking forward to a day where I can speak properly without getting strange looks, have long hair without a weave and turn down fried chicken with relish. It may not be as deep as Martin Luther King's dream, but it's a beginning.

next: Nie Nie is Back!
27 comments so far | Post a comment now
Marquita January 16, 2009, 10:08 AM

I feel you girl! lol

Anon January 16, 2009, 10:22 AM

I really can’t believe people would ask such questions! Stay strong girl!

Becky Fierce January 16, 2009, 10:33 AM

girl you are the bomb…beautifully written!

Kat January 16, 2009, 10:49 AM

I feel rather proud of myself to know that I would have never said any of those things. Although I will admit to being rather ignorant of other races. It is simply from lack of exposure to them. But that is not a good enough excuse to say stupid stereotypical things such as you mentioned.

Lisa Maria Carroll January 16, 2009, 11:29 AM

After living in Minnesota for a few years, I know to expect such dumb comments from educated dummies. Here’s a sampling:

A co-worker came up to me while I was reading Ebony and said, “Oh, is there a magazine called “Ivory”? To him I replied, “Yes, I think y’all call it “People.”

Another one asked if I ever read books about white people. To him I replied I met my quota in high school.

To my kids (I have 4), “Oh, you mean all of you have the same last name”?


DD January 16, 2009, 1:27 PM


Crystal  January 16, 2009, 1:44 PM

Some people are ignorant, yes it’s true. Others are just curious. I’m white, and I’ve never felt a weave. If I were curious and wanted to know more about them, is that ignorant? Also, it is pretty common where I live (Albany NY) for moms and their children to have different last names. Is assuming you have a different last name any worse than assuming you do? I don’t understand how that’s offensive. The last question I have is this: Are you seriously saying that it’s impossible to tell a black person’s voice from a white person? I can tell the difference easily. No, not all black people have an accent. But alot of them do. I think the race card is used way too much.

for real January 16, 2009, 2:11 PM

Stop using race as a crutch.

Anonymous January 16, 2009, 2:28 PM

And yet two people just responded with the word “girl”. I feel you girl and stay strong “girl”. That can almost be construed as something said around black women.

Just food for thought…

Jennifer M. January 16, 2009, 2:49 PM

RE: You don’t sound black. Yes, that’s a stupid thing to say, but don’t pretend you don’t know what they mean. Many African-Americans have kept a Southern dialect which is distinctive from Euro-Caucasian’s. Blacks make a conscious decision to eliminate the dialect and talk with the Caucasian dialect or keep it. Sometimes it’s a source of pride, sometimes it’s a sore spot. Don’t ignore that it doesn’t exist, culturally.

Al January 16, 2009, 4:05 PM

Daaang, people are ignorant, huh? Even commenters. And to the person (Crystal) who asked why it might be considered offensive to assume that all of a black woman’s children are by different men, just take ten minutes and think about that. Go on. We’ll wait.

Also, the thing about “sounding black” - the use of an “accent”, which is actually a use of dialect/slang combined with a regional accent (not a diminished “Southern accent”, as someone else wrote above) is actually a use of vernacular language correlated with socioeconomic status, not race.

Firstly, race is a social construct - people of Fijian, Samoan, Haitian, Brazilian, Nigerian, and 5-generations in-the-country African American would all be considered black. Not a single one of those people would sound alike, either in person or on the phone.

Thus, the faux pas is in assuming that someone in that when you hear a voice that indicates a certain socioeconomic strata, you can safely make an assumption that the person speaking must be of a given race. In simpler words, you’re assuming that only white kids sound like they went to prep school.

I was raised in a wealthy African-American community, I went to private schools most of my life, and I’m currently a graduate student in biology. I’ve never “hidden my accent” or “made a conscious decision to eliminate the dialect” (Jennifer M.); it simply was never there. This is how I speak. This is how my family speaks. This is how most of my friends speak. This is a standard American accent. It’s insulting for you imply that it’s some put-upon show for white people, and that the minute you leave, we’re all “C’MON, Y’ALL! WE’S KIN TALK RIGHT NOW!!” You don’t own the standard American accent. It’s not a Caucasian dialect. Languages in the Ural Mountains are Caucasian dialects. Read a book sometime, maybe.

So, to sum, no, you cannot tell a black person’s voice over the phone. Idiots.

P.S. Jennifer M. - The Southern accent dominant throughout the southeastern United States (I assume that’s the one you’re referring to?) is actually extremely similar in both whites and blacks of that region, and strongly dissimilar from northerners of all races. Maybe you should road trip around the U.S. sometime. It could be a really great experience for you.

John Jones January 16, 2009, 4:07 PM

To the person that just commented above, why would you defend the people that speak of “talking like you are black?” You are one of the uneducated people we are all talking about. I doesn’t matter whether you have a GED or a PhD, because if you say something like that, you haven’t seen enough of the world. Yes, people in urban areas speak differently than people in suburban and academic areas. I say PEOPLE because white people, latinos, asians, and everyone else in urban areas speak differently! If you think it is because they are black, then you are a fool. In fact, keeping that idea alive is what makes a lot of African-Americans feel embarrassed to go to college and higher, because people back where they might come from will say “you are talkin like you are white!” There is no “white” talk or “black” talk. So let them feel good about becoming educated!

To the person that posted this: I am sorry you have had to go through this. I wish I were around when these things were said so that I could defend you, although you sound like you can handle yourself. I am sick of living in suburban areas where stuff like this goes around like crazy. An example: “Black people are better at basketball because they have an extra bone in their foot!” First of all, all I can do in response is “……………” Second, why would an extra bone affect playing basketball? Third, I recently took a sociology class where they touched upon this (and no, I am not one of those people who claims to know all because I am somewhere in college; I plan on becoming a theoretical physicist, and have been published twice, so leave that “you think you know everything” crap behind), where the same thing was said about Italians in the 1920’s because they were dominating in basketball in the time. Sorry to make this more about myself, I’ll shut up since this is your blog!

erika  January 16, 2009, 6:20 PM

ok so from my grandmotherinlaw who gre up in cicero, IL. “but how could she tell her face was dirty? she was not fair like you.”

Uly January 16, 2009, 8:59 PM

Kat, being proud of not being totally rude and offensive is… well, kinda rude and offensive. Do you want a medal every time you remember to say please, too?

Theresa January 16, 2009, 10:13 PM

Funny story—When my baby was born I brought her by my college to show my boyfirend’s professor. inevitably, we got to talking about her kids.

She was telling me how one of her twins was white, the other black.

A girl in her class goes, “Oh my God, what did your husband say?!?”

I stifled a laugh, but prof was calm and explained to her that her husband was black and that sometimes this happens with mixed-race twins.

This girl proceeds to say, “Oh, I know what they call that…Mongoloid, right?”

OK, that time, i really did laugh.

Also, if you’re curious as what a weave feels like, it feels like hair. Its made from hair. If you get the urge, touch your head. Yay! Now you know what weave feels like!

Kara January 16, 2009, 10:21 PM

Black. White. Get a clue people, we are not a jumble of races on the planet but just one - the human race.

Jill January 17, 2009, 4:36 AM

Being biracial is no picnic, either. It opens up a whole slew of offensive possibilities. My favorite question is “What are you?”

Human female. Thanks for asking.

Anonymous January 17, 2009, 6:09 AM

obama is not a BLACK president!!!!!!!!!!!!He is a mixed race president…….I am sick of hearing otherwise

Kara January 17, 2009, 4:04 PM

Jill, I like your answer to that awful question! On forms I usually answer the question of race with “human”. I grew up with a very racist father. He was very vocal about his beliefs. He went on and on about anyone that wasn’t just like him but especially about black people. I remember even as a really young kid just sitting there bewildered by it all. I mean, it’s just skin for goodness sake! I never understood how he could be so angry and so prejudiced against another person just because of the color of their skin. But I got a close up look at predjudice. I got to see that it is cowardly, ignorant and insane and I am so very glad I had the good sense to see my father for what he was. I wish I could say the same about my brothers. I don’t understand the segregation of “races”. Even now in our supposedly enlightened times people keep themselves seperate from those that are different from themselves. It makes no sense to me at all when in the end we are all just people.

Crystal  January 17, 2009, 4:45 PM

Just for the record Al:
And to the person (Crystal) who asked why it might be considered offensive to assume that all of a black woman’s children are by different men, just take ten minutes and think about that. Go on. We’ll wait.

Where in my post did I say that all of a black woman’s children are by different men? I simply stated that it is not uncommon in my city. It’s sadly pretty much the norm for both blacks and whites here. Don’t put words in my mouth. I never said all black people have 5 kids with 5 different baby daddies. Which is what you assumed I meant.

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