If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me rant about the “new Black guy” at my job who seems to behave differently when other Black males are around. It’s like he’s Shemar Moore most of the time, but when I come around he turns into Ice T. It certainly doesn’t help that he heard I’m a rapper. I really don’t get it but it’s very annoying, especially since there is a strong chance he’ll be working under me in a few months.
The other day, I was one of my many food runs walking back into the building in my typical breaktime attire – slacks, button-up, hard toes, and a fitted – as NBG was walking out. As we met in the lobby, he said, (and not in his work voice) “I’ve never had a gang member manager before!”
I was rather irritated because here I am trying to be successful in a corporate environment dominated by white folks, and this dude who does not know me is out here trying to drag me down by behaving foolishly in my presence, hoping I’ll join in. After shaking my head, walking upstairs to my office and eating my Philly cheesesteak, an odd thought hit me. If he were anything but a Black man, I probably would have gone off on him, chastising the racial/social prejudices that led him to call me a gang member in my place of business. I’d also be downright offended if a white guy spoke to everyone else like he had sense and education, but spoke to me – The Black Guy – like he was auditioning for the role of Black Dynamite.
This really got me thinking… This guy can’t be racist against his own people, can he? The answer is yes, he could (ask Uncle Ruckus or Clarence Thomas), but I don’t think that’s the issue here. The issue here is that like millions of other Americans, this guy has a problem dealing with certain types of people in places and positions he doesn’t expect. It’s not racism, per say, but rather a misguided perception created by stereotypes he’s come to believe.
Plenty of people do this. Police pull over people of color all of the time because they “seemed out of place”. When I lived in an East Vancouver gated community and drove a Malibu, I learned this first hand. Sometimes I go to Winco and the cashiers loudly assume I’m paying with EBT. Black guys date white girls all the time and assume they have money. Heck, everyone yelled racism when Trayvon Martin got shot, only to realize that he was shot by a Latino who confused a hoodie-wearing, Skittle-eating kid for a gang-banging burglar. In some cases, people are truly racist; but I think that in most situations, people fall victim to believing negative (or positive) stereotypes and end up in very awkward situations.
In my opinion, “racist” is a term thrown around far too loosely, especially by Black people. Every time someone is mistreated by someone of another race somebody cries racism. It’s out of control. I mean, one could argue that the blatant ignorance and standing stereotypes that are rampant in this largely homogenous city are results of ingrained racism and I would not disagree one bit. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t necessarily accuse those foolish enough to buy into it racists. By a similar token, everyone lies but we don’t call everyone a “liar”. Such a designation is reserved for those who make it a habit or take pride in such behavior, right?
At the end of the day, I hypothesize that stupidity is far more prevalent than racism. When Mary J. Blige took a role in a BK commercial singing about fried chicken, that was just dumb. It was not racist. When Romney went before the NAACP and slammed the President, that was dumb. It was not racist. When Mel Gibson told his ex that he hoped she got raped “by a pack of wild n—-“… OK, that was racist. White folks have accused me of being a racist numerous times, and I tell them that I can’t be a racist because I have hella white friends. That’s a good excuse right?
My point is, let’s all be less ignorant. And if someone slips up and offends us, we should be less ready to slap ‘em with the racist tag and instead perhaps look to educate our peers. It’s easy to assume the worst in people, but sometimes we need to step outside our feelings and seek perspective. I definitely plan to have a talk with my new co-worker and show him the error of his ways. Maybe then he’ll stop calling me “OG” in the hallway.
By the way, if you haven’t seen the Mary J. Blige commercial, please go to YouTube and do that right now. Classic.