State of Black America Part IX: Let Someone In

Let someone in. Let someone in. That's a hard one, Wise. Because after years of being treated like an outcast or welcomed in only to be rejected in a few years, you just start to get to the point where you don't want to try anymore.

Let's back track a bit. This started with Nikki's post about the limited view of Black women in televisions sitcoms, dramas, dramedys, etc. How we are always the angry asexual, the man I need a man, or the video whore. I know they hate that phrase but the women who dance around and shake it in next to nothing while some man throws money at her and sings about what a whore she is should take a closer look at what she is doing.

Merriam-Webster defines whore as a woman who engages in sexual acts for money. While you may not be performing an overt sexual act on camera, you are giving the impression that you are more than willin. If your parents raised you right, you can't tell me you are not ashamed on some level of how you are presenting yourself. Because once you bend over in shorts that are now so short they become underwear, any semblance of intelligence is gone. No one cares how many A's you made in 3rd grade or the fact that you won the spelling bee in 5th grade or the college degree you have. All they now see is your backside and what it will do to entice them. And while you're doing that, you're also giving the next generation their view of themselves. Instead of thinking I can run the world, they think this is the way to make a man pay attention to me. By virtue of your scantily clad, mouth parted presence you are making a statement I'm sure you'd deny. But the reality is, no matter how you feel about what you're doing today, most people want more for their daughters, nieces and friends. Charlotte radio host Janine Davis started Girl Talk Foundation as a means of counteracting those very effects.

After Nikki's post, this conversation morphed into Wise's partial solution to let someone in. In it, Wise states that in some respects it's our fault white people don't know us. So let's get to a little Jameil history. We know I grew up in a predominately white neighborhood (see less than a handful of black families out of about 500 homes) but let's go a bit deeper into what that means. That means I also went to a predominately white elementary school. Almost all of my crushes prior to 6th grade (other than my mom's friend's son who I now know is at least 10 years older than me) were white. There weren't enough cute black boys to choose from. Not a problem. Except when none of them actually want to be your 3rd or 4th or 5th grade boyfriend and you've liked boys since birth (according to my mother).

No boyfriend? No sweat. I had LOTS of friends. Almost all of the white. Also, not a problem. I was one of those great products of integration. The child who doesn't see color. My mother worked hard to do what she could to prevent her children from feeling some of the pain she felt growing up. She wanted us to be color blind. Then in kindergarten, someone called me black and I was confused. I took a brown crayon and a black crayon and held them next to my skin and asked which one was closer. One of my first debating victories. I came home so proud. I later learned my mother was crushed. It's not that she didn't want me to know about and be proud of my heritage. It's that she wanted to shield me from any pain as early as possible. I think she couldn't understand why there was some white parent whose child was interacting with hers who felt it necessary to explain to a five-year-old that there are black people and white people. Why does a five-year-old need to know that if not for you to lay the early groundwork to further hundreds of years of separation, confusion and mistrust?

My mother responded by buying me a book about Martin Luther King, Jr. which talked about his own similar experience of black versus brown. That made me proud. I shared something with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! Except his story ended with him not being able to play with his white friend anymore once they got to school age because the friends mother would no longer allow it. It was time for them to learn their places. I went to my mother to ask her if she thought my friends would do the same. I mean, no way! She implied that it was quite possible and even probable. I didn't believe her anyway. Then I went to middle school.

There were a lot more black people, but I "talk too white" for them and having white friends was a BIG problem. The one black female friend I had from elementary school joined those girls and was suddenly too embarassed to be seen talking to me anymore. See, they learned early, while interacting predomintaely with black people, that the races should indeed be separate, and there weren't too many people around who wanted to change their minds. The separation of the races works both ways. Once you take all the black people out of their cocoon and all the white people out of their cocoon, you have two groups of people who can't relate to one another because the only images they have of each other are the ones they've seen on tv. The jigaboo, the angry black man/woman, the whore, the mammy. The ones with all firehouses, the ones with all the power. At some point, it's all going to explode.

Now my "friends" were less willing to talk to me. And every passing year, I had fewer and fewer friends among the people I was closest to in elementary school. Of course all of it wasn't the clash between black and white. I finally got my core crew of like-minded girls: none of us wanting to become teenage mothers, all of us already thinking about college and making good grades. That was my first group of black friends. In 7th grade. There were also the people who were into some strange things now. Our interests grew in opposite directions, away from each other. But there was at least one girl who told me I shouldn't come to her house anymore because either her mom or her step-dad didn't like black people.

Then there's getting ignored or followed (or both) while shopping. These things slowly chip away at who you are creating a new person. One who is a little more closed off, giving off the angry black woman vibe. Part of my vibe is just me being a bit uncomfortable around strangers at times, but another part of it (beyond not wanting to constantly field stupid black questions) is not wanting to let people in. I would have been a stellar only child. I have many only child traits but as I previously mentioned, all of it starts to wear you down or cause you to build up a wall.

Wise suggests counteracting the 3 black women effect by being nice to a white person today. :) Don't you love how I broke that down? Stop saying no when your white co-worker asks you to accompany them somewhere. Stop being so closed off. How's this for a great point from Wise?
"We expect that when we work hard we ought to be seen as whole and competent and intelligent and nuanced and complex and human. Just like any other woman. Problem is, we don’t care for the follow up. We don’t want you in our business bec we refuse to be exploited. We refuse to give you the satisfaction of thinking you know us."
Wise!! You think you know me!! But at some point all that guarding will backfire. Whether personally or professionally, for you, or for the other black people who come behind you, it will backfire. Trust and believe that some people will never, ever get it; but punishing yourself and the world (by denying it yourself) is not the answer. Constantly shutting out the world will get you nowhere but angry(ier) and alone. And I for one want to be no ones stereotype.

*was this state of black america or state of black jameil?


The Very Reverend Ace Clemmons, Jr. said...

I, for one, think there are many more that 3 archtypes, but then again - (brace youself Jameil) I dont watch television and i live in NYC.

Jameil said...

acebizzle... i think there are more than three, too, but i'm just taking an idea and putting jameil's spin on it. you don't watch tv AND live in nyc!?!?!?! the shock and horror!!! :)

Unknown said...

It’s funny because I share somewhat the same experiences as you. I wasn’t raised in a predominately white area… but more like the projects. My high school was very diverse, I was in advance classes which had predominately white people, and other black people would think all I wanted to do was be with white people. But that wasn’t the case at all I was about getting my education and doing what I had to. Today even though I’m just a junior in college I look at these girls in high school, and just they way they act and carrying themselves is crazy. It seems as if every year it’s getting worse and I do think the how were portrayed on TV. is a problem

Tasha said...

I also had a similar experience growing up. I went to a predominantly white private school for my whole K-12 years, so 80% of my friends growing up were white. And due to my educational surrounding, so to speak, my extracurricular activities tended to be different than those of the people in the hood around me. I got and still get a lot of mess from people because they say I act and think "too white". Hmmmm, whatever.

It's sad to see how the television and movie industries have systematically categorized black women. And it appears that life may just imitate art, because many black girls are growing up thinking that they can only be one of those three things when they grow up; so their hopes and dreams of true greatness languish.

JustMeWriting said...

OK...I can't believe I missed this post. I actually only read the first couple of lines, but I'm commenting now because i'm about to leave...LOL. I'm reading the rest now.

Southerner in Suomi said...

1. The video hos ain't ashamed of what they do. Cause they weren't raised right! If they were raised right, they would never consider being in one of those damn videos.

2. That was the state of Black America. I also went to private school pre-K to 7th grade and then to a "urban" middle and high school. To this day, when I bump into someone from high school, the most common comment I get is "You sound more white than you did in high school!" WTF!?!?
Step off bitch!! And you got all them babies and baby daddies just like I thought you would in high school.

JOB said...

See and I think "white people's" aversion to "black people" isn't really skin color at all, but it's more about class.

My kids think that when someone is doing well, has money, etc. they are trying to be "white," but I tell them that I know white people who are the filthiest, nastiest trailer trash who even scare ME... so it can't be about a person acting WHITE, because white (skin color,) covers a lot of ground.

the joy said...

i soooo feel you on this. i grew up in a somewhat mixed city, compared with the predominately black southside of atlanta. once i got here i felt so alienated.

however, i tend to be hopelessly optimistic and believe in the best even when i see the worst. i have learned to take people one at a time and dismiss them accordingly. and for a while, believe it or not, i may have had issies with letting people of my same race in, because i had been used to being left out by them.

btw still having mobile blogger issues. i cant be the only one...

Chris said...

I think through the state of Black Jameil, you captured the state of Black America for those of us who have indeed been told we talk "white" or we sound too "proper." I remember once when I was kinda sorta working up the nerve to talk to this girl (yes, I had courage once), and my best friend immediately interjected by saying "you talk too white for that chick, trust me." I was salty as hell, but sadly, he was right. Those were the first words out of her mouth. Not to mention I grew up in a rough neighborhood in Wilmington, DE where if nawwhatimsayin wasn't coming out of your mouth, you were a white boy with black skin. It can either break someone down or make them stronger when being shunned by people you share the same skin color, and whether they believe it or not, the same struggles with. More often than not, strength wins.

CNEL said...

Last night the two other African-American interns and I were discussing the phrases "Your daddy ain't a mirror maker" and "Your daddy ain't a glass maker". The images we so often see don't mirror the complexity, and vastness of African-American life. That goes for AA men and AA women. We don't always even get a free and true depiction of men and women. We tell people to be original, innovative, creative, and brave then chastise we chastise, and we also turn around and disregard their very existence. It's all about affirming, acknowledging, and accepting varied identities and sub-identities. Life is never going to be one way, and it'd help if we could look around and see authentic faces staring back at us. It'd also help if we could look around, see through some BS, and see some realness.

I went to a predominantly black public elementary school, a predominantly black all-male Catholic middle school, and a prestigious predominantly white prep school. My college is also Catholic and predominantly white. In high school and in college it would irk me when there was prejudice, racism, ignorance, but that's why I am a diversity practitioner. It'd irk me even more when other people of underrepresented backgrounds (I detest the term minority when avoidable, I won't allow people to blame me, or subjugate me) would turn around and do the same things we complain about. We're just as capable of acting on prejudices. Yes, I have learned to open myself up and get outside my boundaries. That doesn't stop my ability to find my kinfolk and for us to do us.

GreatWhyte said...

Hmmm... the state of Black America. Very well written. I, however, can't (or won't, I'm not sure) buy into the "video ho causing our young women to undervalue themselves" thing. When we were young, did we look at BET to define ourselves? Then why are girls doing it now? Because they have nobody in REAL life for an alternate perspective. People blame the video girls, but did they blame Halle when she stripped for Monster's Ball? Nope. They gave that little performance an Oscar. Wow. Its entertainment and should be viewed as such.
I grew up in a white neighborhood too. Predominantly white schools, dance classes, libraries. But... well, come to think of it, I had someone tell me recently that my experiences weren't as significant because I'm light skinned, so... I'll suppress the urge to share :)

We Go said...

I tried to eat with my coworkers...but its like 100 degrees outside and these a**holes eat OUTSIDE at NOON. WTH????? So, I sit inside in the coolness of my office or go to lunch and sit inside. But I smile and wave at them as I go by. LOL

So...Wise...Sista said...

Ok so it takes me a while to folo up...but I enjoyed the History of Jameil. Your post (and comments) are a testament to the dievrsity of "the black experience" and it's a shame we dont see it reflected back to us in media. Ultimately the problem of a diverseless black image is that there simply arent enough images of us for there to be a diversity among the images.

My Have Lunch With White Folks plea was just for shits and gigs. :)

Jameil said...

t... and we're not prepping our girls. your story about the girl in your dance class who called you and asked you not to be mad at her abt some guy tricking her into some sort of sex, can't remember if it was oral or anal or intercourse, at 11. broke my heart.

v... know what? some of them really sound like they're shocked at how people view/treat them tho. did you see that special on vh1? some of those girls were BEYOND clueless.

lmao @ "you got all them babies and baby daddies just like I thought you would in high school." i've never run into any of those people who antagonized me in middle and h.s. i probably sound "whiter" too. ah well.

job.. while the class argument is an interesting one, and may be true in some cases, it doesn't hold true most of the time. like i said, i grew up in a middle class home and me never wanting for anything did not make people look at me any differently when i walked into a store. or to not lock their doors when i walked past. class is a cop out. yeah your kids may not think there's anything better for them and that may partially be a class issue b/c when everyone around you is struggling, it becomes hard for you to believe you can rise above that. but its also a black issue. they are treated as less than not just because they are poor, but also because they're black. racism in america is not over and it cannot be ignored as much as we may try.

joy... but i find it a lot easier to welcome black people with open arms than white people just b/c i've been pushed to the side and ignored so much. might have been the opposite before hampton but w/all that love i will never look at black people the same. ever.

chris... but who cares? that girl obviously wasn't the one for you anyway. i once dated this guy who grew up very differently from me and he told me i talked white or funny or whatever word he used. i shrugged and said so what. this is who i am. he accepted it but in the end it didn't work out anyway and it had nothing to do with that.

cnel... i know what you mean about the kinship. it would be nice to see some black faces here in pittsburgh not going through some hardships. sigh.

x... but we have been socialized from birth to think more and better for ourselves. i'm not saying people who don't grow up as 3rd generation collegiates don't believe they can achieve more but was there ever a time where you thought you wouldn't go to college? i've known i was going since preschool. literally. my parents told us we were more than that so no, it didn't effect me. but there are horror stories, still, in our school systems. there are people who are not told they are better than that. no, its not all videos, but it does effect people.

and i DID blame halle for monster's ball. that movie appalled me. and i was pissed that THAT was what they gave her an oscar for. why must you give a black woman an oscar for a movie i would never want my children to watch? ever. i know most oscar movies aren't exactly child friendly but that one... i can't stand that movie and mostly for that scene.

i hear that a lot from the lighter folk. (my mom included). i want to hear abt your experiences.

waking... LMAO!! i know right?! yeah... i can't do the eating outside in the heat thing either. too much.

wise... i know but there was some truth in it. i know i shut people out and for the reasons you mentioned. and at some point you have to let down your guard. not completely b/c i'll never be that person. its just not who i am. and some people need to bring that guard up a bit. but walking around w/the incessant wall gets old.

yet another black guy said...

i feel you on this one fasho. after a while, the everyday just wears on the nerves and psyche to a point where one just wants to be left alone.

i have practiced the "let someone in" theory before to mixed results. maybe i'll try again.

Don't Be Silent DC said...

This is something I still deal with to this day. Black people judging me and telling me I'm "too white" because of the way I speak and my different interests, and not bonding with anyone at work because they're mostly White and are only interested in hitting the bars after work. Sigh...the day will come when this mess doesn't matter anymore.

PS: You've been tagged.