I've been an online writer for over six years. My articles often focus on parenting and art inspired by parenting.
Where Did You Come From, Cotton Eyed Jane?
Happy Halloween, Y'all!
Halloween is upon us, and social engineering has negatively affected Black people on the whole as it pertains to coexisting with members of society who seek to subjugate and even, well, kill us. You may be a Black person in a white space, such as a university or workplace, and your worst coping mechanisms may lead to some interesting predicaments. How does an otherwise intelligent Black person end up in a picture willing sporting a noose? Or wearing a picaninny outfit?
Maybe you didn't have a big emphasis on Black history in your home. Maybe cultural references escape you because you are the only speck of color in your school or neighborhood. Maybe in a misguided effort to protect you, your parents willfully excluded race from the conversations in your home, and you truly (and erroneously) believed you were being judged by the content of your character. At any rate, we are the result of our choices, and the ignorance doesn't dilute the outcomes. Maybe your friends sing a certain racial epithet from a rap song out loud in front of you and you say nothing, because you see no issue. Maybe you hear stories of unwed mothers and felons followed with "not you, you're different" and agree. All of this should have been seen as an infraction, but you lacked the tools to see what may lie ahead. Besides, you don't want to rock the boat, right? These are, after all, your friends. Friends you may have know since childhood, who have possibly been inappropriate in front of your parents, who also saw no wrongdoing.
"Don't Be That Guy"
You know the guy, and you feel as uncomfortable as your fairer complected counterparts around him. The guy who said Tamir Rice didn't have to be killed. The guy who said George Zimmerman is a general threat to society and made lunch awkward for all the people in the room who don't face a similar fate, and are uncomfortable at the thought. The guy who thinks "everything is about race" and doesn't want to hear about the Horatio Alger approach being a ladder to freedom for those of the lower social classes. That guy receives immediate disrespect, and so far you are doing pretty good for yourself. You check all the boxes and you don't make conversations strained. That guy seems to want to ruffle feathers. You do not.
It's Ok, Some of My Closest Friends are Whack
The Jokes on You
So now it's the day when the ghouls and goblins roam. The day we place sweets out in exchange for another peaceful night of safety from Satan's minions. You see Asher, Bethany, Topher, Chet and Leighton laughing to themselves in the student union where you all typically hang out. They tell you about the Socially Distanced Soiree or whatever it is these kids are doing these days. Then, giggling to create an air of lightheartedness, they say, "We were thinking, lol, not because we are racist or anything, lol, but since you're like our only Black friend, lol, wouldn't it be hilarious if," (laughs until out of breath to emphasize innocence in conversation) "you let us put a noose around your neck! Not like, tightly, but you know, just for a picture."
No doubt you are probably saddened at the realization of what these people think of you. You may even be too traumatized by the discovery to mentally explore all avenues of what the behavior really means overall. Once you unearth one faulty interaction, everything is thrown into question. You could rightfully flip out and ask why that was seen as a request they felt comfortable making, but you know why deep down. You also know Topher, ever the cool kid, will say "Whoa whoa whoa buddy it was just a question! All you had to do was say no!" You will be belittled potentially, a deeper discussion will not be had, and you may loose vital social connections you value greatly, as you are already isolated in a sense.
The alternative sucks. Your psyche, however, is married to the familiar.
You not only do it, but you do it with gusto.
Now you look in pictures as they see you in life. Your friendship doesn't lend them any diversity, as you have never challenged their social norms in the slightest. You're the family dog in a Christmas sweater on a postcard. You're an interesting prop for manipulation. You're anything but a person. Let's even entertain the idea they are just "ignorant kids". They are not that ignorant. They know what the history dictates. They just lack empathy.
It is hard to break away from what is familiar even when we as human beings discover the connection wasn't authentic. James Baldwin told us to be Black and even a little aware of the plight we have in America at the same time is to simultaneously be enraged. Choosing to believe the plight doesn't exist altogether is a toxic coping mechanism. It is like when small children play Hide and Go Seek by covering their eyes, assuming if they cannot see their pursuer, the inverse must be true. This is how a seemingly rational Black person can fall down such a rabbit hole. It is not the only way, but it is a very common one.