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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What to do, what to do

I have a friend who is a closet bigot.

I say closet, 'cause I honestly don't think this friend thinks about it before making mean-spirited, insensitive, or just plain old ignorant comments about people based on their skin color or status in life.

It's frustrating to observe, 'cause this friend has been nothing but nice to me. However, I notice with increasing frequency that when my friend comments on other people there is always a caveat involving race. My friend can't just weigh in on someone's behavior, actions, attitude, etc.

For example, if this friend eats good food in a restaurant, and this friend happens to catch a glimpse of the African American chef, this friend might say something to the effect of "Man, that black chef is awesome!"

If a frowning man, surrounded by smiling people, gives us a mean look, my friend might say "That Hispanic dude sure looked at us funny."

Let a Middle Eastern man raise his voice to his wife, and this friend will express shock not at the verbally abusive man's behavior, but at "that Arab guy!"

You see the problem, right? My friend seems to think that people's skin color and ethnicity are integral parts of their behavior, as if the chef's food was good because he was black or if the mean mugging guy gave us a hard look because he was brown-skinned.

Not cool. But I'm not quite sure how to bring it up with my friend or if it should be brought up.

Still, I can't help but wonder what my friend says about me when I'm not around: "I know a cool (black) guy who writes for a living?"


  • I like that you leave out the ethnicity or background of your friend, but I would say, judging from the timbre of the comments, that this person, if not whyte, certainly positively identifies with the concepts and stereotypes that have been promulgated for centuries by whyte people. (Note--I spell whyte with a y because it relates less to skin color than it does state of mind or attitude towards others--Black people can act just as whyte towards other Blacks as bigoted white people act towards Blacks).

    Your friend is a out and out bigot and an ignorant one at that. You have an obligation to stop this person from being ignorant, at least while in your presence. You must demand respect, sir. Otherwise, what kind of friend would you be to him or to yourself?

    My problem with this guy is my problem with a lot of white tinted people in South Florida. They think they're cool and hip, use bad vocabulary to sound "with it", dress like studio gangsters and don't have any clue how denigrating their behavior is to me or to themselves. Some call them wiggers, but I know some real brothers who could pass who should have that title. I call these whyte boys Vanilla Ices instead because they are as legitimate to being a person who appreciates ethnic differences as Vanilla Ice was as a hip-hop artist.

    Therefore, while your buddy tries to appear to be down by recognizing differences in people of differing backgrounds from his own, he isn't. Why? Because he recognizes those differences for the purpose of imposing a stereotype on them he probably isn't even aware he's been taught over his years as a whyte boy. Some "liberals" feel that to recognize difference is to shatter the Dream of Dr. King--that a colorblind society means that you try to overlook obvious features like skin color and hair. That thinking is garbage as well. Different type of bigot, but same bigotry. It's not whether you see differences, but whether they give you a negative reaction about the person who has them. A dark woman is a dark woman--only a bigot sees a negative with that and can't see that person for her own sake.

    Right now, your friend is the worst type of bigot because his experience with persons of color is probably limited to a three square mile radius, and he uses the limited number of different people he met there to characterize the whole world of a particular ethnicity or background. He met a couple of Hasids and now he thinks he knows them all; he used to break dance and therefore he knows what it means to be Black. He obviously doesn't realize, for instance, that Farsi speaking Iranians consider themselves descendents of Persia and they have as much contempt for "Arabs" as he does. If you told him that they too are white and George Bush is bombing white people, he would say "No way!", but that's how ignorant some people are. A Black chef that doesn't have chocolate balls and fry chicken? Go figure.
    I'll bet this guy has gold fronts in his past.
    Don't let another minute you spend with your "friend" pass without setting him straight on his racial ignorance. He may hate you now, but in time he'll thank you for it, if for no other reason than he becomes a more well informed and reasoned bigot.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 5:20 PM  

  • that's deep, bd. might be right. or it could be that living in america makes folk hyper conscious of race.

    i think that it is both common and annoying to see this sort of behavior. there is a line, that i think varies by race (b/c let's face it, being white in america means that you don't have to be so conscious or sensitive to racial realities). some people go over, much as your friend does.

    seems to me like it would be funny conversation fodder. i know if i was out with you guys i would would be having having a ball good naturedly cracking on him.

    btw, bd is right. you can't ignore the role that history, propaganda and daily bombardment of racist bs plays in our view of some of these things. also can't ignore that to varying degrees it affects us all.

    By Blogger Miamista, at 6:22 PM  

  • Oh lord, the one I detest most coming from my Cuban relatives: "Juana Doe is [insert here: mulatta, black, fat and/or all of the above] but she's really [insert here: smart, not to bad looking, sweet ... and so on ... ] ... this is a classic Cuban commentary and it's just one of those things that's not going to go away until every trace of colonialism is stamped out in years to come.

    In the meantime, my honky white Cuban ass needs a tan. I'm taken for granted because I'm 'blue' on a good day, ok? That pale and white simply aint attractive.

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 11:43 PM  

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