I have a group of friends that is basically a second family–probably because we all know WAY too much about each other. Hanging out with everybody after a wedding on Saturday, my friend Matt and I started discussing when it’s OK to joke about skin color and when it’s not. He said he’d do a blog post, so I shot him some Qs.
Q: Do you perceive our culture as being color-blind? If not, whose fault is that?
A: Our culture is still not colorblind as far as black and white is concerned. I see it as the failure of black culture. The color-blindness I see is on a personal level, friends and coworkers getting along as if there was no difference. Employers today are looking to hire competent people who can speak English properly, no matter their skin color. Proper English, sadly to say, is not a common trait of black people who are deeply involved in black culture, or should I say “rap culture”. The mainstream rap culture perpetuates the idea that slang and street life is cool, but it actually leads those who follow it back to poverty and joblessness as opposed to the glamorous rap life that music videos and rap albums promise them.
Q: Does the color of your skin affect your life in Columbia, SC? Negatively or Positively?
A: Absolutely. But certainly not to the same level that it affected generations that came before me. Because I choose to hang out with mostly white people, I am usually deemed the “token black guy”. This has no affect on me personally, nor does it have any affect on my ability to meet people and have meaningful relationships. What it does do is point out that there is still a vision of races in most minds and that being in another race’s group of friends either makes you a “rarity” or the “protection” (because you’re the only black guy they would choose to hang out with them).
Q: Is it ever okay to use skin color as a crutch?
A: No. The common skin color crutch of “the white man holding me back” is just the lazy man’s way of saying he gives up. Saying your skin color is what is holding you back is just a way of giving up (especially in the world we live in now where race is such a closely watched issue and lawsuits abound).
Q: Where is the “line” when it comes to joking about skin color?
A: Wherever you as the individual place it. If you want the joking to stop, it is your responsibility to do so. Your friends are going to joke. Usually they won’t mean anything by it, but if you as an individual are offended, you have to speak up. If you don’t, you are the one letting skin color be a thorn in your side.
Q: In general, how do most black people expect you to act or think? What about white people?
A: Shock is the general reaction when people find out my personal likes and dislikes. Because both black and white cultures have built such strong stereotypes in their minds, anyone breaking these stereotypes is suddenly more interesting A black male not enjoying rap is shocking. This leads me to the fact that many black people will say “you talk like a white person” if you are well spoken. What they do not understand is that they would talk that way too if they cared even a little bit about their education.
Q: Would your marrying a White/Chinese/Mexican/Indian girl be totally legit with the family or no?
A: Absolutely. My family raised me to be color-blind, and many of my aunts and uncles married different races themselves. My family is already diverse, so this would be no different. My father’s closest friend is married to my aunt, and he is Latino. Another aunt married a man from Trinidad. If they were to get mad, they would be hypocrites.