Race & Identity
Dear white people: I'm not the prototype
Blackness is not a monolith. Yet while I've done a considerable amount of personal work to get my psyche and my behavior to a point that doesn't prejudge white people or assign sweeping generalizations to every white person I meet, somehow my (version of) blackness remains the thing that many people wish other black people should aspire to be. Somehow, they think I'm their prototype for the kind of black people they'd like to be an ally for. They think alliance can be selective in struggles for justice and equality. And that's offensive.
"You speak so well!"
' This tweet sums up how I feel about that. My first week of work in San Francisco had me on edge because I'd go from speaking a certain way with my black friends who were also working in the city to speaking a certain way in the office. The former never commented on my manner of speech, but always, ALWAYS there was at least one white person in the office who thought they were being complimentary when noticing my proper grammar and vocabulary. If, for some reason, these same people see me speaking the patois of my East Oakland comrades, the look of shock and disappointment is palpable. I can almost hear them thinking, "I thought you were different."
I use 'y'all' and 'finna' because I don't associate my intelligence with my use of colloquial euphemisms. Ebonics is cultural not remedial.— GEMINIA (@NiaSVaughn) July 13, 2015'
"You would never do THAT."Working in a part of the city that was also a prime location for protests was a struggle. I had to listen to the constant complaints of people who felt that black people protesting police murders with no convictions was inconvenient. They would go on and on about how if those people were just compliant, these incidents would never happen. Why didn't those blacks just show more respect? Then, there was the ever-looming moment when they'd lean over and whisper, "I know you'd never do that." It was a vague sentence with a very specific meaning: You don't think I'd protest (wrong), you think black compliance equates black safety (wrong), you think police officers are always just doing their job (wrong), and you assume that because I fit the requirements of your "acceptable black prototype," I'd never end up in a situation with law enforcement where my life was on the line (still wrong)
This idea that certain behaviors and personality traits determine black safety is both ignorant and incorrect. When a behavioral therapist who is trying to help a patient while laying on the ground with his hands up is still shot, I'm going to assert that behavior doesn't equate safety nor does it equate regard for black life.