Thursday, December 27, 2012

"People of color have to learn White culture for survival. White people learn Brown and Black culture for 'ghetto' jokes."
--Sara David

(via Free Bird)

It may surprise much of my readership, but I actually pretty vehemently disagree with this quote as a blanket statement. 

First, I would like to henceforth officially dismiss the term "[race/ethnicity] culture" from any and all popular discourse. Every group of people, no matter how specific you get to narrow them down, has cultures, plural. Urban Northern Black culture is very different from rural Southern Black culture, which is very different from Afro-Caribbean culture, which is very different from the cultures of recent African immigrants. The same goes for the cultures of various places in Latin America--Mexican culture is not Cuban culture is not Dominican culture is not Brazilian culture, etc. Even White culture is not a monolith--think about Midwestern US culture v. Californian surfer culture v. preppy New England culture. This is just an improper standpoint from which to discuss anything.

Secondly, I feel like this quote assumes that people of color grow up in environments mainly or entirely composed of other people of color, and have to venture out into the White world and fight and learn on their feet to make it because everything is so different. Bitch, please. My first best friend was White (as were the overwhelming majority of my closest friends until college), the first boy I couples skated with at our local skating rink was White, my first kiss was with a White boy, all of my teachers were White until high school. I could go on. Things typically described as "Black culture" involved much more active trying to learn on my part, as they were not part of my everyday lived experiences. What are you calling White culture here, anyway? Are you equating it with mainstream culture? Like, pop music and sitcoms? Because NSYNC was the first concert I had tickets to and Boy Meets World and Sabrina the Teenage Witch were as much a part of my childhood as The Cosby Show and Sister, Sister. You're arrogant as fuck if you assume that all Black and Brown people grew up outside of the mainstream. 

Thirdly, and this is related to my first point, I don't think that every time a White person, or a person of any race, for that matter, adopts things that are generally associated with persons of another race, they do so with malice in their hearts. Also, I don't agree with the idea that people of a certain race somehow have a more authentic claim to certain elements generally assumed under "[that race]'s culture"--for example, during a conversation with WYSIWYG a few weeks ago, I shocked her by saying 
"I don't really see why teen white boy asshat who thinks he's legit because he listens to rap is really that much different than teen black boy asshat who thinks he's legit because he listens to rap. Sure, we started it, but why does that give us some universal claim of authentically owning [rap music] or something? It's a culture you can play into or not play into."
And that's a viewpoint I stand by. If you try to tell me there are no Black and Brown people in the world making ghetto jokes, you're a damned liar. I don't see why the offensiveness of a 'ghetto' joke should vary depending upon the color of the skin of the person who makes the joke, just like I don't see why we assume that Black and Brown people are somehow more significantly linked to "the ghetto" than are White people. You're either of that kind of a background/situation or you're not. End of story. 


A Black Girl who Grew Up in Suburbia

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