SNL Finally Went There

I watched a Saturday Night Live skit yesterday that has been trending for a few days now.  The skit (possibly even more popular than the debate skits with Alec Baldwin and his much-too-accurate Donald Trump impression) was an episode of “Black Jeopardy.”  I don’t regularly watch SNL, but from my understanding, “Black Jeopardy”, featuring Darnell Hayes (Kenan Thompson) as the host, is a skit in which Black people play Jeopardy, answering questions that play on stereotypes in the Black community.  Some stereotypes that stood out to me were Black people’s inability to properly manage money, when a contestant elected to buy scratch-offs instead of placing her money into a 401K, as well as Black people’s love for the character “Madea.”

This particular episode featured Tom Hanks, an acclaimed actor and director, often described as the “nicest guy in Hollywood.”  Hanks, sporting a “Make America Great Again” cap played a rural, presumably lower-class white guy named Doug.  It was clear to me within the first two minutes of the show that this skit was an attempt by SNL to show how Blacks and non-elite whites are connected in more ways than they may think.  This is a concept I briefly touched upon in my earliest blog post when I explained the three-tiered caste system in America, established at the very beginning of slavery.  Elite whites are at the top tier, followed by poor whites, and Blacks, no matter the status are at the bottom.

This system is what separated indentured servitude from slavery—poor whites, though facing some form of oppression, were separated from their alliances formed with Blacks after Bacon’s Rebellion in order to further empower the elite whites and to ensure no further alliances were formed against them.  Poor whites were reminded of their superior advantage over Blacks solely based on their skin color and non-African roots.  Though the elite whites made them work for free and moved them to the mountains so they could have the rich land all to themselves, poor whites still considered Blacks to be the enemy.  We see this same thing occurring in present times.

The host and contestants were initially very unwelcoming toward Doug until he answered a question that seemed to “unify” everyone on the show.  In the category “They out here saying”, the answer was “The new iPhone wants your thumbprint ‘for your protection’”.  In a mumbled southern drawl, Doug answered “I don’t think so; that’s how they get ‘ya.”  The host, Darnell Hayes, seemed shocked that he and Doug, a white man wearing a Trump hat, could possibly share the same sentiment about conspiracies and hidden government agendas.  Doug then goes on to explain how he purchased the Madea box set at Walmart because he loves movies where he can “laugh and pray in 90 minutes.”  A little later in the show, Doug and Darnell bond over the fact that they both have a “guy” that fixes everything for a discount.  Then, Doug slipped up and said “you people”, but immediately gets a “pass”, presumably because he racked up enough cool points—how accurate!  The show ends with a new category, “Lives That Matter”.  Everyone looks sternly at Doug, and Darnell comments, “Well it was good while it lasted, Doug.”

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I can see why this skit has gained so much popularity.  In six minutes, SNL was able to accurately explain the complicated relationship between Blacks and poor whites in America.  The stereotypes between the two are extremely similar, and it shows that, while Blacks and whites in America are able to get along, race is one topic that will always divide us.  No matter how poorly white Americans are treated by the white elite, they will still support their agendas, agendas that may not even serve them, while completely separating themselves from Blacks and our agendas, such as Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and the boycott of the National Anthem.  It is clear that the three-tiered caste system in America isn’t going anywhere.

Dreaming of My Blunt Response to Subtle Racism

Today, I read an interesting article on Romper.com by a woman named Margaret E. Jacobson called “I Recorded the Racist Things People Said & Did to Me for 2 Weeks”.  During this two-week period, Margaret would tackle, head on, the daily micro-aggressions that white people aim at her.  A micro-aggression is a term used to describe subtle discrimination against another individual, particularly a minority, in the form of a clever comment or observation.  For example, when a white person comments on how shocked they are at your eloquence, or asks how you are able to afford an item when you make a big-ticket purchase, you can be certain that you have just been a victim of a micro-aggression.  I love how Margaret describes the term in her article as “racism, tucked right beneath the surface.”

For 14 days, Margaret’s experiment was to respond to micro-aggressions in the exact way they were aimed at her.  If someone touched her hair and commented that they didn’t expect it to be so soft, Margaret would, in turn, touch their hair and comment on the stringiness or oily texture.  It’s needless to say that by using this technique, Margaret was drained by the end of the experiment.  As I read her narrative, I wanted to shout, “You’re doing it wrong!”.  She speaks of her experience below:

“I don’t think it’s OK to speak to anyone in a way that’s demeaning, no matter what their race is, and the fact that I was just doing what had been done to me hung heavy on my heart. If I’m honest, I think that I’ll just go back to ignoring the things that people say and the way their words make me feel. It’s how I know to protect myself.”

I was so disappointed by the end of the article.  I really wanted Margaret to be more sagacious and assertive with her retorts instead of taking the passive-aggressive route; I wanted to celebrate a victory with her.  Instead, we both felt defeated by the time I’d reached the bottom of the page.  The results of Margaret’s experiment left me feeling so unfulfilled that I will attempt to conduct the same experiment over a 30-day period, but I will have to modify it a little.  Margaret’s experiment had no measurable results.  It seemed that her only goal was to gain the personal satisfaction of making white people equally as uncomfortable as they made her, which is great; but how does one measure that discomfort to determine the success of the experiment?

I’m going to alter Margaret’s experiment and call it a “quest”—a quest to educate people on “coming correct” when they speak to me and those who look like me.  There are times that I absolutely detest the efforts of some to educate whites on interacting with Black people because it excuses their racism for lack of knowledge and displaces the responsibility, shifting it from the oppressor to the oppressed.  Nonetheless, I feel that education, or at least a response, is necessary in this situation because I excuse and ignore these micro-aggressions more often than not, instead of opening up a dialogue and correcting my antagonists.  I usually encounter micro-aggressiveness at work, an environment where I constantly have to check and correct myself in order to keep my job, and I’m still grappling with whether this is conducive to my Blackness—it’s probably not.

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My mom once told me about an experience she had in Florida.  This story isn’t a solid example of a micro-aggressive comment, but her response made me chuckle.  We lived in central Florida in the early 90s, Seminole County to be exact—the place where Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, was hunted and killed by a grown man who was found “not guilty” of the crime.  Anyway she worked at a Social Security Administration field office and a customer told her that the “other colored girl” had assisted him the last time he visited the office.  She replied, “And what color would that be?”  Whatever term one would use to describe the tone of my mom’s response is what I want to use while on my one-month quest to respond to micro-aggressions, right before I correct and educate a person on why they should never, ever say [insert stupid, subtly racist comment here] to me or any Black person again.

Overall, I’m excited, as was Margaret, to embark upon this journey.  I would like to feel more empowered when interacting with ignorance sprinkled with racism instead of shutting down in order to keep my short, explosive temper at bay.  I am more than capable of handling micro-aggressions with a shrewd response, and should give myself more credit and a chance to do so.  So, here goes nothing!  I will set out to conquer and educate these small-minded racists once and for all, and will be sure to share all the juicy details in an upcoming post.  Get your lemonade ready!

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Freddie Gray Didn’t Exist to the Other Baltimore, but the Soldiers Were Pretty Cool

I’ve been fairly uninspired and unamused by everything this past week.  Every time I get into my sporadic funks, I try to identify the source in order to help me work through my mood.  I’ve been out of work for a little over a month due to some health issues and today is the day I am supposed to return—Bingo!  My issue is that I don’t want to go back to work.

I’ve been a professional makeup artist for about six years and a licensed esthetician (skincare specialist) for three.  Working for one of the largest cosmetics brands in the world is both exciting and rewarding, and the perks seem endless.  Every day, my coworkers and I come to work all dolled up with what feels like 5 pounds of makeup strategically placed on our faces, necks, and sometimes décolletés so we can be sure to receive ample compliments throughout the day, which result in sales; looks sell!  Unfortunately, with the notion that human worth is dependent upon how physically attractive one is perceived (or how well one can get their makeup to transform their appearance), some of my coworkers have developed a condescending attitude when it comes to customers in need of makeup tips and skincare advice.

My job is located in a yuppie section of Baltimore City, close to the Inner Harbor and even closer to one of the largest housing authorities in the city.  Last spring, during the Freddie Gray protests, I became disgusted with the neighborhood.  Freddie Gray was a 25-year-old Black man and resident of Baltimore City who was severely injured in police custody while being transported in a police van.  Mr. Gray succumbed to his injuries a week later, igniting a series of protests and arrests.

The national guard came out in droves, and stood around for weeks so the residents and patrons would feel safe from the “dangerous rioters and looters” the media had warned them of.  People took pictures with the uniformed, armed saviors, struck up long conversations, and really enjoyed their company.  Business owners and employees even partook in the fun since business was down due to the city’s unrest.  It seemed that no one cared that a young man who was arrested for having switchblade in his possession was fatally injured while being arrested by six police officers.  When I looked out the window of my store, I saw people who were truly unbothered.  It was almost like they were celebrating.  These people will never know what it is like to be targeted by the police, nor will they ever have the fear that one of their beautiful Black children will be gunned down for “looking like a grown man”.

They live and shop blocks from a neighborhood where everyone is a target, but they refuse to believe that their next-door neighbors in the projects even exist.  These people walk around aimlessly, spending their days (and their paychecks) at Whole Foods and their nights at the taco bar while others are literally fighting for their neighborhoods and their lives.  I resent the fact that I have to interact with and service those who view my people as thugs that deserve to be killed because of the color of their skin.  Some customers place their money on the counter instead of placing it in my hand; some comment on how surprised they are that they were able to have such a pleasant interaction with me.  So, in conclusion, I cannot wait for work this evening!  (Major eye roll.)

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