Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Work, Chitlins, and White Folks

Ok people, I have to let y'all know what went down yesterday at work. It has a little bit to do with that pic of Jason "Mr. Chitlins" Whitlock you see up there in blackface. But anyway, let me set it up a bit for you. I'd just gone to lunch about an hour earlier with a Caucasian (I'm trying to be proper) co-worker (we'll call her Jane). Then I get an instant message on our internal work messenger that went a little something (no, it went exactly) like this:

Jane: "What's that food that African Americans eat? It's not grits but something else...?"
Jane: "It's kind of gross"
Jane: I am sure that ALL people eat it but I have heard how some like it the best
Jane: I think it's intestines...
Jane: Do you know what I'm talking about?

That's it in a nutshell. But I hadn't noticed the message until she called immediately after I hadn't answered.

The phone convo went a little something like this....

Jane: Hey girl!!! (trying to sound black like we're cool like that)
Me: Um...hello, what's up?
Jane: Did you get my message.
Me: Oooohh, no, let me check.
Me: *speechless*
Jane: I just wanted to make sure you didn't take it the wrong way
Jane: Some of my best friends are.....blah blah blah
Me: I think what you're referring to are chitterlings. They are more of a Southern dish than an "African American" dish.
Jane: Oh. Strange question huh?
Me: Very odd. I don't think anyone's ever asked me a question like that before.
Me: What made you ask that question?
Jane: I was talking to someone about becoming vegetarian and it came up...
Me: Oh.
*Awkward silence.
Jane: Um....so I guess I'll go now.

Ok, y'all, come on now.

Mind you, this is the same woman who tries to let me know how "down" she is by saying she likes certain black artists (who she can never remember the name of) and straight asked me if I had on a wig when I changed my hairstyle. Oh and made a special effort to say that she doesn't like black men and would never date them. She had a couple chase her HARD (calling nonstop, leaving notes on her car, etc.), but will NOT date them. Mind you, the chick is not Angelina at all (but that's another post right there in itself - some blk men have mad issues). But I held it down, kept my composure, and had a good laugh off this ish.

But here's my theory. Lets keep it real - racism/envy exists even in the workplace. I'm a pretty educated chick - B.S. in Computer Science, M.S. in Engineering, working as a software engineer - I don't think that ish matters, it's the fact that I'm BLACK (woops I mean "African American"). This woman is also a software engineer (working with outdated technologies), but doesn't have the education to back it up. I'm thinking that these conversations she likes to have with me are a way to knock me back down to size. That ish definitely worked yesterday. I felt REAL colored, lol. Good job Jane.

I should've said something stupid as hell too, like, "what are those things Caucasian Americans keep hanging? I know ALL people probably hang them, but I hear whites like it best. Um....not burning crosses, but.....what is it again?" Jk, jk....dang.

Truth is, I don't think "Jane" is really all that racist. And, I'm not really upset - just annoyed. I think she just has no idea how to act around blk folks. Or maybe the problem with our society is that we're TOO race sensitive and need more folks like Jane to just ask the uncomfortable questions to learn more about race-sensitive issues. But f*ck that, she better not cross me again with that ish, lol. I might not be in the mood to be so friendly next time. But on a serious note: What would you have done?

A blk co-worker of mine gave me some great advice. She says the woman needs to 1) Check the motive of her curiousity and 2) the way she asks a question. Example: If asked to a Mexican American, which one of these questions would fly: 1) Why y'all be hittin pinatas with sticks?, 2) I'm curious, can you tell me the origin of pinata tradition?, or 3) What's that silly thing Mexican people hit with sticks? (You decide)

She also gave me a good bible verse that was perfect for this situation (had to go to the LORD with this one y'all) --> "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing they do gender strifes." - 2 Timothy 2:23

1 comment:

Lovo said...

Very sad but true ignorant individuals like Jane do actually still exist in the workplace too. Unfortunately, it is still hard to escape them in most places that we go to in our day to day lives. Girl, I am so glad that you kept you cool and did not lower yourself to her level. Jane needs to understand that what you don't know will definitely hurt you depending on who and/or where you are asking these ignorant questions. I am glad that you checked her the correct way and showed her that you maybe black but you are definitely far from ignorant. Jane now felt like like a true ass that's why she felt to need to call you because she realized that she didn't think before she spoke as usual. Girl Jill Scott said it best "Live your Life Like It is Golden" and dismiss stupid people,lol.