Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Do White People...?

Here's a question that's been vexing me and I'd like to hear from the masses.

Let's say there's a White teenager who only hangs around Black people, speaks fluent Ebonics/urban slang and perhaps only reads XXL, Vibe and Essence magazines. Do other more "mainstream" White teens accuse him of acting Black? Does the White teen feel ostracized and alienated from the White community because he/she feels more comfortable with Black people? Or on the contrary, does he earn cool points for being edgy?

What I'm trying to figure out is if White kids are ever accused of adopting someone else's ethnic identity in a pejorative way by other White people? Black kids who are "articulate," grow up in the suburbs and perhaps prefer James Blunt over Jay-Z are accused of selling-out, talking White, acting White and being an Oreo. Is there a similar response from some in the White community? What does it sound like? And likewise, we know there are a lot of Asian kids with kind of Negro tendencies. Do they get a verbal lashing from others in their communities for acting Black? And do they get beat down for acting White too?

At the end of the day, I'm thinking there's no limit to how many people play musical identities, whether by choice or circumstance. But what I want to know is how many people outside of the Black community feel offended when their "own kind" steps to the other side? Do White people have the choice to pick and chose their identities and Black (and Asian and Latinos) people are supposed to fit in the same box?

Thoughts? Enlighten me please.



glamah16 said...

Interestying question. I feel there is more leeway when a white child veers that way.The media is all powerful in that end. Its treated as cool and comical. But I do find as the Black and other minority Middle class grows the ridicule I may have experinced for being diffrent, growing up, is falling away. Either way I hate being fit into a box by narrow minded perceptions by own people and others. Vive La Diffrence and be true to yourself.

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Carleen Brice said...

A Latina friend of mine who's married to a white guy with kids from a previous marriage says her teen stepdaughter (who's Jewish) has declared herself "black" and, yes, the white kids at her school talk about her.

Got my copy of Kinky Gazpacho today! Can't wait to dive in!!!

Anonymous said...

What are "Negro tendencies"?

Heather said...

Hope you don't mind that I'm linking to this post on my blog today. Lately I have been thinking so much about the same exact subject. It was uncanny to come here and read this today... so similar to my own thoughts and questions. You wrote it better than I could have. Thanks for blogging.

Candis said...

Just a theory here, but the logic would hold that White people are not offended by the "Crossover." Crossing over may be amusing to observe, or a lark to try, but ultimately Crossover is still White. Conversely, ANY one who has ever had ANY genetic connection to ANY one else who is not White cannot be White--ever. That's why Obama is Black, Sydney Poitier (daughter) is Black, Sally Hemings is Black, as well as Tiger.
Who perpetuates this idea of purity? We all do, even if unwittingly.
And by the way, you mentioned Bananas and Oreos, but what about the Coconuts. You know, Brown on the outside...

Ema said...

When my aunt and uncle adpoted their children from Korea, they were determined to make sure their kids had exposure to Korean Culture- whatever that was. This exposure came in the form of camps, trips back to Korea, to the orphanage they come from, and other areas of interest. The reaction from some family members was essentially "these kids are Americans who are learning about Korea in a totally American way" or 'why would you do this? You are white, why is your culture somehow not good enough?"

My 14 year old is heavily into some of the more blues/jazz/r and b sounds, not so much rap, but somehow his musical tastes and his clothes make him G to some of the teachers, who are labeling him such. So, his teachers are totally doing that- using a negative stereotype to make him seem, well, you said "edgy" he is actually labeled "high risk" or "at risk". . .

Peers are a different story- because he skates, boards, skater dude, and because he is into baseball and they know him- he is not subjected to the things your post describes. . .not by the peers, but absolutely by teachers and members of the public.

Anonymous said...

A task that is hard when raising white kids comes from how others see them- other races, other whites, and how to deal with the position that because they are "white" everyone "knows" what they are thinking, feeling, and who they are- because the default assumption is that they, the whites are all alike cultural universals for whites are assumed to be a "given." That acting like white people is such an insult supports that dismissive attitude toward whites. Obama picked up on that SLIGHTLY in his speech, but as a parent of white Jews, it is very hard to read that academic success and other cultural norms are somehow distasteful, and that, by association, so are whites.

What is hard about this situation is when you have people who will be very upset if you tell them that to assign such a negative label to whites because of the inferiority of their culture is an act of racism, you hear that only whites can be racists, because people of color lack social power. . .which is flawed reasoning. True, only those with social power can discriminate, but racism is an equal opportunity condition, and it is offensive that the idea that calling someone white is a huge stigma inducing traumatic thing in a young person's life. . .

Let the flaming begin- I will attempt to preempt the comments;

I am not a racist, even though I am white
I believe in a fundamental fairness that will cause me to fight for the rights of my children to be proud of their culture and their success. . .since they are not socially allowed to be proud of their race, that would make them KKKers or Nazis, cause, you know, they're white
I am sorry that the things I am raising my children to value are such horrible things for children of color to hear about themselves. . .

Have at it!

Anonymous said...

Have you never heard of "whiggas"? Yes, white kids who "act Black" are noticed and perhaps made fun of. Why do you think Vanilla Ice is now the height of uncoolness?

And let me also echo the poster who wanted to know what are these so called "Negro tendencies"???

"Conversely, ANY one who has ever had ANY genetic connection to ANY one else who is not White cannot be White--ever"
Mainly in America. Here in the UK, the term "biracial" is often and naturally used, unless Americans' labels are being copied. In South Africa "coloureds" were/are viewed as a completely separate ethnic group from blacks. And in Brazil, they have a dozen different names for the various "black + other" mixtures and looks. There a person with a good amount African blood can even be "white" if they look it. But yes, in America, "white purity" is upheld with a vengeance, and ironically some of it's most rabid upholders are Black.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous two posts above who is "white but not racist":

Why would you expect flaming? What have you said that's so controversial???

And how is your post directed towards the owner of this blog or any of the previous posters? I don't understand what you hope to accomplish by saying you are "offended at the idea" that the label of whiteness is a stigma for young people of colour.

The blogger didn't create the issue. She is not the one stigmatising young people by telling them they're white on the inside. The issue EXISTS, the stigma exists, and the point of her post is to explore the reasons behind it and find solutions.

The fact that such a stigma is deplorable is a GIVEN. We don't need to debate that.

How come you "not racist" people always somehow manage to completely miss the point?

Anonymous said...

I did not miss the point, I am living the point, it is you who missed the point, and comments like this shut down the conversations we should be having.

To this blog's author, I really commend you for asking the question, it is a pity that some people are so blind to everything except their own opinions that they seek to shut down the kids of discussions that make understanding possible.

I will never apologize for being white, for teaching my children about their culture, and for raising them to work hard, go to school and make something of their lives. What choice do they have?

If they try to be "cool" they are posers or wannabes at best, if they try to talk about why their culture is special they are racists, and have to sit in classes and hear all about how evil Europeans are and were, I am not missing the point of raising white kids. . .


Anonymous said...

i see someone has beat me to the "whiggas" comment.. but wanted to drop a line anyway to let you know more than just that person has heard the term.. from about when i was 12 and up.. i heard others call white kids who wear the baggy clothes with sagging pants or the big puffy starter jackets back in the 90s, listening to rap etc.. and it seemed derogatory if coming from another white but almost a compliment if coming from a black, like they finally made the cut?

Ema said...

Wow , really? Here G is gangster, I have never heard the W word. . .hmm, I should ask my kid, I have heard of it, of course, just never thought to ask him if he was ever called that.

One thing I was thinking of, that my 18 year old was told he was "passing" bbecause someone who knew him for years did not make the connection between his Star of David and his being Jewish. . .

Interesting phrase, "passing" I understand the idea, but really thought it was something OTHER than a religious identification, it was quite funny, he found out because he told KIA that his mom had "Jewed down" the price of a rug!


Me said...

Thank you everybody for your comments. I love to see the blog working like this. I for one don't have any answers but I've been given a lot to think about.

I have heard the term Whiggas/wiggas, but hate it so refused to include it in my post.

"Negro tendencies," was just me being silly. I hope you all who didn't get it, get it now.

And for the record, I recently spoke at a private college-prep school here in Philly where a Black student raised her hand and asked me, "How do you deal when people tell you you're not Black enough or that you're acting White?"

So it shows me that this question, this issue, is still frustratingly relevant. My answer to the girl? Tell them they don't know what Black means if they think speaking properly and striving for an excellent education is something only White people do. Tell them to read some history books and discover that Black people have always been high achievers, striving for excellence against terrible odds. And then say, "I'm not acting White, what I'm doing is continuing a great legacy. What's your excuse for playing the fool?"


Ema said...

Is there a book out there, one that in like a 'colors of the rainbow" except it is the parents. . .not the kids?

I have a TON of books for my kids that explain how kids are different colors and cultures, but is there a multicultural discussion book for moms to read about these kinds of issues?

THAT would be a great thing to read. . or write:)


Kendall said...

That's interesting... thought-provoking. I've never seen white people say one of their kind is acting "black" or "asian." They would probably be labeled racist and have some kind of lawsuit against them if they did.

Anonymous said...

In high school, I think we were associated more by style than by skin color. Those who listened to rap, wore baggy clothes, and spoke one way were different from those who wore preppy clothes, preferred pop music, and spoke another way. Black and white wasn't so much the deciding factor for our perceptions, although there were more black kids in the first group and white kids in the second. An equal number of white kids, black kids, and kids of other ethnicities were more "boundary walkers" than anything: that rap and pop were acceptable, baggy clothes on Monday and a collared shirt on Tuesday, perhaps speaking one way to group one and another to group two... this was the dynamic I grew up with through the early 2000s.

That may have been the result of growing up in a suburb. My perception now, living in the city, is that there is a higher level of tension surrounding expectations of different racial groups.

Anonymous said...

I mean look here's the thing. I live in Birmingham, Alabama and don't go say racist stuff just because of Alabama stereotypes. I guess I sort of dress black and talk with an accent but I grew (and still growing, I'm only in highschool) in a Eminem (refferring to the rapper) sortrt of back ground. No one makes fun of me, actually some girls kind of dig it. The only heat I get from anyone is a few black guys who like to joke every once in a while. Me being of German and Greek decent I'm full blooded white for that matter-

Only thing I get from white people is a few guys who are my friends call me eminem sometimes cause I look talk and dress like him.

Once again to answer your question, I get along just fine and no one really cares except a teacher might give me a look on the first day of school or somethin. Hope this post helps coming from someone who lives if.