I visited one of my girlfriends who was in the process of switching apartments. We stayed at the chic Dream Downtown, which is known for its outdoor pool and roof top lounge. During the stay, we set out to tan and socialize at the day pool party. We enjoy meeting new, cool people and networking.
A group of people were celebrating a friend who sold their company. They soon joined our table, leading us into interesting convos about careers and the Big Apple. There was one black person in the group, with the rest being white. They all seemed like cool people with exception to one jokester type of guy.
After conversing about our careers for a while, sipping margaritas and cucumber water, the jokester made an awkward comment. Mind you, his comment only put himself into an awkward situation, not myself. “You sound white but you look ghetto”, he said loud and proud. That was a first for me. Yes, I’ve been told that I sound, “white” before, but not since I’ve been in grade school. This was a grown man telling me that I was too black to articulate my words.
I’m pretty good at having a poker face, but at that moment I didn’t care whether my facial expression made him uncomfortable. I guess my, “I’m with stupid” expression told all because he immediately tried to clarify his comment. This was a complete and utter failure.
I said, “Do you know that what you said was racist?” Not surprisingly, he began to turn the tables and get defensive. I wasn’t surprised because a wise guy or know-it-all will never admit to their wrong doings. They all beat around the bush. This only irritated me more. No, I wasn’t angry, just slightly annoyed. However, I did see a deeper problem in his comment. My initiative was to have a civilized discussion about racial prejudice and where it derives from.
He kept saying, “You know I didn’t mean it like that”, and “You know what I mean”. “I understand that you’re ignorant and not correct” is all I kept thinking. I thought, “what a waste”. It dawned on me that there are many ignorant fools who create our services and sell us products. You would hope that a smart business guy like himself would’ve experienced enough diversity and culture within his realm of work and travel to at least understand that color does not define one’s character. Moreover, it surely doesn’t define one’s intellectual capacity.
It didn’t shock me that he said, “You sound white, but you look ghetto” because I am confident in who I am. Everyone in my life, my family, and friends, know that I carry myself with class. That’s how I was raised. The fact that he neglected his imbecile remarks offended me. What added insult to injury is that my girlfriend brushed off his comment and continued her phone call. This had no burden on our friendship but it allowed me to see the world for its masked citizens. We may try to live unapologetically but sometimes we lose our dignity in order to please others. I mean, I get it. No one likes to burn bridges with potential business partners or connections. Some people are just too sensitive and self-righteous to “hear the real”. Isn’t it possible to climb the dignified, ladder of success and simultaneously pin point the faults in people’s logic?
It’s ok if my friend didn’t want to address his ignorance, but I did. I looked at this situation as charity work. This was my chance to enlighten his dim-witted self. Unfortunately you can’t change a person, you can only change how you deal with them.
I knew that I wanted to get my point across without being labeled the angry black woman. This couldn’t be an irrational way for me to think without expressing somewhat of a racial complex myself. I hated feeling as though I should react any less than another person or race would when they’re being discriminated against because of their color. I wanted to be unapologetic about my reaction and get my point across with dignity. No matter how polite or charming, I was looked at as “ the angry black woman”. I even made a fake chuckle and assured him that I’m not angry. This was my chance to use my “white voice” to gain his ear and change his perspective. I always feel the need to represent my race in the upmost positive way. Yet, this situation assured me that no matter how intelligent you are, a racist person will always feel like they’re better.
Of course I couldn’t be articulate without being compared to white. Then of course I had to look “ghetto”, since my skin is black. No, this guy did not mean to call me ghetto; he meant to call me black. What was I doing differently then anyone else at the table, might you ask? Nothing. There was no ratchet activity, or loud voices, or anything out of my character for him to judge so poorly. I was wearing a black bikini with a black cover up. This was the appropriate attire and nothing more unusual then what anyone else was wearing. What he did was compare “ghetto” to people of color. We’ve all heard the term ghetto wrongfully used as a description of one’s character, but its real definition describes a slum area. So, who is the ignorant one here? This man looks at black as bad and categorized me as something bad. I realized that it would take too much energy to talk over someone that doesn’t care to listen. Sometimes you just have to let karma decide a person’s destiny and continue to be you.