*updated on May 24, 2019* [originally published on March 3, 2016]
I live and have been raised in a predominately white area/neighborhood and go to, and always have gone to a predominately white school (I know, I know, I’m shocked too). Let me just say for a pro-black, Afro-wearing, socially aware person living here is HELL. I’m surrounded by middle-aged white people who are terrified of black people and get mini heart attacks when I wear a hoodie or speak Ebonics while their kids attempt to act like they know about NWA, quote Tupac, and say nigga every 15 seconds. Lord, help me.
(Side note: I’m doing a full post on this next week, but EVERY white person AND non-black minority says nigga at my school. Like ALL of them. Now I can’t fight all of them just because I’d be grossly outnumbered and I’d instead not get expelled BUT don’t think I haven’t thought about it. They don’t even say it in the right context, either! “These hot Cheetos are my nigga, man.” …Like…Sir…I’m going to need you not ever to speak again…please…)
I’ve compiled a list of unspoken rules every black person that lives in an environment that’s predominantly white has to live by.
(Guys, I obviously don’t think what you wear or how you talk or how you wear your hair dictates your blackness, these are just ‘rules’ black kids follow while living in suburbia duh.)
Rule #1: Make sure all white people are as comfortable as humanly possible around you.
You want to act like Samuel L Jackson’s character from Django or Uncle Ruckus from the Boondocks. Your job as a ‘representative’ from the black community is to make black people look like those happy, docile slaves from those old, racist cartoons. Channel your inner house slave or local neighborhood coon (*cough* *cough* Stephen A. Smith *cough* *cough* Raven Symone). Avoid talks about #BlackLivesMatter, race relations in America, slavery…As a matter of fact, don’t bring up anything to do with America before the 1970s.
Rule #2: Get every rap song (that isn’t by Eminem) off of your phone.
Trade in all NWA & Public Enemy albums for anything by Taylor Swift or Coldplay. Listen to nothing with bass in it. Listen to nothing that mentions bitches, hoes, getting money, twerking, or sex. And sorry, no R&B. Matter of fact, just go on iTunes and buy every album in the country genre.
Rule #3: Get an entirely new wardrobe. Don’t argue, just do it.
Trade in all Black Power t-shirts and Africa necklaces for Aeropostale and Forever 21. Guys, make sure all of your pants are snug around your waist and NO SAGGING. Girls, make sure your butts are entirely covered and absolutely no crop tops because you know how over-sexualized black bodies are! Also NO LARGE, FLASHY PIECES OF JEWELRY.
Rule #4: Make sure you speak the Queens English.
That means no Ebonics, AAVE, or anything slang that you can’t find in the dictionary. We’re less threatening if they can understand what we’re talking about. None of this:
Now obviously you don’t HAVE to do these things and DOING these things doesn’t make you any less black. The point is that in certain circumstances, black people have a switch. A home switch and a work/school switch. The home switch is where we can listen to hours of Tupac and Public Enemy we want, talk in full Ebonics without having to “whiten up” our voices, and wear our hair natural with our dashikis. The work/school switch is having to speak in a “non-threatening tone.” That means no AAVE and no Ebonics. We have to wear our hair cut down super short (for the guys) and pulled back or relaxed (for the girls). Lastly, we also have to “be professional” in our dress.
It’s easy to see these “standards” for school and the workplace are seated DEEP in racism. I mean who said black hair is unprofessional? Oh…they did…and they did. Well, who said that black music/rapping is threatening? Oop…they did. Yikes.
(Again, doing the things I listed [how you dress and what music you listen to] don’t dictate how black you are.)
I go to a predominately white school, but I can’t just go around screaming about institutional racism just because of A.) None of the white kids would know what I was talking about B.) The administration would most likely accuse me of spreading hate speech (because anything pro black is anti-white for some reason) and C.) I highly doubt anyone would care.
No matter how nicely (or rudely) you break it down to white people, they don’t understand how black people have to walk on eggshells to not seem threatening, “ghetto,” or “ratchet” to their corporate massas. It’s exhausting and quite annoying.
I will say this:
“Ghetto” is not a synonym for black people.
“Ratchet” is not a synonym for black people.
WE DO NOT HAVE TO MAKE OURSELVES “LESS BLACK” TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE MORE COMFORTABLE. CHECK YOURSELF.