February 11, 2013

A Few Words On Interracial Dating: Avoiding Racial Slurs

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A Few Words On Interracial Dating

It’s easy to say the wrong thing in a relationship. Everyone has an aspect or two to their person that is sensitive to criticism. If you’re overweight, balding, ignorant, smelly or covered in pimples, chances are if your partner mentions one or many of those things in conversation, you’re going to feel a bit shitty. You might even begin to resent the one person in your life who isn’t supposed to make you feel shitty. This issue is especially acute if you are in an interracial relationship.

Not being of the same race as your loved one is the big, black elephant in the room. There’s no escaping the cultural differences, unless you’ve grown up in a society where race is not an issue. These places are as rare as Taco Bells where the food looks like it does on the menu or public swimming pools that don’t have pubic hair floating everywhere.

Even if your significant other is the type to embrace your background, there’s a really good chance they will say something insensitive by accident. My white girlfriend particularly enjoys the Pharcyde song, “It’s Jiggaboo Time.” She likes it so much that she sings along to the lyrics. For the uninitiated, the term “jiggaboo” is a racial slur against black people. Not quite as maligned as the n-word, but certainly not one that a white person should be saying on a regular basis. Regardless of what clock you look at, it’s never going to be “jiggaboo time” for my girlfriend, unless she starts using that term as a euphemism for our sexual congress. In that case, there’s likely something very wrong with our relationship.

The term “jiggaboo,” along with a whole slew of other racial slurs, has been co-opted by the hip-hop community in the last 20 years. Jay-Z famously started referring to himself as “Jigga,” which ostensibly took the sting out of the term, but also gave white people license to throw it around whenever they wanted to “throw their hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care.” It’s great that something that caused great distress to millions of people can be taken back and thrown in the face of the oppressor. What isn’t so great is when people forget what the word meant in the first place and don’t see the statement being made.

I certainly wasn’t upset at my girlfriend for saying “jiggaboo” in the context of the Pharcyde song. There’s nothing racist about her. In truth, she doesn’t even like me using the “n-word” around her under any circumstances. The incident merely reinforced the notion that twenty-somethings live in a world where the racial slurs of the 20th century have been thrown onto the funeral pyre of history. Most white people my age have no clue what that term means, and have probably never heard it outside of a song. The purpose of co-opting a racial slur should be to educate the masses about racial conflict in an entertaining fashion.

Allow me then to pick up the slack from my brothers and explain the meaning behind some particularly antiquated names and discuss their origins. Next time you hear these in a song, think twice about singing along:

Porch Monkey

The term refers to a black person who is too lazy to get off the porch and do anything outside of drinking. It is derived from the plantation culture, where African-American slaves lived on grand estates with elaborate front porches designed for leisure activities favored by slave owners like drinking iced tea, eating lunch and subjugating entire groups of people due to their continents of origin. I’m pretty lazy, but I can’t afford an apartment with a porch. I also hate iced tea.

Spade

An actual spade is a small shovel used for digging. In a typographical sense, a “spade” is a black symbol stylized from the tool in question. The symbol is most frequently used on playing cards. You can probably put together where this term came from. Think twice the next time you decide to play poker, OK?

Coon

Either derived from the Portuguese word for slave pen, “baracoon,” or a shorting of the word “raccoon,” as the implication was that African-Americans had the same propensity for thieving as a raccoon. I actually think raccoons are kind of cute, so this doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the above, but I would still advise against using the term around me. They’re not that cute.

Really Excellent at Basketball

It’s not true. We’re not all good at the sport. I can’t even jump high enough to reach the top shelf in my kitchen. I don’t know how to dribble. I also look terrible in shorts.

Now that you are educated, go forth into the world with a bit more sensitivity towards your fellow humans. In addition, please stop referring to my ass as a “ghetto booty.” Yes, it’s big, but that’s just because I eat too much cake. TC Mark

Dave Schilling

Dave Schilling is Associate News Editor for VICE. His work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Hipster Runoff …

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