I want to introduce this by saying that this is not an “I hate white people” rant. This also isn’t a “Dear White People” themed essay. The fact of the matter is that more than a few of these things have been said to me by black people as well. In fact, when it’s coming from a fellow black person, it stings a little bit more. So whether you’re black, white, Asian, or purple, this article can apply to you. The title is a bit misleading as it doesn’t only apply to black women, but men as well. You also might find that a lot of these occur with many other minorities, not only black people. I merely want others to realize just what they’re saying when they say it.
More likely than not, you’ve said one of these phrases to your obligatory black friend. Let’s start with my favorite pick-up line:
1. “You’re really pretty for a black girl.”
I list this one first because it’s the phrase that astounds me more and more each time I hear it. To me this is clear-cut irony. This line, more often than not, is used by a guy who’s trying to flirt or compliment a black woman while it does the exact opposite. When we hear this ridiculing phrase we interpret it as, “In the ocean of all females, black women compose the trenches. But don’t you worry because you’re almost as attractive as all the other fish in the sea!” This is not only an insult to our entire race but an insult to your intelligence as we wonder why you thought this line was a good way to win us over. Next time just end it at “You’re pretty.”
2. “You’re so white/You’re not really black.”
This phrase generally comes up after I’ve enjoyed an episode of Breaking Bad or requested that a group of friends go out for Starbucks. I guess my question is, why must the white race own everything? Still? In the twenty-first century? Black people get the standard watermelon, fried chicken, basketball, and a few other classics. Other minority groups are also stuck to a small list of items and interests that are fastened to their race. For example: Asian people with math or Hispanics with Mexican food. (There are other Hispanic countries besides Mexico by the way, guys.) White people get essentially everything else. God forbid a black person admires anything besides their less than vast list of stereotypes chained to our “kind” and we get our culture and identity stripped from us. Some might think that only the white race appreciates certain commodities but it just isn’t true. We don’t run around saying, “You don’t play golf? You’re not really white.” or “You like grape soda? OMG, you are so black”. We’re entitled to enjoy things just as much as anyone else is, and our racial identity shouldn’t be questioned because of it.
Wait, let me guess. Some of you have said this before and your friend gave you a funny look so you tried to cover it up with “Oh no it’s OK, that’s a compliment!” I’m weeping for you because you have just unknowingly dug yourself into a deeper hole of racial tension. You cannot diminish a race and then apologize by practically saying, “No, it’s fine because it’s better to be white anyway.” We know you didn’t mean it to come off that way, but it’s the underlying message that we’re hearing.
3. “I don’t see color or race.”
This sentence is often inserted into a conversation when a group of people are discussing a racial issue. My guess is that it’s meant to comfort us and say, “Hey, it’s all good. I don’t care if you’re black!” yet somehow I still hear it as “I’m uncomfortable with too much diversity.” Why is trying to ignore that I’m of a different race easier than acknowledging that I’m of a different race? Accepting that there are different races in our nation is just taking a step toward racial equality. Don’t take that step back. There’s no need to pretend that diversity doesn’t exist. I hope I’m not only speaking for myself when I say that as a black person, I want to be recognized as black, because that’s exactly what I am.
4. “OMG, my one friend looks EXACTLY like you!”
No, she probably doesn’t. 99% of times that I’ve heard this, I saw a picture of the person who I’m supposed to look shockingly similar to and I just see another girl with the same skin color and maybe the same hair length. When you see two white people with the same skin color and hair length, do you think they look alike? Probably not. When you say this, it comes off as “all black people look the same,” and I know most of you know better than to say that. This isn’t just black people, either; I’ve seen this happen with every single minority and each time it happens, I sympathize with them. Next time you think a friend of yours resembles another, double check to make sure you aren’t generalizing.
Side note: If you realize all black people don’t look the same and you really do look at their facial features and find that they look similar, tell us! Because who doesn’t want to find their doppelgänger, am I right?
5. “I like you because you’re not really black/I like you because you aren’t a stereotypical black person.”
When I hear this cringeworthy comment, I mentally pray that someone jumps out of a bush and punches me in the face hard enough for me not to remember what just happened. Suffering from temporary amnesia might be more pleasant than having to face the realities of that sentence. You are literally saying “I don’t like black people” and you’re saying it TO A BLACK PERSON. What do you think our thoughts are after hearing that? “Oh golly gee, I’m so glad they don’t see me as a black person because that would just be a tragedy of the highest degree!” No. If anything, they’re questioning the entire basis of their friendship with you and are trying to rationalize being friends with someone who is so blindly prejudiced. Of all ignorant phrases, that is one of the most uncomfortable things to hear, especially from a friend.
6. “I wanna introduce you to my (black) friend; you’d love him/her!”
Now before I break down this act, know that of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with you wanting to set up someone with another person of the same race. It is, however, wrong to set up someone with another person because they are of the same race. Here’s how things generally go after this sentence is uttered:
• We meet this person and see that they’re also black.
• Automatically we think, “Oh god, I hope they didn’t just introduce us for the sole reason that we have the same skin color. But since they’re my friend I should trust their judgment, and I’ll hope for the best.”
• We either completely get along with them and just pretend we don’t think you only set us up because of our race or we see that we’re not compatible with that person at all and it’s clear what’s actually just happened.
Black people have similar skin colors, not similar personalities. We all don’t like and dislike the same things and we don’t all act the same way. So unless you truly think two people are incompatible in regard to something other than color coordination, please don’t bother.
7. “Well our president is black, so obviously we don’t have a race problem in the US anymore.”
Oh, dear. If you really believe that there isn’t a race problem in our nation anymore because we elected a black guy as president, I’m shocked you’ve made it this far into this list. You are very sadly mistaken and you have a lot to catch up on. Yes, legally on paper, blacks acquired a lot of their rights in the 60s, and the progress we’ve made toward racial equality so far is more than something to smile about. But “progress” is the key word in that sentence as we have a long, long way to go.
8. “If you’re Jamaican, you’re not really black.”
Ummmmm what? This is more of a debate amongst the black community than with other races but it gets pretty controversial. The theory is that if you don’t have direct African routes, you aren’t black. Which would mean that people who descend from West Indian and South American countries don’t qualify as a black Americans. In debating this, I’ve heard people say things such as “Well, your countries didn’t battle slavery in the past so you just don’t have the same struggles as we do.” Which is incorrect. Jamaicans battled slavery as did other South American countries. And on top of that, as people with brown skin, we’re still fighting the same racial prejudices that people directly descending from Africa are facing. Also, I’m sure a lot of you know that every single human came from Africa to begin with, but that’s an entirely different story. This is more of a tendentious view, but an important one.
9. “I’m surprised you like this kind of music.”
When I’m peacefully enjoying a Red Hot Chili Peppers album or a Vampire Weekend song, please do not come at me with that crap. Yes, I enjoy Rap/Hip Hop/R&B music, but I enjoy other music as well. And not every black person likes that kind of music, just as not every white person likes country music. Yes, the rap culture is a product of the black community, but it doesn’t mean we’re fastened to it. As someone who has very wide-ranging musical taste, this is a huge pet peeve of mine.
10. “You speak so eloquently! You talk white.”
No I don’t. I speak English just like you do. Contrary to popular belief, the white race isn’t the only race who knows how to speak properly. I’m not talking white, I’m talking English. Educated black people are no longer a rare commodity. Now if this is coming from a white person, that’s one issue. But if a black person says this to me, it disturbs me ten times more because they’re straight-up insulting their own race. The same thing goes for the way certain people dress. People have literally told me “You dress white.” WHAT?! Why is everything positive and proper associated with strictly the white race? We will talk the way we talk and dress the way we dress but it does not by any means define a specific race.
A lot of people, myself included, sometimes fear that if we confront people about these things, we will be accused of “making everything all about race.”. If you are one of those people that think we’re overreacting, consider this—was it really us who made it all about race?