21 March 2007

::No Commendations for Marissa

On today's episode of Tyra there was a young Latina by the name of Marissa who felt that all Black people fit the negative stereotype of a socially unacceptable personality (rude, untrustworthy, violent, criminal, etc.). Her reasoning was based on being a victim of a robbery and carjacking by Black men.

To disabuse her of this notion, Tyra found some 'successful' Black women to host a tea in one of their homes and have a hearts-to-heart chat with Ms. Marissa. After it was over they were invited back to the show to share their thoughts (that's the point at which I began watching).

For some odd reason, each of the Black women prefaced her comments by commending Marissa for her willingness to talk to them. Not only did I find it unwarranted, but it made me angry as well.

And, here's why.

Black people have to deal with people like Marissa each and every day, yet no one would think to commend us for doing so. I've personally worked with white people who thought that an enticement for me to attend a Halloween party was to excitedly inform me that they were serving fried chicken and then innocently suggest that my costume choices could be a California raisin or a basketball player (hint: I am only 5'6"). I've also worked with white people who felt compelled to tell me that "Black people can make it in this country if only they tried". Just as importantly, I've been ripped off by white people more times than I can count via white collar criminal activity like unethical and downright illegal business practices. Finally, the pièce de résistance, I was verbally and physically assaulted by a white woman in the workplace.

Do I need commendations for waking up each morning and going through another day with a smile on my face while surrounded by white people? Where are the commendations for other Black people who do the same thing after having even worse encounters with non-black people? It's just ridiculous.

Figuratively speaking, all Black people need to learn to leave trash where it lays. Step over it, walk around it, take a stick and move it out of your path, but for goodness sake leave it alone! Don't sully your hands and pick it up--try to convince people that you are a worthy human being, unlike the stereotypes that they cling to like a security blanket. It's not worth the effort because it does nothing for our collective.

In fact, the Black man's propensity to reach out to others and ignore our own (build horizontally) is a deconstructive, self-perpetuating cycle. Instead of reaching out to each other and consequently learning that stereotypes are not truisms, we fall into the trap of believing in those stereotypes and trying to distance ourselves from the group to show the world that we're a different kind of Black. That reinforces the fissures in our population and induces more individuals to look outside the group for acceptance and validation.

If we reach out to one another (build vertically) however, we would not be debased by courting favor with people who are merely masquerading as intelligent human beings, like the Marissas and the Kenneth Engs of the world.