I like hockey.
I like Motorhead.
Curb Your Enthusiasm is one of my favorite shows.
I drink Jameson.
I’ve been told on several occasions that I speak ‘proper.’ I know the correct word is ‘properly,’ I used the aforementioned word to show how people often describe me. One of my fellow Red Eye columnists explored this issue last week.
Whether it was a neighbor, a co-worker, a buddy’s girlfriend or one of my wife’s co-workers, my blackness, or perceived lack thereof, has always fostered a spirited debate.
“You’re not black; you grew up in the suburbs.” – I’m from 71st street.
“You like hockey??” – Yeah, I’ve made myself clear about that. Read this.
“You don’t sound like you’re from Chicago.”
“You sound proper.”
My upbringing has constantly been questioned. My mother and father were Chicago Public Schools teachers, so I guess that is where my ability to speak properly came from. When I was in college, people often were shocked when I told them I grew up in Chicago.Even the cable guy thought I sounded like a guy from the Caribbean.
If I said “Hey Muthaf—ka N---a!” Does that make me sound more black?? I don’t think so.
Maybe I should start taking like the guy in the video I posted to avoid suspicion:
I remember from a young age that people thought my family was different. People in our neighborhood often jokingly called us the Huxtables.
During my lifetime, I’ve been called ‘white’ or acting like a ‘white boy.’ For years, that would bother me. Then I realized that thinking came from a place of the fear of the unknown. Now, I don’t get mad, I question if that person needs to get out more.
In the black community, speaking properly and getting good grades is often shunned. Anyone who does those things is relegated to ‘acting white.’ You might ask yourself where such a mentality came from. Who would make fun of someone for getting good grades and using proper communication skills? I think it comes from the lasting effects of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. During the period in our country’s history when Africans were enslaved, a new way thinking was developed called the Slave Mentality. There are several different definitions out there that have taken a stab at explaining it to the masses. I found a blog written by Kuuleme Stephens that explains it best:
Is one of feeling inferior or of feeling lost without hope, a feeling that we do not have the power to significantly alter our own circumstances. Another sad symptom of having a slave mentality is believing that White people are superior, have all the answers, and are empowered by God or a person conditioned to quietly, and without objection, accept harmful circumstances for themselves as the natural order of things. They’re also conditioned to accept their master’s view and beliefs, about themselves, and strive to get others, within their group, to accept the master’s view.
That assessment sums it up. If the masses believe that black people are put in a box and allowed to only do or say certain things, when one goes against the grain, I can see where someone might be skeptical.
My ultimate question is this: Why should black people stick to things that don’t raise suspicion from the “blackness” police? Should I only stick to fried chicken, trap music and the belief of an imaginary klansman under my bed? If an African-American chooses to go to the University of Chicago instead of Chicago State, are they not ‘Down for the cause’ as Rob Parker would say? Who knows? Furthermore, who gives a shit?
The late, great 2 Pac aka Makaveli said it best when it comes to the conundrum I often find myself in. “I love my people,do or die, I wonder why we’re scared to let each other fly.”
After the election of Barack Obama, I thought that we as a people were past this type of stuff.
I guess not.