Religion & Beliefs

Black, Gay, And Jewish: Thoughts On Shit White Girls Say…To Black Girls

So you’re in a safe space with a “safe black person” and all of a sudden things you’d never say to a person on the street or on the subway just fly out of the mouth without bounds… Read More

By / January 6, 2012
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

If you haven’t seen the latest and best addition of the Shit {Blank People} Say, then take a moment and watch it right now.

Amazing right?  Don’t think so?  Watch it again and get back to me.

Yesterday morning Francesca Ramsey was a woman with a successful YouTube channel, and by the afternoon she’d gone viral.  Shit White Girls Say…To Black Girls is probably one of the most accurate videos I’ve seen.  In normal Erika fashion I quickly found everything I could about Francesca.  I’ve stalked her all day long, shamelessly.  I even admitted my stalking on Twitter and am pretty sure that she won’t follow me back, though I hope she will because I feel like we could be friends, or better yet, I’d like to interview her.

Thing is, white girls have said about 99% of those things to me and more.

You’re not, like, really black-black, you know?

You’re kinda white, you know?

You really don’t seem like a regular black person, you know?

and

Ohmigod, you’re the whitest black girl I know.

Francesca is getting a lot of flack from people from all over, but I’m pretty sure the people who have a problem with what she’s saying have a problem because they know that it’s true.  I’m convinced that people are afraid of their own prejudice, their own ignorance and their own bigotry.  Comments like, You speak so well or You don’t sound like those other black people, or You’re the whitest black person may seem to be compliments, but it’s really that persons inability to see black folks in any other way than the image they have in their own mind.

Granted, on an average subway ride through New York City you’re bound to hear conversations that validate the media portrayal of shit blacks, Asians, Latinas, Gays and white girls say…but it’s not all we say.  The only time I fit into the “black box” is on the U.S. Census, and that’s the only place anyone should ever fit into a box.  Even then, the boxes are not accurate.

For the record, here’s some more shit that white (and black) girls have said to me.

Can I touch your hair?  Did you see Good Hair?  Your hair looks different every day!  Can I touch your hair?  What did you do to your hair?  How did you get your hair like that?  Do you have a weave?  Have you ever had a weave?  So, how does a weave work?  Do You watch Oprah?

You like white girl music.  You watch white girl movies.  You sound kind of like me, but not since you’re black.

Why are you trying to act white?  Why do you sound so white?  Can’t you just talk like a black person?

I think some of it comes from white people being around ”safe black people.”  Black folks who are either not what one expects, biracial people, or blacks in college classes or work spaces seem to be safe and less-scary than blacks on the street, riding the subway, or on television.  So you’re in a safe space with a “safe black person” and all of a sudden things you’d never say to a person on the street or on the subway just fly out of the mouth without bounds.  You say things like “Black people are so X, but I don’t mean you, I mean them.

Sure it could be curiosity, and if I feel like a person is being genuinely curious and genuinely cares I will share.  For example, when I was on the Be’chol Lashon family retreat I had a lot of conversations about hair and it was the only time I didn’t care if white people touched my hair without asking because most of those white people were raising black children.  Coming into contact with someone (me) who wears natural hair is sort of an in.  The majority of beauty salons that cater to black women are more comfortable applying relaxers or putting in braids and weaves than they are about sulfate-free, lo/no suds shampoos and caring for natural hair.  So having frank and honest conversations with people who really care is different than a person who I work with asking to touch my hair because we work for same company.  To be clear, no one at my current job has asked these stupid questions.

Is it fair to say they’re stupid questions?  Yes.  I think so.  If you don’t think it’s stupid (and rude) to ask a black person to touch their hair, for instance, I think you may have a problem.  Communication, inclusion, diversity, education and awareness are all things I’m passionate about-especially in the Jewish community.  Creating those spaces doesn’t come with asking rude questions or making rude statements.  They don’t come by writing the narratives of others, they come from listening and learning.

When I hear, “You speak so well.”  The person is actually saying, “You speak so well for a Negro.”  Don’t be fooled, racism is alive and well in the United States in 2012.  Instead of a cross burning in your front lawn or separate seating areas on the bus it comes in the form of insult disguised as compliments and bigotry wrapped up in gross affirmations.

Like the assertions I made in the Latke post, I think that if what Francesca said in her video offends you, dig deep into what exactly you found offensive.  Reflect on interactions you have with people who are a different race or religion than you.  We all say really stupid shit, and sometimes it’s funny.  But that laughter should also make you think.