No matter where you go two things never change: white people and kids, and I just happen to be surrounded by both at my job. Kids are kids – I can accept that, but white people can truly be insufferable.
I live in a homogenous country. Homogenous means of the same kind; alike, so I’ll be the first to admit that it took some getting used to when I first moved here. I have grown a lot in my ability to identify Asians in numerous ways, with the main one being that I can assure you none of my students look alike, not even a little bit. I say this to say that when my students see Beyonce, or the random Black woman on The Price is Right, and emphatically claim I look like her I’m really not offended. I mean, it is Beyonce after all, and I understand that they’re 12 years old and from a homogenous country, and most haven’t had the opportunity to travel to the western world.
But when a grown ass white British man emphatically claims that he likes my hair and that I remind him of Whoopi Goldberg I am offended. I’m offended because he likes my hair, but only because it reminds him of something else Black he’s seen. I’m offended because after I’ve expressed how rude the comment was he ignored what I said and proceeded to pull up a photo to prove that my feelings about his unwarranted comment were also unwarranted. The final reason I’m offended is that his statement is just blatantly ignorant and racist. Now did he mean to be racist? Of course not. But to randomly compare me to another Black woman he’s seen because we have the same hair is racist. The only thing that’s the same about Whoopi and I is that we have natural hair and that we’re both Black. There are virtually no other things that link us together.
This type of encounter often happens with white folks and it gets swept under the rug, but this type of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated. Why is it that white people have to compare us to something to compliment us as if they’re trying to prove that it’s not their first time seeing something we’ve got going on? PSA to white people: It’s okay to just state your compliment and go. I don’t need you to prove how “down” you are by saying something mad ignorant, which usually also ends up sounding mad racist. I also don’t need to be belittled and told that my feelings about something that was said to me are invalid. At the end of the conversation I told the guy that moving forward he was free to compliment me, but that he could do so without comparing me to anything else Black he has seen. This was not the first time I had to deal with this type of situation, nor will it be the last, but it reminded me of Beloved by Toni Morrison because of what Baby Suggs said before she passed on:
“…Until the afternoon of the last day of her life when she got out of bed, skipped slowly to the door of the keeping room and announces to Sethe and Denver the lesson she had learned from her sixty years a slave and ten years free: that there was no bad luck in this world but whitepeople. “They don’t know when to stop,” she said…”
So, white people, to avoid uncomfortable situations like the one I recently experienced, please for the love of God, Buddha, Allah or whoever you believe in, stop putting your foot in your mouth by quitting while you’re ahead.