Monday, August 24, 2015

Buzz Feed Asks the Uncomfortable Questions About Race

Three years ago I unequivocally declared that an honest conversation about race is never and will never be possible between Black folks and White folks in this country. Fast forward three years later and that impossibility seems greater now than it did then, but that doesn't mean the race rabble rousers at Buzz Feed don't want to try.

In the video "24 Questions Black people have for White people" Buzz Feed's satirist ask a litany of questions ranging from hair and politics to Black Lives Matter and the appropriation of the black body and black culture.

If you don't have time to watch the video, these are the questions:

  1. Why do you always make such horrible decisions in horror movies? 
  2. Why do you freak out when black people are cast to play white fictional characters? 
  3. What's the big deal if Idris Elba plays James Bond?
  4. Why is a big butt and big lips considered attractive on a white woman but they're unattractive on a black woman?
  5. Do y'all really think Mylie is the one who created twerking?
  6. Why am I supposed to teach you how to twerk?
  7. Why is it that white people always act like they have discovered a new trend when people of color have been doing it for virtually years? 
  8. Why is it when a black woman wears her hair natural it's inappropriate, but when a white woman does it it's praised? 
  9. Why is it that white crime is an isolated incident, but black crime is representative of an entire community?
  10. Why does talking about race make you feel so uncomfortable, is it that you think that you'll be perceived as racist because you're talking about race?
  11. You don't really think that racism is over because we have a black President do you?
  12. Why is it so easy for you to notice when there are no white people around, but you hardly ever notice when there are no black people around?
  13. Why is your goal to be color blind?
  14. Why do you want to say the n-word so badly?
  15. Why do you always want to touch our hair?
  16. Why do you feel like having one black friend makes you a cultural expert but not a racist?
  17. Is your only black friend comfortable with the reason why you can't be racist?
  18. Why do you feel comfortable cursing at your parents?
  19. Why do you kiss your dogs on the mouth? 
  20. How come you can't pronounce black names like Quvenzhane, but can say names like Schwarzenegger, Galifinakis, and LaBeouf just fine?
  21. Why do you feel like all lion's lives matter, but black lives don't?
  22. Why is a lion's life in Africa more important than the lives of Black people here in America? 
  23. Why is it so hard for you to acknowledge your privilege. 
  24. How does it feel to not be the spokesperson for your entire race at any given time? 
While a few of the questions are purely superficial and rooted in pop cultural stereotypes, the majority of the questions are key issues in the black community that date back before the era of trending topics and viral videos. 

From twerking to afros, the dance styles, hair styles, musical preferences, and fashion choices of black people have essentially been snatched from them, run through the pop cultural time machine, and been spit back at us as if black people were not on the front lines of these hot new trends during their nascent beginnings. 

Big butts have always been popular in the black community, as have been full lips, and cornrows, and Timberland boots. But Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, and even baby North West get props for style iconography they don't deserve. 

Beyond addressing the appropriation of Black culture in the video, the Buzz Feed satirists put a smile on the often heartbreaking subject of police brutality and police shootings. I was outraged by the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, but I am also outraged by the blatant killing of young black men and women because police, vigilantes, and scared white neighbors feel like they have the right to shoot bullets whenever they deem necessary. 

George Zimmerman is a free man, who filed charges against a man he threatened, after that man shot at him. Trayvon Martin is still dead. And what's more is that the stand your ground case that was tried in Valrico, Florida as the Zimmerman-Martin case was still in discovery, ended with the black male suspect Trevor Dooley going to prison. The 73-year-old is currently serving his sentence after being convicted on manslaughter charges. 

I may feel that Cecil's killing was an injustice amongst the lions of Africa, but the constant killing of black bodies without them all being protested and memorialized as the Trayvon's, and Mike Brown's, and Freddie Gray's of these divided states is an even bigger injustice. They too deserve the angered voices of blacks, whites, and tree huggers alike. 

However, those voices do not always lift all together in anger in the cause to fight injustice. And that in and of itself is a simple illustration of the power of white privilege. Whether white people acknowledge its existence or not its impact is profound on everyone who is not white. To answer one of the Buzz Feed questions:

"Why is it so easy for you to notice when there are no white people around, but you hardly ever notice when there are no black people around?"
The simple answer is that white people don't have to notice when there are no black people around. It doesn't affect their day or decision making process or even the way they speak. For black people seeing another brown face, no matter how light the tint (word to Shaun King), allows us to relax just an iota because we assumingly know there's one other person just like us, going through whatever we are going through.

Having one black friend and that being the justification for your expounded knowledge on what it means to live a Black life is another definition of privilege. Feeling that you have the right to run your hands through my scalp is the definition of privilege.

Real life example: I was walking through a shopping complex with my infant son a few months ago and an older white woman, quick as the devil, grabbed and pinched my son's juicy cheeks as she remarked how handsome he was. It is only because she was elderly that I didn't immediately slap her hand away. Instead I turned in a way to wrench his juiciness from her grasp, smiled politely and walked out the door. She, I'm sure, does not know that what she did was in the least bit offensive.

That is privilege.

The issues that the Buzz Feed satirists address are painful and hurtful. But just because they may be hard for some (read: white) people to talk about does not mean that they shouldn't be addressed. White privilege is real, Black Lives Matter, black people should be credited for everything White America steals from black culture, and President Obama was not, is not, and will never be the answer to America's problem with race.

America will never be post racial, and to the white folks who say they are color blind, I say to you, "You're lying."

If the Buzz Feed video makes you uncomfortable, good. I'm glad. It's supposed to. If it made you laugh awkwardly while scrolling the mouse to turn it off then now you too feel just a smidgen of what it's like to deal with these racist micro and macro aggressions on a day to day basis.

Now the question is, "What are you going to do about it?"


1. Can an honest conservation on race ever take place?
2. What questions of your own would you add to the Buzz Feed video?
3. Your thoughts. 

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