Mama always told me to watch what I say. Words are powerful, and the last thing you want to do is unintentionally offend someone.
But what happens when you come across someone whose mama didn’t teach them to be respectful of others? What happens when White privilege supersedes any lesson that your God-fearing Christian parents instilled in you?
While working in a community common area with a group of co-workers, a friend of mine overheard some interesting dialogue exchanged between some of the White folks in the space. Roughly 15 people engaged in some particularly offensive conversations about Asians, Indians, gays and lesbians, but did not mention Black people, maybe because my friend and two other Black people were sitting there.
My friend said that one guy, described as a White male, shared his experience of going to a popular vacation spot only to find out that’s where they perform a lot of lesbian weddings. According to my friend, he said, “It was QUITE the experience.”
My friend also said this isn’t the first time it’s happened in this space and the couple of Asians that were present joined in and laughed at the distasteful remarks.
I, too, can recall a few instances where White folks said inappropriate things regarding Black and other marginalized people—and I’m not just talking about the n-word. When they think no one is paying attention, you’d be surprised at the words that escape their lips. Their true colors …for lack of a better term come out, and the mask comes off.
I was going to go have a drink at ___, but there were too many Black people there. Didn’t want to get shot.
Where did you say you were going? The South Side? You better lock your car doors (laughs).
Black folks moving into our neighborhood will just bring the property value down.
Like myself, you’ve probably heard some variation of the above comments. And if you’re like me, you were equally disgusted. I remember back in college when a “friend” of mine made a sideways remark about a Black neighborhood near our school. I checked the hell out of him, but also noted his true sentiments.
No matter how much he laughed and joked with us, we would never be on his level. Sure, he’d buy drinks and recite rap lyrics during a house party right along with us, but his privilege would always be a priority.
Not only did this particular group of people expose themselves as prejudice bigots, but cowards.
Granted, people from all walks of life talk smack about others, even those close to them. But to disrespect people for their differences crosses the line. But guess what? We thank you for exposing who you really are.
They say the best way to know who someone really is is to pay attention to them when they think no one’s looking. But we’re watching and we hear you loud and clear, “bro.”
Shantell E. Jamison is a senior editor for EBONY. She moderates various events centered on love, relationships, politics and wellness and has appeared on panels throughout the country. Her book, “Drive Yourself in the Right Direction” is available now. Keep up with Shantell via her website, Facebook, Twitter @Shantell_em and Instagram @Shantell_em.