I wish people understood that prefacing what they say with, “I’m not trying to be racist but…” is the most racist thing you could possibly say. I recently had a conversation with a guy who made me appreciate people who really say what they mean. He obviously needed to work on his filter but I appreciated knowing where he stood.
So, what do you do?
I’m a teacher.
Wow, what do you teach, gym?
Actually, I teach foreign language in high school. Spanish and Japanese to be specific.
[Shocked] Really, that’s an odd combination.
Not really, my mom was in the military so I got to travel a lot.
No, I meant you being a foreign language teacher. [pause] So do you coach too?
Football or basketball?
[At this point, I am looking around for hidden cameras because there is no way this is real]
Actually, I am a softball coach.
Seriously? Get the f*&^ out of here!
I wish I could.
Wow, it was fantastic meeting you.
Yeah, you too.
The fact of the matter is, as much as I wanted to punch this guy in the face, I appreciated the fact that he embraced stereotypes. Stereotypes make the world go round. As much as we don’t want to accept it, stereotypes make the world go around. You need to know that if you are showing up to an event AFTER the Black people, you are extremely late. You expect your Latino friends to have a relative or know someone who does landscaping or concrete work. You turn to your Asian friends when you can’t get your computer or camera working right. If given the choice of riding in a car with a male driver or a female driver, you know what common sense dictates.
There are definitely times when this backfires. Like when you choose THE Black guy on the side of the court for a game of pick up basketball at 24HR Fitness and he ends up being atrocious. You spend the whole game looking at him like HE deceived you. You mumble stuff under your breath like “You probably can’t even dance” or “I bet you were listening to Carley Rae Jepsen on your way here”. Or when you go to your favorite Chinese restaurant and the Asian girl at the front turns around and yells into the kitchen”Un lo mein y dos egg rolls, por favor”. Or going to a hip-hop concert and realizing that minorities really are the minority.
Stereotypes are a way of life. Stereotypes allowed my 6th grade teacher to cast me as Santa Clause in the Night Before Christmas and make me break dance instead of laughing like a bowl full of jelly. Stereotypes are what made the farm girls flock my roommate Tony and I at the club in college and ask if we were football recruits even though we barely weighed 300 pounds combined and reached 6’5 sitting on each others’ shoulders. Stereotypes are what make me understand why I am the only black person walking the aisles of whole foods. Stereotypes are what keep me from decking random white guys who end their statements to me with “bro” or “homey”. Stereotypes are what allow me to giggle in the store when I see a non-minority shoplifter because I know security and the cameras are probably following me. Stereotypes are why there are 1000’s of memes on the internet of our Black President with ebonic captions. He has probably never spoken like that but that’s beside the point to most.
Believing stereotypes doesn’t make you racist. Believing that everyone of a particular race adheres to a stereotype does. There are many exceptions to the rule. You feel me, homeboy.