Friday, November 17, 2006
Why do black people love fried chicken and watermelon?
why are the women so attitude-y?
why do they name their kids Shaniqkwa and jaequaan?
why do they call themselves the "N" word?
come on, white readers. you KNOW you've always wondered about that. but you know you'd never ask one of us.
this book looks waaay interesting and entertaining. i haven't read it yet, but i plan to go get my hands on it this weekend some time. it's got some good reviews and is supposedly a really funny read.
when i saw the table of contents, it reminded me how i've been really wanting to address the Attitude thing. i want to address it, because most of the time, it's only a perception issue. meaning, black women and white women (major generalization here, i know) just act differently. white women are usually all smiley, and cheery and can be really phony when they don't like you--whereas, in my experience black women wont pretend to like you if they really dont (emphasis on : in my experience). and not to say that black women don't smile and aren't happy, it's just that our happiness display might be different from theirs.
but i learned the hard way that regardless of what i felt the inside, i had perception issues. i was raised by educated parents and there was no anger or attitudes in our home. so why was i always perceived as having an attitude? i have no idea. in my early to mid twenties i had two jobs where i was constantly being told that i wasn't friendly enough. i didn't smile enough. i wasn't happy enough. geez people! this wasn't disneyland!! the white men in management were always on my case. day after day they would tell me this. it bugged the shit outta me. i wasn't rude or mean to anyone. i'm a mellow, semi-serious person by nature, i don't walk around with a silly grin all the time, and i guess that was perceived as having an attitude.
have you ever seen a white woman act serious or mellow and not all smiley- smiley? i sure have. and no one classifies them as having an attitude. i personally think that that stereotype of black women having attitudes is so deeply ingrained that white people just automatically assume it about black women whenever we act different than they think we should.
so a couple jobs later, the same thing happened. again, it was my white male manager who told me the same thing. over and over. i was always "in trouble" because of it. what's wrong? are you having some problems? why aren't you more social [with all the cheery white people]? what are you upset about? why aren't you smiling? and so on and so on.
i seriously couldn't figure it out until one day, we had a meeting and he told me that i had a perception problem. i hated him, i hated him, i hated him. but that was the best thing he could have ever said to me, because i realized that he was right. the fact that i DID NOT have an attitude didn't matter. it was the fact that i gave that impression. the fact that i appeared to have an attitude was more important than the fact that i didn't have one. from that point forward, i did a 360 degree change. i realized that the only way i would ever get ahead in my career is to change the way people saw me.
i took a long, hard look at myself. when i came into work in the morning, i never greeted anyone. i never said "good morning" to people. when i left, i never said "goodbye" to anyone that i didn't really, really like. i never said "hello" to people in passing, and if i did, i didn't smile. those words "you have a perception problem" have stayed with me. i looked in the mirror and realized that i actually looked prettier when i smiled. imagine that!! a free makeover! and i stopped to think how good it actually felt when people smiled at me and said good morning to me, or hello, even if they didn't know me that well. why couldn't i do that? i could and i did.
so to this day, at work, or anywhere, it's very natural for me to be smiling for no reason and to say hello and good morning to people. and when i leave work, i always tell those around me to have a great night. or weekend. it took practice for me. some people do that naturally, for me, even though i'm a nice person, outward "friendliness" was a learned skill. it has actually made my life a lot better.
So, thank you, Mitch. I hated you, but Thank you, thank you, thank you.