Tuesday, October 23, 2007


yesterday i was at work, when i yet again overheard something that i must blog about. i keep wondering when the day will be that all my racial experiences will be uneventful, but obviously it hasn't happened yet.

i was in the breakroom, where SINGLEMOMWHITEGIRL is sitting at a table with another BLACKGIRL, talking about how she's finally found childcare for her biracial /black daughter. the woman she found to do childcare happens to be black as well, by the way. so SINGLEMOMWHITEGIRL is talking about how her live-in white boyfriend (not the father, obviously) wanted to have a say in who does childcare for the daughter. i'm guessing he's playing the father role. so SINGLEMOMWHITEGIRL relays a conversation she had with her live in boyfriend where he says, 'i'm glad so-and-so [black lady] is going to be babysitting ______, because she[the child] is so wild, and she needs a good black woman to keep her in line, 'cause black women don't play'.

SINGLEMOMWHITEGIRL is giggling like she's pleased that she's so connected to the black race. the black girl she was talking to laughed about it too as if she agreed.

i wanted so badly to say something like: "oh, because REALLY- all us black women are nothing but neck-rolling, butt-whoopin', beat-you-down-with-a-quickness-if-you-backtalk type women, riiiiiight.

oh how badly i wanted to say that. and the funny thing was, this white girl is currently on thin ice for some other behavior, and i could have totally intimidated her by calling her out, making her scared of being fired. i'm sure i could easily have her fired. all i'd have to say was that she made a racial remark and it made me uncomfortable. and she'd be gone.

but, i just. didn't. want. to. if there wasn't an innocent little girl in the picture with a potentially unemployed single mom, i probably would have. but really. would it have made any difference if i had corrected her? granted, with my personality, i could have put on a phony smile and phony laugh and said something to put her on the spot, without actually grilling her. but as i thought about it, i decided that people's stereotypes are so deeply ingrained that even if i had said something about it, all it would have done was make her feel uncomfortable. true, she might think differently about that particular scenario, but what about the countless other stereotypes? i seriously doubt she'd really have been enlightened.

she's a single white mom with a black daughter and probably feels like she has a "free pass" to say things like that. and does she? i'm not sure. i once had a black girlfriend who was married to a white man, and the white man would repeat some words from rap songs occasionally in conversations and he would say the "N" word. sometimes he'd repeat something he heard someone else say using the "N" word. albeit it was hesitantly, but nonetheless he'd say it. and i got the impression that he felt he had a free pass because he was married to a black woman.

should i have spoken up? i know some readers will say i should have. but sometimes i just think that some people truly just don't know better, and i shouldn't have to be the one to teach them. i get tired of it. if it seemed like the intent was malicious or something like that, i probably would have. i guess it kinda just made me feel bad, more than anything, that we (black people) just seem to never escape the stereotypes. never.


another anon said...

Umm, you really should not eavesdrop TBG...

Natalie said...

You should have spoken up because the worst type of offensive ignorance is the type people don't know they are doing. Sometimes people simply don't know better but it is the responsibility of those who do to say something and try to educate them. If you don't, you have no right to complain. Sure it can get tiring correcting ignorance all the time but someone has to do it.

The Letter K said...

You say offensive things about black women all the time, but are upset when a white woman says something jokingly about black women being strict?

Because that's what "black women don't play" means, and in my experience, it's true. It's not true for all black women, obviously, but as a general rule, it works.

And threatening someone with being fired because you don't like what they say seems kind of cowardly, don't you think?

Terell said...

After reading this post and Letter K's comment. My first thought is that stereotypes (positive and negative) are problematic.

I think TBG has a point. In spite of the fact that this is taken as a positive in this case it 1) doesn't necessarily doesn't reflect every black woman's reality. 2) It can easily be inverted to a negative (black women are sassy b's and beat their kids).

I also think that K's comments about some of the things on this blog being offensive (or at least leaning on stereotypes) is true as well.

Its complicated shit.

ps For my money, getting the girl fired wouldn't have been cool.


Afrodite said...

You probably shouldn't have busted her out in front of everyone but if it was enough to offend you, I would've pulled her aside.

jasmine / jazz said...

Whenever you have to question if you should have spoken up or not, you usually should have.

You could have just taken her aside later and talked to about it. You didn't have to necessarily reprimand her or anything. Just go about it politely.

But, regardless, you should have said something...you could have helped to shatter a stereotype - especially for the mother (er, parents) of a biracial child. In the end, you'd only be helping the little girl. But you didn't speak up...you just talked about it after the fact.

rhonda said...

I also live in Portland; since have sons who are bi-racial and have a white husband I have heard from people who made the stupidest comments or just don't think. From a black girl at Wal-Mart on 82n Avenue (when I just had my toddler when me "What's it like being with a white man?” (said this while looking at my child), my reply was "We have the same goals and likes besides believing in god so we got married.” From an Asian woman at my church “Was it hard to get his hair curly?” And on the way to mass in S.E. Portland, by a young boy sitting next to his mom (both are white) “How did I get a white son?” I waited for the mother to say something, but she just smile. One of my boys is darner than the other.

Sparkle said...

Singlemomwhitegirl is ignorant and the black friend that was with her is a fool for going along with the joke. These stereotypes about black women has got to stop. We are not all neck rolling ebonic speaking sistas with attitude. We are human beings just like everyone else. I don't care how many times "in people's experience" they've seen "black women don't play" but that does not give anyone the right to assume all black women are like that. What that single mom is utterly foolish and what's worse she's spreading the ignorance possibly right to her daughter.

Ana said...

It wasn't necessary to speak up. Sometimes, you just have to pick your spots/battles. I think with such a person, you'd be wasting your breath. I will say that West African women don't play. There will be no confrontations, arguments or neck rolling. You only need to get a beat down once or twice (status quo) to know when to shut your mouth. My friends with Chinese, Japanese, Indian (E and W) and Greek parents are the same way. Most immigrants don't play. That's why I'm still shocked when I hear American kids (of all colors) talking to their parents however and acting up.

This woman should be embarrassed that she is incapable of taming her kid.

browngirl said...

good post, first of all. it is definitely one of those small but relevant issues that many of us are faced with on a regular basis. and most of us do ride the fence of "should i speak up or let it go"? i do think ana is right, pick your battles wisely. she was being a bit ignorant in her assumptions but not necessarily, malicious or backhanded and those are the folks you definitely wanna pull to the side. if she was someone you had a slightly more invested relationship in, which it doesn't sound like, then you should have definitely said something while being approachable about it. trust, if you had "called her out" and in front of others, that would have probably solidified her assumptions. point defeated...

The Letter K said...

How does "black women don't play" equal "neck-rolling, ebonics speaking sistas with attitudes"?

You all are so self-conscious about being black, or blackness or whatever, that a simple joke can be taken as something offensive.

I'm laughing, really, I am.

Anonymous said...

As a person who has taken myself too seriously in the past, and still sometimes do... which leads to getting offended too easily... what I see is the big part that "getting offended" plays in all of this.

If all other aspects and variables of the situation stay the same, but we can just remove or significantly dial down the ease and degree which we all get offended... then we could probably deal with the original situation, and our subsequent conversation here much more effectively, and with much more understanding.


If TBG had spoken up in the original situation, right in the break room, she could have said something like "that's a little stereotypical, don't you think?".

But imagine the different outcomes depending on the tone of voice in which she said it, and how the follow-up conversation was handled.

If her intent was not to be offensive, and she said it in a very calm (kind of "warm") and even tone, and then when when there was a negative reaction, if she stayed calm and even and said "I'm just saying, that's kind of a broad, blanket statement that's not always true". And then walked away.


In other words, if you're hard to offend yourself, and if you don't mean to offend or demean anyone else's position, (and you're confident in yourself)... you can address almost any situation, anywhere.

Sure, it's easier said than done. But it gets the job done with little drama. And in the end, the world is better for it.


Anonymous said...

i think it's a little harsh saying
that "black people just seem to NEVER escape the stereotypes." You act like blacks are the only ones stereotyped by others.
Whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, jews, ect. are always going to be stereotyped by some people, but its not like EVERYONE stereotypes them.
You will never escape certain stereotypes. They are often based on patterns that people find to be true about a majority of race, ect.
Though they may not be true, you have to admit that in many cases, they prove correct in many people.

All races are stereotyped against, its not JUST blacks. And no, stereotypes will never disappear, but its not like everyone else is considered equal except for blacks.

You seem to be very sensitive about the fact that you are black...
But I find your blogs very interesting and appreciate your point of views.

Anonymous said...

i think it's a little harsh saying
that "black people just seem to NEVER escape the stereotypes." You act like blacks are the only ones stereotyped by others.
Whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, jews, ect. are always going to be stereotyped by some people, but its not like EVERYONE stereotypes them.
You will never escape certain stereotypes. They are often based on patterns that people find to be true about a majority of race, ect.
Though they may not be true, you have to admit that in many cases, they prove correct in many people.

All races are stereotyped against, its not JUST blacks. And no, stereotypes will never disappear, but its not like everyone else is considered equal except for blacks.

You seem to be very sensitive about the fact that you are black...
But I find your blogs very interesting and appreciate your point of views.

Liz said...

I think culturally "black women don't play" has been a necessity since historically, letting your child act a fool in public could get him or her killed. (Emmett Till anyone?)

So the black mom has had to make sure her children were well mannered, respectful and not drinking out of the whites only water fountain or messing with massa's lunch. Those kind of scenarios weren't time for that okey-doke, "Honey, do you think you could leave that white drinking fountain alone?" Not following mom's directives could have serious consequences.

Of course, this type of parenting is not true for all black mothers, and it's true for other cultures too. Black women don't have a lock on it. If you watch any of those "Nanny" type shows, they do the same thing.

Anonymous said...

A tangent off of what Liz said...

Sixty years ago and before, most parents in general "didn't play", compared to a lot of parents' approaches today. White, black, whatever.

Back then, past the age of three or so, the parent or teacher was the boss, and that was that.

Now, when Johnny throws a temper tantrum in kindergarten, we want to have a conversation about how Johnny is "feeling"... is it because his parents are divorced?... or because he felt disrespected by Suzy?

Sixty years ago and before, the temper tantrum probably would not have happened in the first place because that kind of the stuff was nipped in the bud both at home and at school. Brat behavior was not "examined"... it was just dealt with. They didn't play. And that was almost everyone.

And back then, strangely enough, things flipped around at the teenage years... teenagers back then actually had more freedom than they do now (in the good, "caring" families). As long as a teenager showed respect, told the truth, and complied with the basic rules of the house, parents let teenagers have a pretty long leash. Of course, if they lied, etc. though, it was dealt a lot less flexibly than it is today. "You're grounded", and that was that. Not much discussion needed.



: JustaDog said...

I have this "thing" against ANY RACE pumping out kids they can't afford to take care of themselves.

Maybe that is what you should have turned the conversation too - and dump the boring old racist crap!

You seem smart so get your head out of that or it will bog you down!

Anonymous said...

Full disclosure -- I'm black.

Your comments ticked me off.

You embodied the stereotype you railed against. A woman makes a harmless comment, and you're consideing bringing pain an suffering in her life by taking actions that migh get her fired? Maybe the petty vindictiveness you displayed was what she meant when she made her comment.

If your employers have an ounce of sense, they'd would have laughed at your foolish complaint and began to look at YOU sidways and reconsider YOUR employment status. Now that would have been poetic justice.

There's a LOT of racism in this world; try to actually witness some before you start thinking about getting people fired.

That Black Girl said...

Last Anon:
I'm actually ticked that you skipped Reading comprehension 101. For the record, I didn't try to get her fired. I was stating what was going through my head, how I *could* have handled the situation.

Anonymous said...

It was obvious that you DID NOT follow through on you foolish thoughts, and the posted response clearly acknowledged that.

Read the words CONSIDERING and THINKING ABOUT in the initial post. Do you need help COMPREHENDING the meaning of those words?

Your inability to COMPREHEND what was clearly written makes it even more likely that the person you were CONSIDERING taking action against comments were not racist.

black girl said...

I'm anticipating the conversations about the girls' hair...

Old anonymous needs to chill and read up on everyday and color blind racism as it presented in this situation.

Kudos for recognizing there is a little black girl who needs her mom to feed her in the end. God willing she will have some access to Black women as role models and as filters for the inevitable internalization of her mother's issues.

Sparkle86 said...

Anonymous needs to take a chill pill and calm her/himself down.

Anonymous said...

I live in rural oregon. Just wanted you to know I love reading your thoughts, thankyou for letting me see the world through your eyes. you are my fav blogger.

Anonymous said...

this is my 1st time to your blog, and i am sure i will be back, because you probably have a lot to say that i can identify with.

however, i also think you put waaay too much weight on what singlemomwhitegirl said - and: yes - pumped out some stereotypes of your own.

my great-aunt and grandmother DIDN'T PLAY! and my mom still doesn't. and NONE of them was a gum-smacking, neck-rolling, hands-on-hips stereotypic 'hood rat. and i'm sure you can look back into your own past at aunts and next-door-neighbours-from-childhood who weren't either.

of course a lot of stuff goes through a person's mind when s/he gets huffed about something. but pulling the "it made me uncomfortable" card in the workplace about something as trivial and inconsequent as that girl's remarks is weak, too, imho.

if it had REALLY been that bad, you could (should?) have called her out on it. the fact that you didn't maybe signals that (subconsciously, at least) you knew you were just doing a bit of emotional hyperventilating...

as a race (both black AND human)we've got bigger fish to fry and more serious ish to lose sleep over. really. we do.

looking forward to reading more....


keeping it real said...

I DON'T believe in that stereotype Black women "don't" play.

If that were really true, the black community would not be in the poor state they are in right now. 70% of black babies are born OUT of wedlock and black boys are in prison more than in college.

So much for "black woman DON'T play".

The Letter K said...

Actually "keeping it real" there are more black men in college than in jail.

Where are you getting your facts?

Oh, that's right, you probably heard it from someone else who didn't know what he or she was talking about.

Out of wedlock birth stats also don't take into account the fact that:

1. A large percentage of the births are from cohabitating parents in long term relationships

2. The vast majority of out of wedlock births are from women in their 20s-30s, who cross every economic class.

Get your facts straight.

DMB said...

Personally, I wouldn't have said anything in this case because I know TOO many women who are proud to be this stereotype!

Most Black women I know would have said, "That's right, girl! We don't play" Or "I don't play that!"

So why should you contradict a stereotype that most Black women are actually proud of?

Personally, the stereotype sickens me. But so many Black women HAPPILY use it as a defense mechanism to cover up their insecurities and vulnerabilities.

Instead, I just try to defy the stereotype by my own example--being true to my own nature! (And yes, it works!)

Anonymous said...

There is a time to speak and a time not to speak and this was a time to speak,especially since the conversation was open for anyone to hear and comment about it, but the truth be told white girl was referring to all black moms.

keep it real said...

You should have spoke up and let her know that not all black women are like that.

Hoopskidoodle said...

and she needs a good black woman to keep her in line, 'cause black women don't play'.

SINGLEWHITEMOM's naïvety aside, it has been my experience that they don't!

Seriously though, what SINGLEWHITEMOM's biracial daughter really needs is a good black woman to show her SINGLEWHITEMOMMA how to do her hair.

By the bye, I love your blog. And, I neither look down on you nor resent you for some of your odd-ball views. Black folks should cut you a break. You had to grow up surrounded by all of those hacky-sack-playing hemp-parka-wearing hippies in Portland. You're not going to have the same sensibilities as someone who grew up in Fort Greene Brooklyn, New York.

Anonymous said...

Found your blog recently, and it is interesting and rather insightful. I have to say in many things i know where you are coming from in terms of i'll call it 'racial isolation', but i think that sometimes you seem stuck in a black/white paradigm.
Perhaps i can share some perspective from a different angle, I will go ahead and say for clarity's sake I am a white male and live in Mobile, AL where the racial balance is something like 50% white 40% black 10% others or so (off my memory probly not exact) I moved here from Houston, or the rich suburbs there, where there were of course many white people but also many people from every origin being that it is a very large and growing city, however while most did not share race, standard of living was fairly similar where i grew up, most where upper middle class.
Anyway,to the point, moving to Mobile in the old south was shocking in the difference of race relations, there are still the projects here with ingrained non-acheivement that dates back to the slave days, so many of the negative stereotypes about black people are in real evidence among some people here. have had shocked conversations with a several friends of various races from other large cities about how it is so different here. However, while instant assumptions based on race may be more common here, interaction is much more prevalent, and while it can be inane, many conversations concern stuff in the vein of 'black women don't play' from both sides. (Honestly it IS a Southern thing, NOT racial) my grandmother fits the stereotype too, as a stern, but loving southern baptist matron, who 'doesn't play' and when i have talked about her with friends many times i have had black friends jokingly ask me "are you sure your grandmother's not black?" no offense from either side, simply joking, and friendly conversation. Now i think too often i overhear conversations where it goes to the innane "black people and white people are different because........" between people of the different races, but it is simply a way of breaking ice i think, to talk at first in generalizations, before becoming personal as the conversation goes on, (maybe this is simply the southern style of conversation too) but when i have had conversations with people from other places they flow the same way, regardless of race. ex. Europeans and Americans are different because.... Northerners and Southerners are different because......... men and women etc... (and i mean this as pointing out differences in an interested conversation among friends, not as a divisive thing)
anyway, sorry for rambling.

Anonymous said...

I am white and grew up in an all white suburb. I ran across your blog while searching something else. I find your blog interesting and learned a great deal. I grew up with a white racist father from the South and grew up with an unfair view of all races except white. I think you should have said somthing to that gal privately in the break room and perhaps enlightened her about how rude her comments were. Also have you considered making a committe for racial relations at your workplace. Venting is one thing. But doing something about it takes courage.

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