Saturday, March 31, 2012

behavior

i have been away too long! but i've had this burning issue i've been wanting to blog about for the last month and i've finally found some time to sit and blog about it.

so, about a month ago i met up with three of my bestest girlfriends. they're the type of friends that i don't see often, but we have the type of friendship that even if we go a year without getting together, it's like i had just seen them yesterday.
anyhow, we decided to meet up at a trendy little spot on Mississippi Ave for drinks late one night. i should mention by the way, these are my down-home girls who might be a little bit closer to fitting the "loud, black female"stereotype than i am. but i was happy to see them and let loose that night.

so we had our drinks, we talked, we laughed. but every time the white server came by to check on us, or every time it seemed like the white people nearby were glancing at us, i felt like we needed to halt our talking and be on our best (white) behavior. i'm not talking about normal restaurant manners. we weren't being loud obnoxious restaurant patrons. i'm talking about (self consciously) not laughing loud enough for anyone else to hear, or not speaking our relaxed not-so-proper english in a volume where anyone could hear. it's like when white people are in an earshot, i automatically "straighten up" and act the furthest from stereotypical as i possibly can.

but why???? *i* know we're not ghetto, and that we're not the stereotype, so why should i feel like i have to try to prove what i am (not) to people i don't know? when i realized that i was doing this, i realized that i've ALWAYS done this in my adult life without consciously thinking about it. yet i know black people who are totally oblivious to any white people around them, and will act as ghetto and loud as they want to be without thinking twice about it. we weren't that rowdy at the restaurant, but i was still really conscious of how "nice" we fit in with the docile white patrons.

do any other black people do this too??

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! Yes I do this and always have! There are times I feel like I have a split personality. There is my 'black' me when I am around close family and circle of friends who are of color. Then there is my proper English speaking side when I am out and about, at work, etc. It's crazy and I have ALWAYS done it. nterestingly, I have some girlfriends who are white and GHETTO (I am in my 40's and we have been friends since elementary school). I would NEVER talk like that around them, and they act like fools when we go out...I feel conscious when we are out and they are talking loud and ghetto. Twisted. I know. No one else but someone aware of it would understand. I know what you mean.

Thank, Q said...

Well, I agree with you that there is pressure to do that (even without realizing it). I almost feel as if I'm bilingual because of how I speak to my friends differs greatly from how I speak at work. It's a shame things are like that.

We all have stereotypes, but obnoxious is obnoxious no matter the race. It's just a shame that black people tend to suffer more if they "fit" their stereotype.

Unknown said...

Personally, I don't think this is anything to do with race and more to do with humanity. I have many friends of many different races and religions and every single one of them (including myself) have different "masks" in different situations. I am a no nonsense, tell it like it is person...naturally but when I'm at work, church or meeting new people I hold back...a lot. Now when I'm out with my friends, historically we have always been the loud, crazy ones but there is a time and a place for that and I think too many young people have no concept of good public ettiquett and just want to be "in your face". We all have personal liberty's and some of us can't control if we have loud or soft voices but being obnoxious is just being obnoxious. TBG I have read so much of your blog and I love how candid your writing is and even though I don't know you at all I still feel like I know you a little and you seem like a woman who has it together and knows what is acceptable in various public places so if "white Portland" can't handle you having a good law abiding time, that's not on you, it's their problem.

Joyann said...

I have never felt like I have to act differently around white people. For me, I pretty much behave in a certain manner for most situations, anyway. I'm more on the reserved side and I don't really do "lazy/relaxed" speak, because it's just not me. So the way I behave around white people is the same way that I'd behave around black people or anyone else. As others have alluded too, there are white people who are loud and act in an obnoxious way. They have the freedom to do their own thing and act however they want without thinking about how they will be perceived. The only reason they don't get flack for it as a group is because white people are seen as individuals first, while black people already have negative stereotypes that have been imposed upon them by others, so when individual black people behave in certain ways, people are looking at them and confirming the stereotypes about a group, instead of looking at it as individual behavior.

Joyann said...

Also, what I get out of this post is that there is an assumption that all black people will act rowdy, loud, and obnoxious, and articulate themselves in "lazy/relaxed" speak, when they are not around white people and don't have to be on their "best behavior". This is not the case, and there is a danger in black people assuming this about other black people. This is why the mentality that if you don't speak or act in a certain way, that you really aren't black, is so prevalent. Black people perpetuate this mentality just as much as other people do. Not all black people feel taht stress or pressure of having to put on a mask, or facade, when they are around people who don't look like themselves. As I said above, I am more on the reserved side anyway, which some black people happen to be. Not every black person has a loud, boisterous personality that takes up a room, and is waiting to spring-forth in the right situation. So for black people who do think this, please change your mentality and start looking at people as individuals.

TBG said...

@joyann, i too speak the same way i always do about 95% of the time. however, if i'm with black girlfriends who speak in a relaxed way all the time AND it's late at night AND we're enjoying cocktails, i may start sounding lazy and relaxed in my speech. and i think that's okay.

Linds said...

@Unknown, I agree with pretty much all of what you've said, but I would add that it's very different for white people vs racial minorities. As a white person I can behave in an unpleasant way, and no other white people will be judged by my behaviour. I can be loud and people will say "that girl is loud", or maybe "young girls are loud", but they won't say "white girls are loud". I definitely agree we all use different masks in different social situations, but racial minorities have to worry about not adhering to stereotypes, whereas people who look like me have the luxury of avoiding that because we have institutionalised power in society. Which is fucked up. I do have to adjust my behaviour in different situations but I have never had to behave in a way that says "see? We are not all like the stereotype", because there are no negative stereotypes that I get judged by.

Tia said...

I absolutely know what your talking about. I wrote a blog not to long ago about changing into the "white" me when I walked into work. Seemed like was being two different people. But I learned something from it, I got tired walking in there with the powdered face, so I started being myself... And guess what? They loved it. i showed them that a black woman can do her thang at work! Exceed some of the white folks AND not have to be fake. Anyways, I love this blog, and if u evere get the chance please follow me, because I will definently be following your blog from now on! Thanks for the insight!

r a n d o m t h o u g h t s said...

When I'm out with a group of Black friends in a predominantly White environment, I do worry about our volume level. This happened to me just this weekend. I was not so much concerned with how we spoke, because we don't speak any differently than anyone else, but I just felt that if we were too loud, we were fulfilling a stereotype in the minds of white patrons. Anyone can have a loud conversation and I have been privy to loud conversations amongst diners of various races, but I do feel like, as Black women, we are unfairly judged if we are loud. The loud black woman stereotype is not based in fact, but when you live in a society where people believe it, it does affect how you feel and behave as a Black woman - right or not. Feeling free to be loud is not a comfort we are afforded in some settings.

I often dine with a good friend who is a White man. He hates loud people (perhaps to an extreme) and we have been seated next to quite a few of them when we dine out. He always complains about the obnoxious loud diners near us and every time the obnoxious loud diners have been white men, who I'm sure were very comfortable with their volume and never once considered it to be an issue for those around them.

The fact is, some people are just loud - Black, White, Latino, Asian, or otherwise. It's only Black women, and people of color who are unfairly judged for it.

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