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December 22, 2005
Holiday Shopping?

Stuck for that last, perfect holiday gift? Why not Rent-a-Negro.com?

Ayo believes that the practice of renting is the very real, socially acceptable legacy of slavery. "We continue to look at black people in a service mentality, whether it's bringing somebody their evening meal or serving up their education on racism," she says. "And this, as we know, is not the role of black people in our society anymore. I was really interested in the way white people would get offended when I was reluctant to let them touch my hair or explain rap music to them. I realized that they had an expectation of me as a black person to do as they asked."

It's an interesting point, but it seems to me that it is, just a little, a case of, "you see what you look for."

In a group of four or five women and one or two men having a conversation, there comes the inevitable moment when the women demand of the man, "why do men do ____?" As though the one man can answer for all the men in the world and educate the women on Why Men Are the Way They Are.

Similarly, I've been faced many times with a man or men asking, "why do women always ____?" as though I can answer for all the women in the world. (No, they don't tend to ask me if they can touch my parts, but I've often had the feeling that some of them would, given the least encouragement.)

And I've had people question me about life on a farm and whether or not I can milk a cow, just because they find out I'm originally from Kansas. Because they assume everyone from Kansas lives on a dirt-poor farm at the threshold to Oz.

Making assumptions about groups of people is how we begin to relate to them, how we begin to understand them.

It's only when the issue of skin color arises that this perfectly natural curiosity about "the other" in our society suddenly becomes disgraceful.

Whether it's because of gender, disability, or skin color, a willingness to be educated should be celebrated, not seen as lingering bigotry.

And at a time when we all must accept and admit that the Black experience in the USofA is very different than the White experience? I think this willingness to commit a small social gaffe in order to reach out across that barrier should be applauded. While I think it's very possible to look at this as the legacy of slavery, it's just as possible to see it as an openness to learning about People Who Are Not Like Me.

But don't let my quibbling prevent you from reading the article or taking a look at the website (or even buying the book). It's exceptionally fine satire.

There are a lot of people in this country for whom meeting or talking with a Black person really is an unusual experience, and there's plenty of real bigotry left that needs to be fought. I applaud Damali Ayo's willingness to speak up about a topic that too many people are afraid to discuss openly.

I just think Ms. Ayo needs to understand that we've all had to learn new things and make adjustments to the "dominant" culture in our pluralistic society. She'd have had to do a lot of learning and adjusting no matter what her skin color. T

hat's what living in a "society" is all about. Making adjustments so that we can all co-exist. I caution against assuming that every "adjustment" you have to make is because your social group is being oppressed.


Completely tangential rant:

At the risk of getting myself into a lot of trouble, let me point out that "grunge culture" or whatever it's called today, is not the path to success in today's society.

So, for you kids (of all skin colors) running around with three rings in your nose or pierced tongues and eyebrows and talking the language of rap music?

Take off the jewelry, learn some decent table manners (you will have business meals to get through), buy some decent clothes, and learn to speak the (dominant, yes) language of business in this country. (Or, if not, don't blame us because the sight of your chewing gum stuck in your tongue stud makes us rethink the wisdom of having you around all the time in the office.)

Learn that there's a difference between "personal" and "professional" and just as big a difference between "private" and "public."

Personally and privately, your life is your business.

Publicly and professionally, there are rules to follow. These rules are what makes it possible for tens of millions of us to live shoulder-to-shoulder. They aren't some kind of "repression" or at least if they are, we're all equally repressed.

The business world, especially, is a game. And, like any game, you can't win by ignoring the rules.


Another rant:

And that goes double for the jackass in the SUV who thinks jacking up his vehicle on giant tires give him the right to drive over the top of everyone else in rush-hour traffic.

There are rules and these are vitally important when we're all hurtling down the road, surrounded by tons of metal. Every one of us is driving a mobile weapon and it behooves us all to be just a teensy bit considerate of the other armed users of the roadways.

You are breakng the rules and you are able to continue breaking them every day purely through the courtesy of the other ten thousand users of that same road, users whose perception of the fragillity of our "civilized" society is keener than yours.

In my world? You are a bigger danger than a bank robber. We have police and laws to deal with criminals, but there's no real way for us to deal with those who are eroding the actual fabric of civilization one rush-hour at a time.

And now, society demands that I put on shoes and comb my hair because I have to move from my personal living room to the public world of employment. Note that while I spend 90% of my "personal" life barefoot, I don the Shoes Of Professionalism willingly and without complaining that society is repressing me.

It's a game. If I put on the right clothes and bathe and show up at a designated location for a designated number of hours, they give me money which I can exchange for server space upon which I am able to run this blog.

I don't know. It's always seemed like a fair trade to me.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:42 AM


Might I add "Pull up your pants"?

Posted by: Lab Kat at December 23, 2005 11:28 AM

Ooo, yes! I forgot that one!

Posted by: Anne at December 24, 2005 09:06 AM