Saturday, July 08, 2006

Who Is Sterotyping Who. My Shirly Temple Moment

Thanks to my man Atiba, I received an excellent article via e-mai from the Associated Press. It was written by Erin Texeira and it had to do with the sterotypes that black men face on a daily basis and the different coping mechanisms that we use to get by. There was also a post about this issue on the moderate to conservative blog known as Booker Rising . The article focused on a lawyer from Ohio-I think his name is Keith Borders- and according to the article, he is a garrulous, 6"7", and talks with his hands. He says he has a keen sense of his size, and how he communicates. "I end up putting my hands in my pockets or behind me. I stand with my feet closer and speak in a softer voice" All this , he says, so as not to seem as intimidating to the people he deals with. The article goes on to say that each day African American men consciously work to offset stereotyes about them that they are dangerous, aggresive, and angry. They are mindful of their bodies, careful not to dart into closing elevators, or stand too close in grocery stores. Of course, I can totally relate, and I know for some brothers it's harder than others. The article quoted brothers who work in a very corporate culture and who have to play games with turning on and off certain behavior patterns so as not to offend their white colleagues.

As I stated earlier, in the field-negroes world it's no different. And it's funny that the article should specifically mention grocery stores, because my most recent moment came in one such establishment.

Last Thursday I found myself grocery shopping in a very lilly white suburb of Philadelphia. And as I am going through the store, feeling my vegetables, and checkling my fruits, I soon became aware of the fact that I was the only ink spot probably within miles of the establishment. Of course, I am getting the looks, the ones which I know every brother can relate to . - I don't mean brothers in a Harold Ford, or Terrence Howard sense. I mean brothers in a Michael Clarke Duncan, Ving Rhames, Djimon Hounsou sense. In my case, black, baldheaded, and big. The type of brother the article was referring to, that well, scares white people. The smiles always seem to come too often, and are oh so nervous, a little too much deference, and overly polite posture as to not give the impression of being, well, intimidated or scared. So what do you do, you just go through the motions; smiling back, being overly polite in return, and wishing it all wasn't necessary.

So I finished with my shopping and I am waiting in line. Waiting in front of me, is a somewhat middle aged white woman and her daughter who seemed to be no more than six or seven. She looked like Shirly Temple when she played in those old black and whites from the thirties. I am sitting there looking at her thinking how good she must have it; this little white girl, in her lilly white world. I must have been smiling to myself, because the little girl smiled at the field-negro. Of course, not wanting to be rude, and cognizant of all the eyes on me, I smiled back. She was playing with a little blond doll-of course, only black people give their kids white dolls-while sitting in her mother's grocery cart. Just a thought, why the f#@* do people let their grown ass kids ride in grocery carts when they are in the grocery store? But I digress. So while she is playing with her doll she keeps looking at the field-negro. Now you have to understand this scene. There are white folks all around me, and it's a Thursday evening right after a big holiday, so the store is pretty crowded. And so it goes, the little white girl continues playing with the doll and staring at the field-negro, obviously wanting to draw him into her world. She waves, and I smile and wave back. Now her mother, previously engrossed with unloading her shopping cart takes a look back. For a moment, I detect it; the fear, the apprehension, the what the hell do I say to this big bald black man playing with my daughter look. "Is she bothering you?" She says to me, managing a nervous smile. "Of course not" I reply. "She is fine". Mommy continues what she was doing, but her movement are quicker now, and I suspect I know why. But of course, now her daughter is in full play mode, and she holds her little doll up to the field negro to see it. At this point I am hoping mom will take charge of the situation, tell her daughter to leave the nice man alone and rush out with her groceries. But no, she is paying for her groceries now, and it seems like it's taking forever. "What's your doll's name?" I manage to say. "It's Rose" She is all smiles now, and is giving me her total attention. "Well that's a nice name, did you name her?" "Yes, because her cheeks are red". By now it seems that the entire store had grown more quiet, and everone in my line, in the line next to me, and every where else within earshot, is hanging on our every word. I am dying for this Shirly Temple, Bill Bojangles Robinson moment to pass, but it seems like it's taking forever. "What's your name?" I asked, not really caring but wanting to leave a lasting pleasant impression on all the white folks listening, so that maybe the next field-negro will get the benefit of the doubt in their world. She looks at her mother as if to get her approval before she tells the big black stranger her name. Mom nods as if to say it's alright. "It's Sarah"she says. "What's your name?" Ok, she got me there, I am totally caught off guard, remember that old EF Huttun commercial? That's what it felt like at that moment. But I tell her my name, and she smiles. "You have a nice name too" "Come on sweetie, we have to go, tell the nice man bye" Finally, saved by Mom. "Bye" She says, as her mom wheels her away in the shopping cart. "Bye bye" I say, glad my little Shirly Temple moment is over. The chatter goes up again in the store, and it seems everyone is smiling now, more at ease, everyone liked the field-negro's answers and demeanor during the little encounter. No more threatening, no more aggressive, just a big bald headed black man who can communitcate with the smallest and most precious among us. "Wasn't she adorable?" The lady behind me in line was talking to me about my recent playmate. "Yes she was" I manage to say. "Do you have any chidlren?" What is it with white people, once they think it's safe to talk to you, watch out; they will talk you to death. "No I don't", I muttered, not wanting to be engaged and hoping she would take the hint by the tone of my voice. "That will be $55 sir. " Saved by the cashier. I paid, said goodbye to my chatty line mate, and made a dash for the parking lot.

Now I am driving away on this hot humid day in July. Glad the grocery shopping thing is behind me, trying to get back to Philly and away from lilly whiteville as soon as possible. As I head on to the main thoroughfare away from the store, I spot my little friend from inside with her mother waiting at the bus stop. Mom looks uncomfortable, and my little friend is clutching her doll like her life depends on it. I start to think that maybe my little friend doesn't have it so great after all, and all of my assumptions about her before our little encounter might have been incorrect. Now it's hot and miserable outside, and I am probably going in their direction; the air in my car is on full blast, it feels good and I feel guilty. For a minute I think of offering them a ride, but I don't; I pass them, careful not to look, and hoping they didn't see me. I feel bad about prejudging little Shirly Temple, just like her people are always prejudging me. And for a minute, I really feel bad about not offering her and her mother a ride. But just for a minute. Because I start to think of all the things that could go wrong. For instance, what if mom is startled-who is this black man stalking us from the store-calls 911 in liily white ville, the field-negro is pulled over... yeah I am glad I didn't stop. Driving away from lilly whiteville, I start to think of the little Shirly Temple look alike again. And of all things I am trying to remember the name of her stupid doll. At the bus stop she was clutching that doll like it would protect her from all the evils of the world. Don't you worry little girl, you are female and you are white, you don't need your doll to protect you. As long as you are in America, you will have all the protection you need.


TNB Alerts said...

There's a reason that stereo type persists. It's called TNB. Now I admit that not all negroes engage in TNB, but there is so much TNB that it will hard to make a dent in that stereotype. Speaking of stereotypes, why do blacks always stereotypes whites as rednecks? Here is a little stat to brighten your day. I mean, darken your day.

Blacks "were 7 times more likely than whites to commit homicide in 2002".

Anonymous said...

Hey Field,
Excellent entry.

Yeah, plenty sisters go through this same "ish". It is sad.

My conspiracy theorists side has been working on OT lately; but when I read the article last week at; I was thinking that maybe if we stop acting... men be men and human... and women be women and human...
then this will stop this proliferation of the docile, unassuming samboish Black male... and the agressive bitchy Black female... both dumbass stereotypes that hinder and hurt us all,... and we feed into them...

Those who don't give a damn about Us, make mucho denaros off of this kind of b.s. I mean, for example;

docile, unassuming, "i'm just a good negro" Kwame... vs. bitchy, domineering, "bad black badass" Armarosa.

If Kwame was White he would have been fired. If Armarosa had been White, she would have won (drive, cutthroatetc... al'a corporate america!!!!!!!!)

field negro said...

I like the analogy from "The Apprentice" But honestly, I think Kwame WAS being Kwame, I really think that's who he is. Although you are right about Amarosa. The problem is, that there are brothers who aren't naturally docile like Kwame, but who, have to pretend to be. Kwame has it easier, because he does not have to switch back and forth. Some of us, who have our own practise and work with a predominantly black client base -like yours truly- can be our black self and don't either. But unfotunately, there are many brothers and sisters who have to go through the b#$% SH&* you talk about every day.

Dangerfield said...

Yo Field and Denise how you folks doing did you get my email Field. Anyway I dont mean to be a spoil sport, but I gotta tell it like I see it. Amorossa was bitch, she only cared about herself. And she probably the one that cost kwame the win. Hire someone like her if you want to you will loose. Anyway good post FN I also find myself trying not to be threatning. Its not fair but its the world we live in now. I still believe until we put a dent in some of our crime issues we will always have this problem. Mark Bey

wst... said...

wow FN awesome post. we rarely get to see the shoe on the other foot so to speak.

Anonymous said...

mark hey;

those in charge are Armorossa, the game just changed because she is Black --- not because she was a bitch.... Donald Trump is a Bitch.

what i was getting at really was the effeminization of the Black Male.... that is perpetuated by such actions that some Black males take to survive... and Kwame and Armorrosa were set up to bring each other down...

she was mistreated and he, the docile house negro, couldn't help... or rather didn't...
so then they set her up to bring him down: both are, i think, intelligent; but neither really understood how to play the game...they were stereotypes and the article in which FN is responding just attests to that fact.

i have not found that toddies fair better than us - bad black folk - in fact i have found just the opposite.... i'll spin another analogy for you: Jesse Jackson, in my opinion, is hated because he is an uppity negro, with just enough moxie to not only play the game; but to win.... Armstrong Williams and those of his and make nice, scrunch their shoulders, and hold their eyes to the ground....

hypothetically who do you think would be invited to dinner (and neither does not count... because eating on the porch with a paper plate still is dinner)

they hate us all... but at least us Niggas with attitude get more respect... who cares if they like you....and many times this kind of thing has come to my ears from the mouths of white folk....

i haven't read it yet, but dell gines has something about this up on his site... i will check it out.

Dangerfield said...

Denise:those in charge are Armorossa, the game just changed because she is Black --- not because she was a bitch.... Donald Trump is a Bitch.

MB: First of all Denise I want to say I missed you and Im glad your back. However I dont know what show you were watching, but with the show I was watching Armorossa was trouble to begin with with.

Ill say this for her shes has all of the gifts it takes to be successful at whatever she wants to.But Kwame should have never have picked Armarrosso. If you have a business, you need folks who are willing to sacrifice, comprisise work hard, ect. Even if they are working for you they need to be creative, take ownership, responsibility, ect.

Im not saying that none of the other girls werent bitches But if you cannot see that A had some problems getting along on a basic human level then I wont go back and forth with you on that.

I dont think Kwame should have made to the final. And Im not talking about ability or style Im talking about making shit happen and taking initiative to do what ever it takes to get a job done. He didnt show that shit to me enough.

Anyway he never should have picked A, also as the one in charge its his responsibility to make sure everyone( including A) is clear on what he wanted, establish deadlines, and monitor his employees efficatvely so they are doing what it is he needs done.

The bottom line is this the other guy did a better Job than Kwame. If you cant see that then I wont argue that point with you either. I aint saying I got love for Armstrong Williams, or the republicans, or a lot of dems for that matter.

Denise your anaylisis tells me that this type of thinking is a religion to you. It is my oppinion that this type of thinking can cloud a persons judgment and block out truth. Its a defense mechanism. Denise I am so tired of people and thier social spin on things that appear to be black and white. Dont get me wrong, this behavior comes from all sectors left and right All races. But that dosent make it right. To be honest your analysis is biased ( because of your type of thinking). Your looking for monsters and sometimes creating. Bottom line if you hire that Armorossa we saw on the Aprentice I believe you will loose.

As for your boy Jesse Jackson I despise him as well. He is a hypocrit, what he did was pure cooning. A 60 year old married preacher should have been smart enough not to get his employees pregnant in the time of Aids. He knew how the shit was spread through unprotected sex and he choose to indulge anyway. Are you aware that the people infected at the highest rates at this time are black women lots of them married. Partially Because thier husbands are bringing that shit home with them.

Ill even tell you something that makes me sick to my stomach. The black christian right in thier attact on homosexuality is saying that the aids rate its so high because these men are on the DL That is happening too much, but everyone in the black community should know that it is mostly spread by men fucking women outside of marraige without using condoms. But they focus on gays why because of religion. Hypocritical. YOu smartly pointed this shit Denise. Mark

Anway Denise I am not going to debate you and Ugz on certain Items because I already know were you guys are comming from. It is more than obvious to me that Jeese Jackso is a clown, his actions are indefensable. Especially during the time of aids. Densise are you aware that they want everyone in dc betweem the ages of 14-86 to get an aids test. That is an inditement on the entire city I love with all my heart. You have got to be kidding me. Or do you not think that aids is caused by having unprotected sex with someone infected. I you guys are serious lets start pointing this energy in the same direction. Lets come up with some ideas, please remember that the neo cons started thier revolution with ideas around a table, they got support from thousands of people via the internet and media. We can use blogs in the same way. Peace. Mark

Anonymous said...

You lost me a little here Mark; but I'll try.
Religion with me? Maybe. I do see things as either Black or White; to me there are no gray areas to consider.
I do not hate Jesse Jackson;my problem with him and those in his market like the NAACP, Urban League; etc... are that they tackle the issues and causes that cannot change Our lives... the easy stuff. My conspiracy theorist's side tells me that this is intentional... that they are paid to not live up to their potential; as someone wrote to me and said; they are paid to be still.

I do not look for monsters... I expect monsters. I know that this game of life is different for Blacks and Whites... and I stand by my thesis: Skin color makes all the difference... and I know that you know that... it is everywhere and in everything... just turn on the news.
What makes my wrong any more wrong because my skin is Black?
My skin being Black, I say... My skin is my sin.

Mark. The Black Christian Right, as you call them. . . are attacking homosexuality because it garners them White support. In most cases it is monetary. To me they are more than just hypocritical. . . to me it borders on evil; and it does not hold water with the "Christian" tenets.

1. You are so right, about the way that the disease is being spread in Our communities. I think that the proliferation comes from a lot of brothers being incarcerated, and then comes out and pass it on... I haven't seen nor heard of any studies that say men are getting AIDS from women...

2. Gay in the boogie man; and the way the Right has found to infiltrate the Black community; instead of dealing with the Black community. Once again, We are set up to be the soldiers in a fight that they started.

3. Now it is that Homosexuality threatens the sanctity of heterosexual marriage? And the Black paid prostitutes should be ashamed to utter such nonsense, in public, with straight faces...
Instead of tackling what are the real forces that threaten marriage, like adultery for instance; how about bastardization?

Mark, you are letting yourself get hemmed up; I understand your frustration... but you have to be willing to argue the points out... I asked you guys before how should WE? A couple of weeks ago, I was having a back and forth for days with a highly intelligent Black woman... she wore me out... but it was the good kind... at the end of this exchange that got heated at times; she said to me that it was good because it was crisp and sharp and that this is how those in the pass had to hammer things out and get Us moving... it is basic Mark.

I'll debate with you and FN and UGZ, and a few others because at the end of the day you can take something from it; rather it be another way of seeing it... and you work on your analysis; or just the opposite... you hone your argument against it.
Either way it goes you come away with something. I am learning to temper my words; to get to a place much greater with my thoughts... but there still are no gray areas for me... there is no inbetweens...things are right or wrong.

And We are in some serious shit... the only way I see it happening is that We decide the issues... and We analyze the most prudent and practical ways to handle them... then WE have to come up with a way to put them out there in the community... Linking Blogs, Bloggers with the same aims have to work... people who are willing to analyse and present their perspectives; And the biggest thing; decide what "ish" makes no difference - all the things that We are bogging Ourselves down with and deluding Ourselves and energies from doing the things that WE need to do... like who or what someone is sleeping with... you know that that is pathetic.

Let Us get serious???? hit me up at my email:

I have something that is bothering me; How should We handle people from Our community who are anti-thetical to Our community's progress?

With the Right's devious infiltration of said community; utilizing it's weakness against it, We cannot continue to just ignore (Criminals, Lacivious Politicians, fake Activists, Some Black Republicans etc...) Their no messages filter out...and you know most people believe what they hear or read... so We have to come up with a counter....

Dangerfield said...

Denise the essence behind the rant in my comment is about Amorossa, I think Amorossa caused Kwame the Job, I think Kwame should have never have picked Amorossa based on her prior behavior. That is an obvious fact to me, if used properly conspiracy theorism can serve us well. However if you use to excuse behavior of lets say Cynthia McKinney hitting a cop, or Jesse Jackson cooning it up, or OJ Killing his wife that person is hurting our people. As a black man who grew up amongst black people and have seen the good and bad, I can honestly say I have first hand witnessed behavior by black women that led to the Cynthia McKinney inciden, or the behavior that Amorossa displayed on the apprentice. Those behaviors are good old fashion attitude problems, these problems are helping to destroy our community. I am talking about the attitude that says I can treat the next man or woman anyway I want to. It is part of this blatant disrespect that we have going on that leds to so many young black men bieng murdured. To me you justified obviously anti-social behavior by Amorossa, any reasonable person who grew up or lives in the black community will tell you weve seen this before. Excusing anti-social behavior does not help our people, it says it is alright for black people to treat each other and everyone else in any way they seem fit. If you or any other black people want to pretend like we (black people) have issues with our behavior bieng over the top and respect other human bieng have at it. As for Ugz, Ill admit Ugz is smarter than me from a mental capacity point of view. But the debating with Ugz is a waste of time. Ugz will never insist that black people take responsibility, this is leading to the deaths of many many black people you guys say you love. If the man is trying to get us ( which I wont dispute), this is still no justification for attitudes like Amorossa or Cynthia McKinney. If I have to debate a sister as smart as you( And its obvious you tower over me in the brains departmen) about basic human respect issues it really makes sad. Please stop excusing bad behavior. Mark

Dangerfield said...

To give you one example think about how most black men give black men a free past in regards to how we treat women. I was in college with this super militant , we protested, took over, buildings,ect. However all of this militantness and awareness has not stopped this brother from beating up his wives. Even in the movement treatment black men towards black women is not as progressive as thier rhetoric you should know this as well as me. By the way supper militant guy got divorced partially because of beating up his wife, his married again and the talk is that he still has problems keeping his hands of black women he supposedly honors so much. Mark

P.S Denise I have seen his abusive behavior towards black women first hand. Either we wake up and improve of we do what we have been doing for the last years and continue to be on the bottom. Our choice.

Anonymous said...

mark, u must have under estimated your effect on me, my brother. I am with you more in life than our arguments on the blog world.

I will be with u fighting for our dignity. please never forget tht

Anonymous said...

Your encounter in the grocery store is what I was taught to call "being POLITE", something YOU were OBVIOUSLY not (taught OR are.)

Why do [white]people put their "grown-ass" children in shopping carts? To BE POLITE (aka not getting in everyone's way and thinking that you are entitled to do whatever you want, whenever you want)children are kept out from underfoot, instead of being allowed to roam around the store, grabbing things and screaming their heads off. For the same reason - TO BE POLITE, in case you haven't grasped that, yet- the mother asked you if her child was bothering you; most people who are in polite, civilized society don't allow their children to annoy other people. A LOT of others could take a lesson, here.

The other adults probably started talking to you when they saw that you were TRYING to be polite (even though, as you tell us, you were only PRETENDING to)they figured they could engage you in conversation,too, instead of worrying that you hate them anda might be thinking all kinds of racist, hateful thoughts about white people in your head - OH, WAIT - you were!! I guess they'd be right to ignore you, then.

What do you want,then, field-negro (YOUR self-chosen moniker): people to ignore you, so you can claim they hate you/fear you because you're black, or for people to TALK to you, so you can claim they hate you/fear you because you are black. You've just told us it doesn't really matter; you're going to hate either way. What WOULD have made YOU more comfortable? Shopping where only black people live? I live in a black neighborhood; I'm white. I'm uncomfortable a lot of times, too, but NEVER because people were being POLITE to me, and their children were kept under control. Interesting.

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