After watching this video on racially insensitive things some White People say to Black people, Salon.com News Editor Prachi Gupta decided to comment: "Man, with so many rules, it’s getting pretty hard to be a white person these days. We feel for you." Hmmmm.....
A stupid response to a real issue that this satirical piece was meant to show: that no one wants to be treated like an animal in a petting zoo (touching hair/skin without asking), as if their skin color defines their experience, like stereotypes are automatically true (I'm Black so I MUST listen to whatever Rapper is out right now or I must have grown up in the hood), nor do I want to be treated as if my race automatically connects me to whatever Black person they see on TV. There is no need to PROVE you're connected to Blackness ("I'm down with Black people 'cause ***insert stereotypical Black lingo/archetype/friend name here**) or empathetic to our history. No one walks up to Jews asking about how the Holocaust affected their people without a sincere reason to. I understand that I have to excuse ignorance at times in order to answer sincere questions so that there are less misconceptions out there regarding race, but it would just take two seconds to think about how the some of the same things done in reverse would make you feel a lot less human. And no, Pratchi Gupta, these "rules" aren't just for White people. They apply to you, too.
It's not asking questions that's wrong. It's the way you ask them. Acknowledging race and the diversity of backgrounds is never the problem. It's actually the solution. However, it cannot be done while ignoring the basic standard of interpersonal communication. There's a big difference between "I watched Amistad...dag, your people had it bad," and "I learned a lot about the black experience in America watching Amistad this weekend. I really want to learn more." The first isn't the opening to a healthy discussion (what am I going to reply to that with? "Yeah, it's effed up what YOUR people did to mine. And are still doing to mine based on the school to prison pipeline which has become the new form of slavery..."). The second seems like someone sincerely learning about a new element of another race's experience.
This video is pretty comical because many Blacks who've spent a significant time around non-Blacks have heard at least one of those statements in some form or another. I think if more people took a second to think before they spoke with the listener in mind, we'd have less offenses and misconceptions about each other.