Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chronicles of Life ... What not to say

Even in the 21st century, sensitivity and diversity seem to be an issue in the community. Some people just don’t know what to say to each other.
Perhaps I need to write a training manual to help people avoid making ignorant comments.
I have been inspired by an incident today.
I was rocking a head wrap, as I sometimes do, and walked passed someone. She preceded to ask me, “What’s with the Aunt Jemima look?”
Well you could have just knocked me over with a feather. I was flabbergasted.
This isn’t the first time I've worn the head wrap. In fact, each time people have responded with comments such as, “Oh you look so chic, sophisticated, stylish,” and so on.
Normally, I don’t have comebacks for ignorant comments. This time I did say something.
“This is not an Aunt Jemima look,” (and I didn’t even catch an attitude, I might add).
But what I should have said is, “And just what do you mean by that?”
Obviously it wasn’t a compliment. It felt more like an insult to me.
Aunt Jemima doesn’t really denote a positive connotation in my opinion.
Look at the old school images of Aunt Jemima, and what do you see? A a plump, smiling, bright-eyed, black woman wearing a head rag. Aunt Jemima was even marketed as a former slave.
Above all, Aunt Jemima is the most common representation of a “mammy.” Who in their right might would mistake me for a mammy?
In the words of my friend Cee, “I don’t know who you think you are, but most importantly I don’t know who you think I am.”
Whether or not the person knows the story behind Aunt Jemima is unimportant. The fact that she even thought a comment like that was acceptable is just disturbing.
Then again, I can’t be that surprised to hear her ask me that. She’s asked in the past if I rolled my neck and do other things “that black people do.”
I know she’s not the only one who thinks like that and sees no harm in asking ignorant questions. Thus, the need for my manual.
Fan Club Prez, and a few others, thinks I should have told her off or drop kicked her one time.
That’s not my style. And what would it have solved? She would have still been basking in her ignorance, while I would have looked equally ignorant and gotten arrested.
Above all, I have a fear of getting arrested and ending up as Big Shirley’s girlfriend in the pen. You know they probably would trade me around for a pack of gum and cigarettes. It just ain’t happening.
I’d love to print off pictures of myself and Aunt Jemima, then give them onto her with a note that says, “Ignorance is bliss.”
Then again, I’m not that confrontational. Besides the moment has passed, so there’s only one thing left to say, “Mrs. Jane Doe, you get a DO BETTER AWARD!”
Her prize is an autographed copy of my forth coming manual, “What Not to Say: Dealing with Diversity and Sensitivity.”

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