Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Say Whut????

I had to pause for a second. Did he just say what I think he said??? Here I am...cooler than a spring day in Antarctica...custom made from head to toe...fly suit and tie...fresh Burberry cologne...headed to work. I came in contact with a young, white boy in a store. He couldn't have been any older than 25. We made eye contact. He says..."Whussup, bro???"



Excuse me? I am in my corporate gear...armed and ready to take on the world and that's how I'm greeted as I walk into a place of business? If I were in my jeans and Timbs, I probably would have let it slide. But not that day. Oh no! I'm suited up in my grown man gear. You will address me as "sir", especially when you consider the fact that YOU need MY business. Actually, he should do that regardless to what I was wearing out of respect for me. But I had to school the sukka. My response was..."Excuse me?" I looked around as if he was talking to someone else. He then changed his response..."Can I help you, sir?"

Ahhhh. That's betta. You will give me my respect! I command it and I'll give it to you. The moral of the story is that we can't let other people say "whateva they feel like saying" to us. I digress...


"Fried chicken anyone?" "You speak really well." "Is that your real hair?"

In 2008, you'd think the taboo subjects and phrases would be clearly outlined and understood by all when it comes to what is and is not acceptable to say to a Black colleague. But that's far from the case. Here are 10 things you never want to say to a Black coworker or boss.

1) You're so articulate
You're so … articulate? Smart? Different? Yes, the speaker may intend a compliment, but what may be meant as praise instead comes across as being condescending. It implies the person being complimented is an exception to the rule and is exhibiting behavior atypical of others of his or her ethnic background.

"I haven't had it said to me, maybe I'm not articulate enough, but I've heard a number of Blacks say they've had it said to them … you're so articulate or you're so smart or intelligent," says Berlinda Fontenot-Jamerson, former director of diversity at Disney ABC Television Group. In her many years in the diversity industry, Fontenot-Jamerson has seen and heard it all. Some of it still makes her cringe.

"I feel like education and awareness is my mission, so I try to be kind when I check people to help them understand what they just said," she says. "I might make a joke to help them understand that it was a faux pas, and hopefully I have good enough relationships with them to have further conversations with them."

2) Is That Your Real Hair?
Danielle Robinson, director of diversity, talent and organizational design at Diageo, a wine, beer and spirits company, said she was amazed when she got this question from a colleague. But instead of getting angry, Robinson explained to her coworker why the question was inappropriate.

"There are a number of ways to respond. But I told the person they had no idea if they might be asking that question to someone suffering from a medical condition [such as] someone recovering from cancer treatment," she says. "I wound up giving this one woman a little lesson because you never know what the situation might be of the person you're asking a question."

3) "You" people
"I've heard this one several times," says Fontenot-Jamerson. Who exactly are "You people," and how do they differ from regular people? Use this poorly chosen phrase at your own risk.

4) Do you eat a lot of … (plug in the offending stereotype here)
Some stereotypes simply refuse to die. There's nothing wrong with natural curiosity about the ethnic eating habits of some of your coworkers. The problem lies in focusing on stereotypical Black fare such as fried chicken, watermelon, etc. It reveals the speaker has a very limited and narrow perception of Black culture and cuisine.

"One of my young relatives told me when they go out on interviews they may get queries about fried chicken and the stereotypes about the food that we like to eat," says Fontenot-Jamerson.

5) Why are you so angry?
This one is more often directed at Black males, thanks in large part to the media, which often portrays Black men as being angry and/or criminals.

6) Why are you acting white?
Consider this a relative of "You're so articulate." Why would exhibiting proper behavior, manners or dialect be categorized as acting white? If that's the case, what does it mean to act Black?

7) You don't sound Black over the phone.
What does Black sound like?

8) I don't think of you as Black.
DiversityInc Partner and Cofounder Luke Visconti received a letter from a reader who was presented with this particular compliment. He responded, "What you are experiencing is the first instance of a person accepting another person who is outside of their 'tribe.' Although the words and the sentiment are insulting, the person expressing them is (usually) not consciously trying to insult you. In their backward and ignorant way, they are actually trying to give you a compliment."

9) You graduated from where?
This particular offense came to our attention directly from one of our readers, Beatriz Mallory, who wrote, "In a career of nearly 30 years, I've heard them all. I am both African American and Hispanic, so I get it from both sides, on top of being a female. In trying to recall the worst, I'd have to nominate this one. It is the unguarded question "YOU went to CORNELL? WOW!" The implication is that in their mind, someone like me isn't automatically worthy of such an accomplishment. I never express my annoyance."

10) The N-word
The ultimate faux pas. Just because you've seen repeats of Dave Chapelle's show where the word is used liberally, that doesn't give you--or anyone--license to make conversational use of the word. To read more on the debate, read Double Standard: Can You Use the N-Word? in the Jan./Feb. 2008 issue of DiversityInc.

And don't fall into the trap of thinking substituting an "A" for the "er" makes the word acceptable. Fontenot-Jamerson believes it's a word used far too casually among youths, both white and Black.

"The new generation uses the N-word very loosely [and] the white kids do it too," she says. "I've been in the company where the youngsters have been using the word because they don't understand the history that comes with it."

Like Fontenot-Jamerson, Robinson looks at each misspoken phrase as an opportunity to teach and educate. "A lot of the questions are usually out of ignorance or genuine curiosity. So I always look at opportunities like these as a chance to educate," says Robinson. "Instead of getting angry, you don't want them to make this mistake with someone else. There are ways to ask a question more inquisitively that won't offend."

Has this ever happened to you? Your thoughts...


i.can't.complain. said...

thnx for this one, 12k.

i mean, mr. 12k


im the appointed ambassador to all things african american at my job.

they are all white and honestly i don't think that most of them have actually spoken to a black person in depth before.

until there was me.

i get this stuff all the time.

some of the old birds even have had the nerve to call me "girl" or "gal"

i've promptly corrected them

i'm the 1st one to be consulted on matters involving 50 cent or jayz

and if i had a quarter for everytime i've been asked if my hair was real, if Black people go tanning, if i'd ever seen anyone get shot(i was born in detroit), or why a particular black person said, did, or thought something...

well, mr. 12k

i would have an awful lot of quarters.


Mizrepresent said...

Ah, Diversity, i love it! Excellent post 12Kyle, you brought up most of the statements and attitude that float around the workspace, when you are the lone "negro" in the office. My experience has been quite the same and challenging too. Yep, they want to touch your hair...they often think you live poorly and are quite surprised..."you buying a house...you have blueprints"...Duh????? What i can't build a house? And then they always assume i want their stuff, hand me downs....SMH, OMG, this is the worst!

have a great day, heading off to the plantation now!

12kyle said...

@ -1-
I too am the dude that they come to when they wanna talk about hip hop and sports.

You should have seen me last year when we went through the whole 'Michael Vick saga'. SOME days I felt like I was giving a press conference b/c there'd be a few people huddled around my desk. Because I'm a Vick fan...I had to be the voice of reason to a "few of them"

@ Miz
That is so true. Why can't you buy a house and live the american dream like errrybody else?

PRO said...

Happens all the time... Amongst my Black friends. Especially the "White voice she uses when trying to carry on two conversations from the job- one with me via phone and the other with her nearby coworker. We really are always joking about it. I for one appreciate the way we can almost take on two "personas" - one with our (own) people and the other with nonblack people. It's a fact we can't deny... Diversity in a nutshell.

L. Renee' said...

Hey 12Kyle,

I went to a white school that only had about 250 of us. I was the only black in most of my classes. The professor would constantly call on me to give the black perspective.

The white guys would say, you are so pretty for a black girl. Yeah..that was suppose to be a compliment.

The white girls use to always want to touch my hair and ask me crazy questions like.. Why do you need a shower cap? You don't wash your hair everyday? LOL
You put oil in your hair? LOL

When I got into the work world I had a full education on white culture. That is why I wasn't surprised when my boss looked surprised to see me during my interview because she thought she was going to interview a white girl. LOL
I guess my name and phone voice didn't tip her off. LOL

Urban Thought said...

Where you standing in the pantry at work with me yesterday or what?

I've experienced all of this on a regular basis.

My experience yesterday I have to save for a post but it seems as though people feel comfortable speaking to me in what is considered black talk.

What up bro? G? Or what have you. I use the word sir a lot regardless to who I talk to so I expect to be addressed the same or at least by name or something more polite than bro. I only call my siblings bro... no one else.

Opinionated Diva said...

I'm LOL, but it's so not funny. I've experienced a lot of these. I don't handle it well at all either. Especially when my White co-worker flat out asked me if my hair was real because it looked "too nice". Then she wanted to touch my hair. *insert record scratch*

Yes...she TRIED to touch it!

I had to put her in her place and I wasn't nice about it at all. She'll think twice before she says anything to me again - ha!

Queen of My Castle said...

Loving this one. I get the You are so articulate. You don't sound Black. You act White. bits ALL. THE. TIME. It's to the point that I actually expect to hear it. It pisses me off. Obviously I am oblivious to exactly what "White" or "Black" sound like. I just use proper English and enunciate my

I hate when they ask about the hair, seriously. It's almost as if we are not expected to have naturally long hair. I got this one a lot before I started chopping to off.

Okay, okay...I digress

I swooned after reading Burberry cologne. LOL

prettyparker said...

Excellent post 12Klye. Yes, same experience as many of you. Went to majority white high school (11% minority, 8% black) and things were cool for me then. I loved high school and only had one experience of blatant racism that was quickly addressed by the administration.

So I was not prepared for college at Miami U in Oxford, OH. Oh the racism! Oh the blatant, outward, in-your-face-because-we're-a-private-school tucked-away-in-the-country racism!

I was forced to room with a white girl and couldn't request a black roommate because "we're about diversity here, if two minorities bunked together there would be no diversity." When I pointed out that the white girls could and were granted their requests to bunk with non-minorities, the response was "students are adjusting to new environments and we want to make the transition as comfortable as possible for everyone."

I was told I talked white, didn't act black like the people on TV and was sooooo cool (just because I'm black).

Folks on my job think I must be extraordinarily smart to have the position I have. They all want to 'hang out' with me because obviously I must know all of the great places to go (though I've never gone anywhere with any of them outside of company holiday parties). They'll say "don't mess with Parker" and cock their head to the side or snap their fingers (as though that is how would respond to a foolish question. And I've never done that).

Oh my goodness, did this post strike a nerve or what!? Sorry for the long comment.

prettyparker said...

oh, and not just white people do this, black folks do it too! I'll never forget when I first moved to this area a black co-worker saw a picture of my kids and hubby on my desk and inquired about them. I said these were my kids and my husband. She said "are they both his?"

I politely told her yes and never again said more than 'hello/goodbye' during my employment there.

12kyle said...

We are "bi-lingual" and we don't even know it. LoL. Its very interesting how we balance it.

@ LRenee
I know your maiden name. I can see how they may have thought that you were white. I feel you.

@ Urban Thought
Sometimes we have to "check these fools" and put em in their place. I don't like doing it but it needs to be done

@ OD
When will they learn??? You don't eva...eva, eva, eva, eva, eva touch a sista's hair!!! LMAO

@ Queen
I never understood why they think that we aren't capable of pronouncing and enunciating our words. We can talk.

@ prettyparker
Wow! I hear you, sis. Dayum! They were wrong for making you room with a white girl.

"Don't mess with parker." LOL

Sometimes we're our worst enemies.

Don said...

"You people," The N-word, and "I don't think of You as black are all definite no-no's.

They say the ish on purpose.

The Jaded NYer said...

oooh, I'm guilty of a faux-pas here... I often joke with my friends that when I need to make an official call about work, etc, I put on my "white" voice LOL!!!

*steps back and waits for the disapproving looks*

And you already know about my run-in with racist mf-ers so I won't go into that again...

Anonymous said...

Man, this was your longest post yet.

I can't stand it when people ask me if my twists are my real hair. Ummmmm, yes. Then they proceed to compliment them. How about you reverse that order. Would they not look nice if they were fake?

I'll be back to read the rest later. I'm running low on energy.

Brad said...

Great Post. I've mentioned before that I grew up in the HOOD. Got bussed to grade school and went to a school that was 1/2 way between the hood and "them" for Junior and Highschool. So I've been exposed to every slur, dis, question and backhanded comment imaginable.

The thing that gets me most is peoples reaction to the fact that I can engage them in intelligent conversation. And that I can think on their level. They expect me to use "YO" "Wassup" and "nah Mean" at the beginning and end of every sentence.

But here's a counter point to the blog topic. In fairness to some other ethnic groups their experience with "us" is definitely jaded. (sorry Nyer). They see the images portrayed in movies, on the news and then every blue moon they run into us at the store or somewhere like that and we act an azz. So, they have no idea that many of us are actually smart, good mothers and fathers, hard working etc. I would imagine it's similar to the perception we have of Mexican people all being illegal, working manual jobs and not having car insuranc. It's what and how you're exposed to other cultures that defines your view.

PCD (Pretty Circle Drawer) said...

1-10, had them all...ignorance knows no end. but now, i speak up...before, i'd overlook it or smh. no more of that

12kyle said...

@ Don
All 3 of those are grounds for gettin yo ass kicked by me! LOL

@ Jaded NYer
I gotta tip my scully to you. You've handled yourself very well in the face of racism. That story that you told last week was unreal!

@ Jewells
I've had longer posts. Lol

Don't let em touch your hair

@ Brad
Eggplant, right? LOL. Kids can be soooo cruel

Ignorance knows no color or age

The F$%K it List said...

I work on Wall Street need I say more!

I have been asked if someone could touch my hair because it looks so soft. I have natural hair and no one (including some of the darker hue) believe it because it is straight. I had one manager tell me I should get an Afro because they are sexy.. To which I replied do you know what store I could purchase said Afro and when should I make a complaint to HR before or after... Never happened again.

During the Diddy trial I was the number one consultant on what should have happen, what did happen (like I was there) and why do these people act this way? My favorite quote "isn't that the point of making money to get away from the ghetto?"

I'll leave you with this story... I was in a sales meeting with my entire team and we were done for the most part with work but there were still a few questions when the conversation turned to Snoop Dogg, I proceeded to get up because I was in a bad mood anyway (2 month preggers) and my colleague turned to me and said "Krishna can you tell me how I teach my wife to drop it like its hot?"
Remember that episode where Dave Chappelle goes off on the white boy at work (MY NAME IS HOV), well he didn't have anything on me.. only I didnt lose my job. And the guy was reprimanded.

karrie b. said...

this whole post was the motha effin truth!


i'm faced with this nonsense every single day. i work in an office full of jews and the younger ones think it's cute to "wassaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapppppp" me.

or this russian i'm dating said "nigga" while singing lyrics to a song.

no buddy. i'm afraid not.


karrie b. said...

my "white" voice has actually gotten me some proper customer service tho.


AlooFar said...

I'm lovin' this blog.

Smaragd said...

first timer and enjoying...

i took a class in Berlin a coupla years ago, I was the only black in the midst of pple from all planets of the earth! so u can imagine the endless qstns! "do you blush?" when i said no, i was told that i do blush but it just doesnt show cuz am black and that if i really want to know, i shld feel my ears when i'm embarrassed, shy etc "they'll be hot".
is that ur hair? *eyes rolling into my head!* i got that too many times!

very nice post proud father of the 3 best boys in the world!...lol

Eb the Celeb said...

The questions about my hair at work are endless... everytime I come in with a new style the white girls in the office want to touch it and have me explain how it got that way... that's the only one I have to hear on the regular... I get the "talking white" thing from the fam and friends when I answer my phone like a professional and not a hoodrat...

12kyle said...

@ The F$%k it List
Wall Street? Wow! Somebody told you to grow an afro? Are you kiddin? The nerve of some folk! Consultant for Ditty. That's funny. I had so many people ask me about OJ till it aint funny no more.

Drop it like its hot? OMG! Maybe you should've slapped that fool. I remember that episode of Chappelle. Classic. Sooooon funny

@ karrie b.
Thanks for coming through to the 12th Planet. Come back. We're here everyday like bad traffic.

Tell that russian that he needs to "skip" that word when he hears it in a song. That's grounds for getting yo azzed kicked! LoL

@ AlooFar
Thanks for coming through to the 12th Planet. Come back. We're here everyday...hangin out like wet clothes.

@ Smaragd
Thanks for coming through to the 12th Planet. Come back. We're here everyday...like the school bully

Do you blush? What kinda bs is that? Maybe u should've asked them if they bleed red when they get punched in the nose? LOL

@ Eb the Celeb
You can speak professional and ebonically, right? LOL. Good stuff

i.can't.complain. said...

12k, i like your

"we're here everyday like...."




PrettyBlack said...

It's funny that most of the things you brought up have been told to me or asked of me by my own kind especially the "is that your hair" or "you are so articulate"

What? Sisters can't grow their own hair these days? I mean damn! Where did you get this article from it's good.

PrettyBlack said...

Oh and why is it everytime I wear my T.O jersey a muthafucka of another color want's to step ugly with prettyblack and ask "do you like that guy?"

Yeah muthafucka why else would I be wearing the jersey assmonkey!?

This is how I answer that:

He's just how I like my men:

With a big mouth, big money, big game, and a big black beautiful body...need I say more?

Still_Pocahontaz said...

OOOOH Yeah…I get this all the time
Lets see,

What are you mixed with?
Is that your real hair?
What kind of name is that?
That name is to Urban for you…
You’re a quick learner, Im impressed?
I used to date a black girl once
I can go on and on
Don’t mess with her she’s tough, she don’t take no mess
I love your agressiveness


MsPuddin said...

ugh. I feel you. I'm either too black or too white. So technically I am the perfect mix that I am...

my hair is never real, but people think it is bcuz I'm light skin. So some how that works out too...

I'm sure you look fly in your suit, I would have recogzined the business ;p


12kylefan said...

Good post today Sir 12kyle... I can relate... My co-worker told me the other day that her family explains to THEIR children that blacks and whites are the same except Black people bake in the oven at 400 instead of 250. WTF?!?!

What makes you think I am a crispy casserole?!?! It's all good. She is ONE of TWO white people on a hallway FULL of PROFESSIONAL black educators that run circles around her CONSERVATIVE lilly white college degree... We outwit, outsmart, and out DRESS them on a daily basis. Look and learn instead of coming up with excuses and outrageous questions.

Boutique Mix Fashion said...

Fabulous post!! I've heard a few of those myself.......... after a couple of "wtf" looks, i've stopped getting the whole "girl" thing and now i've graduated to "young lady" with just enough emphasis on "la" for me to know they still mean "girl". LOL!! Oh and thanks for voting for MiMi!!!

12kyle said...

@ -1-
I wanna make sure that I greet all of the visitors to the Planet. But I have to let em know that we're here everyday. This ain't no blog where there's a post once ever 2 wks. I've got plennnnnty of stuff to yap about. LOL

@ Prettyblack
That articulate comment REALLY gets under my skin. What do they EXPECT you to say at work?

@ Poca
I've always found it funny that they wanna know what you're mixed with. Why does it matter?

Mannnn, I can't tell you how many white folks I saw get their azz kicked for messing with bruthas with their Micheal Vick jersey's on. LMAO!!!

@ MsP
Too light or too white? Aint that a bych?

@ 12kyle fan
WoW!!! It's almost unbelievable that a grown up would tell a child some bs like that.

@ Boutique Mix Fashion
I've never been a fan of that "girl" talk. As a man, you can't call me boy! LOL

Hadassah said...

I experience that a lot, too many too often it just leaves me shaking my head, speechless