It happened again, people—this time at work:
My coworker said, “You’re not a real black person, right Shae?”
In my head, I was thinking:
Since I’ve been put on the stand to prove my “blackness” countless times, you’d think I’d be quick to tongue-lash anyone who went there with me. But since I was the newest and only black employee, I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers just yet by giving the guy a history lesson. Yet it bothered me that I didn’t respond. This kind of scenario happens to a lot of us. So I created a handy list of responses so that we’re not caught off guard next time it happens.
(I say it’s an appropriate list—but appropriateness is relative. You be the judge)
1. Apologize and ask them for lessons on how to be “more black.”
2. Take off your socks and shoes and pick imaginary cotton while humming a Negro Spiritual… then ask, “Is this what you prefer?”
3. Smack them dead in the face and say, “Oops, my inner-Basketball Wives just came out.”
4. Tell them: “No, I’m not the black person you were expecting. I’m more of the Barack Obama, Toni Morrison, Melissa Harris-Perry, Martin Luther King Jr., Janelle Monáe, bell hooks, Ethel Hedgeman Lyle, Nat Turner, Michelle Obama, Dr. Boyce Watkins, Malcom X, Langston Hughes, Nelson Mandela, Mae Jemison, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Olivia Pope type black person” (But you gotta drop at least 10 names or it doesn’t work).
5. Recount the story of how years ago when your great great great great so and so was a slave, the master beat them so badly, he beat the black out of him. And ever since then, all of his grandchildren and their grandchildren and their grandchildren were born whitewashed.
6. Tell them you had brain surgery so that you could speak as well as all the white folk.
7. Explain that you’re actually just wearing a costume and you’re not an actual black person. You just wanted to jump on the cultural appropriation trend and see what it’s like to be a minority for a day. Then invite them on your next venture to South Africa next for a dose of poverty tourism.
8. Proceed to put your hands on the floor *face down ass up* and have your very best twerking session—and then demand that they give you the best Polka dance lesson ever— and if they can’t—tell them they’re not are a real white person (if not white, demand they do something insultingly stereotypical that person’s culture).
9. Look at them like they’re the stupidest person in the world and tell them you don’t know what they’re talking about… Or you could use the words of our friend Antoine Dodson:
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