Oct 3, 2011

Dumb White Girl? Here!

Shhh... we’re not supposed to talk about it.

During University, I had a good friend, Deron. We lived together for a semester – and I never even had sex with him (I know… shocker!). Deron and I got on really well and we had some good times together; we shared the hobby of making fun of other people's work in our program behind their backs. I guess we both had minor “artistic god complexes”, so our friendship was a good fit... for the most part.

He was from the Bahamas and had been coming to Toronto for school since he was 13. He went to a swanky private boarding school during high school and then attended U of T for four years. His parents bought him a car in both countries so he would always be able to “get around”. In addition to his vastly expensive wardrobe directly from Ralph Lauren's catalogue and various techo-toys, he let it slip once that he had 5 servants on his family estate in the Bahamas.

Now, would you say that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth? I would say a big fat “YES!” and that’s fine… good for him and his family… my issue arose with his artwork.

Every. Single. Piece. that he created had to do with being an oppressed black man in a white society.
Are you fucking kidding me? 
In reality, he was an over-privileged, sheltered private school boy, and on canvas, he was an angry black man.

I would like to think that I’m not completely naive, but I just didn't get it. I confronted him about it once in a very joking, nonchalant way and he jumped down my throat spewing out remarks like,
“You have no idea what it’s like to be me!” 
“You have no fucking clue what it’s like to be black!” 
Hummm… please enlighten me, because from where I stood, his life looked pretty damn good!

I am aware that harsh racism does still exist in many parts of the world, 
and that is truly a tragedy. 

But Deron? He totally road the double standard highway. If I played Pearl Jam too loudly, he would complain that my “white music” was annoying him – music that is emotional and poetic – and he would try to drown me out with harsh gangster rap songs about drugs, violence and that's demeaning towards women. Could you just imagine if I called it “black music”? He would have signed me up as a card-carrying member of the white hoods if I said that. Good lord! I would NEVER have even considered spitting gas on THAT fire.

So, my point and question is simply that I get so frustrated by people that constantly dwell on the past… not even THEIR past… we’re talking two hundred years ago. People came (and still come) to Canada to escape racism. So, after years of over-coming oppression and being awarded the same rights and opportunities (if not more) than other races, why do some choose to dwell on the past? Or obsess over the colour of their skin?

{Credit: Viewaskew Photos}
I’m not saying forget it, but learn from it and be stronger for it.

Am I just been naive?

I’ll finish with the wise words of Hooper X from Chasing Amy, to whom I often thought Deron was similar to; although he wasn’t gay like HooperX, he was definitely a well-groomed, advantaged metro-sexual leading a stage personality in the name of A.R.T.

Hooper X:  I need to sell the image to sell the book. I mean, would the audience still buy the whole black rage angle if they found out the book was written by a... you know...

Banky Edwards:  Faggot?

Hooper X:  When you say it, it sounds so sexy.

14 comments:

  1. Yeah, it's hard to touch this issue without being judged as racist etc.(unless you're Eminem). But I think you've delivered your point well here. It's one thing to acknowledge your roots and history and be proud of it; but to exploit it for any kind of benefit is just plain wrong.

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  2. Not sure. I DON'T know what it was like to be him. But I'm sure he dealt with his share of racial prejudice and judgement even with his affluent upbringing. But oppressed? Not sure i would buy that either.

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  3. @Sweaty

    Eminem. BAHA!
    Umm, yeah... no.

    It's a very touchy subject but it really bothered me. It would be along the lines of me focusing all my art on angry feminist perspectives... why? Just because I'm a white woman? I'm not angry nor would I really consider myself a feminist (to the extreme sense of the word, anyway)

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  4. Apologizing for the past has gotten old. Did my ancestors treat others horribly because of their race or creed? That is pretty much a certainty.

    However, I do not hold those beliefs. I do not live my life in such a way that I demeen or judge people who are different than me.

    I cannot change the past but I can help change the future . . . but only if my hands are not tied by the past.
    Jenn

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  5. i try not to judge people based strictly off their race. if i get to know you and you are a jerk, then you are a jerk. not a white jerk or a black jerk or asian jerk. just a jerk. but i am not naive to the fact that people will judge me simply because i am a black woman. it might be because i am Texan and racism is still very much a thing here in the South but i try very much not to let it effect my day to day life. and i don't use my blackness as an excuse to behave ridiculously. it's one thing for your art; be it writing, or painting, or music, to reflect where you're from or what you've experienced, but to just use it as a gimmick is...cheating? i dunno. just not right. i woulda called him out on it too.

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  6. @Bre

    I really appreciate your perspective.
    Really, really :)

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  7. What are you doing inside my head Lady E????

    I have a post on the same subject (although a slightly different angle)brewing but I'm too effing angry to write it just yet.

    Hmmm ..........

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  8. @Sarah

    Hahaha.
    If it makes you feel better, this happened years ago and I'm still annoyed.

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  9. Love, Racism, and Beauty.

    What do they all have in common?

    They all differ in the eye of the beholder.

    As a black man with a silver spoon in his mouth, he has it SO MUCH HARDER than a white boy born into the same privileges.

    For example: If he were white and rich, he'd be able to buy politicians and policemen so he could get away with murder. You know, like the Menendez brothers.

    Instead, he's rich and black, and would get arrested/convicted for his crimes, like OJ Simpson.

    ....wait. Oh shit, nevermind.

    I guess two-faceness is universal. Rich, poor, black, white. We can all pretend to be someone else if we want to. Only the people who know the REAL us can judge.

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  10. The thing is, even though he comes from an affluent family he probably has to deal with a lot of shit, on a daily basis, just for his skin color. There's a reason why "Driving While Black" is a crime with repercussions and "Driving While White" is not.

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  11. @Tsaristsa

    I totally get that - and I am aware that that is a much bigger problem in the US than in Canada.

    Trust me, I lived with him - he was not socially hard done by or stereotyped... at all.

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  12. LMAO dosweatthesmallstuff--you're so right...I'm not touching, because I'm not Em.

    With that said, Lady E-you always serve it up best!

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  13. Hmmm, it's hard to say whether he was justified or not, since we don't know his side of the story. Does it sound like he had no reason to portray himself as oppressed? Well, yes. But who knows?

    I will say kudos to you for even broaching the subject. People are so terrified of offending others (feel free to fill in the blank with any race, religion or political belief you'd like) that they say nothing. Dialogue is good! Keeping it in, not so much.

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  14. This is a really complicated post!

    We live in Canada; not as harsh as the states.

    But.

    I know there are still haters out there.

    I will just say well done in making us think my friend.

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