You Had An Identity Crisis and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

10 bucks says it’s not Slim Shady.

I’ve always been a bit curious about people who had these experiences with outcastism in school and life. Mostly because I never dealt with them so I struggled to understand how people managed to feel so rejected by so many groups of people for doing nothing more than existing. Or at least that’s how it’s always presented. This was brought to my attention via one of those iReporter segments on CNN called “Being the ‘Token Black Guy’”.

I have no intention of making light of anybody’s struggles. Mmkay? Mmkay. Some of you all clearly had a hard time growing up. But I suppose what shocks me is that I feel like I should have been a prime target for the difficulties of life and school but wasn’t.

Let’s break it down. One, I’m mixed. According to Oprah and Maury, I should have all types of identity issues and complexes. But I did identify as “Black” so maybe that mitigated that issue. Two, I was probably 5’1″ until I was 16 years old. Do you know what it’s like to have a little sister who TOWERS over you? No? I do. That sh*t sucked. But despite my lack of height, I was always one of the most popular kids in school AND managed to make and play on the basketball team at various age/grade levels. And I ain’t no baller. I can ball, but there’s a reason I decided to become a thespian in 10th grade. Despite going to school in arenas where I was definitely in the minority – and being in all of the smart classes – I never ever felt like a token. Not once can I ever say that I felt like I was the representative for all Blackness.

Or like you know how people who tend to have some sort of racial identity issue tend to have gone through some phase of trying to fit into some box of what they were expected to be versus who they felt like they were internally? Yeah, never saw that box.

Okay, there was that one time – at bandcamp – where I was asked to teach people how to rap. And in one of my classes in high school, it was assumed that I could sing. I didn’t even have to audition for the lead singing role in our French Competition Chorus (yes, I was in one of those). I lost the hell out of that job though once it was determined that while I had no shame, I also had no real singing chops. Or at least I couldn’t sing like Aladdin. They still put me out front though. You’ve got to let a peacock fly.

Even then, I still didn’t feel any type of way about it. You want me to sing? Word. Bet that up. Let’s do it. Then again, I’ve always been okay with being a stereotype. And I mean that literally. One of my mottos has always been “you waiting for a n*gga to show up? N*gga here now”. I almost relish in it at times. I swear if I had a stack of one’s to throw up in the air right now, I’d do it. While drinking Hennessey. Through a straw. Even I’m amazed that I don’t have any tattoos.

Maybe my hindsight just sucks. Perhaps if I were to do a little examination of my own life I’d find the places where I wasn’t quite “Black” enough for the Black kids or “white” enough for the white kids. But at the same time, I’m not sure that my own temperament would ever allow me to give a f*ck. You might do you, but I’mma do me. And you will respect my gully at the same time. Life has always been that type of party for me. No matter where I go, I get along with everybody and never actually worry about how I’m being perceived. Well, that’s not completely true – I ain’t going full Trinidad James on anybody at work. But I did get spotted out in public by a coworker once while I had on a bandana and looked like an extra from Menace II Society apparently. That coworker never spoke to me that day but did tell a select group of my other coworkers that he saw me out and was damn near startled at what he saw. Mama say mama sa mamaku sah.

I never experienced an identity crisis of any sort though my little sister did. She wanted to be peach like my mama when we were little then then turned into Tupac’s wife when she was in middle school. I just chalk that up to self discovery though interestingly, my high yella sister had NOTHING but dark-skinned friends. She had one friend who was more brown than dark, but she was still a full oil change darker than my sister.

So I’m just curious about that experience. I also wonder if either I was too oblivious that I wasn’t accepted by anybody so I just didn’t realize it? Or maybe it’s more simple (humblebrag coming in 5…4…3…2…1) when you’re one of the popular kids, none of this stuff matters. SGA El Presidente? Check. Homecoming court? Check. Honor Society? Check. Sports? Check. But that didn’t happen despite anything. I pretty much Obama’d high school – got in good with the white women and the homeys. And I was smart. I always felt like the smart kids were as popular as the jocks where I lived. In fact, we were. But that’s neither here nor there

I guess the larger point is, how do these identity crises arise? Of any sort? Where does the tokenism come from? Is it a self-fulfilling prophesy or is it real and I just somehow managed to miss that whole boat despite some of my personal characteristics. Like I wonder how much of this type of stuff we bring on ourselves or if its just personality driven, so popularity is the great equalizer? Me no know.

What do you think? Did you have any identity issues or tokenism crises? When did your sense of self manifest itself?

Who are you?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. TEN WILL GET YOU TWENTY aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

DMVers: Along with REMINISCE happening this weekend on Saturday, December 1, 2012 (RSVP for free before 11pm here: http://reminiscedc.eventbrite.com), Panama will be a panelist at Busboys & Poets at 5th and K on Monday, December 3rd from 7-9PM. The name of the panel is The Black Man’s Wishlist moderated by Krystal Glass, and will discuss relationships from a male’s perspective, which is perfect for the holiday season! Head to krystalglassempire.com for more information and tickets!

Also, the homey Crystal Marie from AWordorThree.com reminded me that today is Giving Tuesday. What this means is that for all you folks who blew your wad on Black Friday, perhaps giving a few bucks to a worthy cause isn’t out of the picture. There are a ton of causes that organizations that can use any and all donations and help. No guilt trips or anything and I know most of us already do our parts in various ways, but if you can, then you should. I truly believe that. Just a thought…

I Do This For (Your) Culture?

That's the same thing I did Mr. Benjamin.

I saw the movie Marci X this past weekend. My random movie game is not to be trifled with. Not a bad movie, but not exactly one I’d recommend anybody spend time watching. Of course, if you’re bored and don’t have anything else to do, there are much worse movies you can watch than Marci X like say Who Made The Potato Salad?

Well, in the movie, Lisa Kudrow stars as the billionaire heiress to a music company mogul who is trying to get Damon Wayans (his name is Dr. S in the movie) to apologize for some of his brash lyrics. Well, they end up dating and the plan is for him to go and apologize for his lyrics at the MTV Music awards.

Well, as Damon Wayans date to the awards show, Lisa Kudrow’s character does what any white woman dating a thugged out Black man would do…

…she dresses like an Erykah Badu knockoff.

Say heffa say what???

Oh no she didn’t.

She was fully garbed in a headwrap, a kinte cloth wrap dress, some beads, and I could have sworn I saw an African medallion somewhere. Pure and utter non-sense. And it wasn’t offensive or anything, just overdone. Totally overdone.

It got me to thinking about the asstastic mess of a job people do when they’re trying to emulate another culture in attempts to assimilate or show support. And yes, we do a horrible job, regardless of race. This means Black people too. This isn’t just a white thing…this spans ALL cultures.

For the life of me, I don’t understand how people can really be so oblivious to the fact that in our attempts to show support or “understanding” of another culture, we completely turn ourselves into caricatures. For instance, when white people try to emulate Black culture, have you noticed that they pick the most extreme examples of Black culture to embrace? I’m talking gold or platinum chains that hang down to their ankles, doo-rags when they have straight hair, hiphop gear that nobody even remotely attached to Black culture would wear. Hell, sometimes I think that most companies make “hiphop” clothing specifically for the leagues of white people who want to be cool between the ages of 13-24 and think that “Black” culture is the way to go.

And it isn’t like everything is off. It just seems like people take that one extra step that would normally have you falling off a cliff and getting caught by your toenails on a broken bottle of Absolut Vodka hanging out of the side of a mountain.

Let’s not just stop with white people though. Let’s talk about Black folks. Yes, Black folks who think they are doing a service to Africa by wearing sh*t Africans wouldn’t be caught dead in. Have you ever noticed how ridiculous a lot of Black folks look when they are paying tribute to “mother Africa”?

Me too.

Hell, it offends me sometimes. Throwing on some kinte clothe pants some slippers exposing your flour-powered toes and putting on an “African” hat you purchased from an Arab guy in your local mall doesn’t exhibit support. It exhibits an exhibit of what not to do when trying to show support to your African brothers and sisters, most of whom you’ll never actually meet.

Hmm…I wonder. Has anybody ever thought to ask an African what they would wear at some sort of traditional ceremony in their home country?? It seems as if the biggest problem we have is that none of us ever ASKS a person of the culture we’re attempting to copy what THEY would wear.

And that includes Africans too.

I’m not sure whose worse in this case, white people or Africans. See, it would seem that Africans get their Black fashion ideas from the same place white people do.

Television and other white people.

And I’m just not quite sure which shows either of them are watching.

Hmmm…

Africans that try to dress like Black Americans miss the mark so hard you have to wonder where they were shooting. It’s the same problem white people have, and its the same problem Black Americans have when trying to be more “African.”

Just makes you want to slap everybody.

For some reason, in our attempts to show support we end up mocking the very thing we want to support. How dumb is that? Thats why I don’t wear anything traditionally African now. Hell, I don’t want to walk outside and offend an African. Some years ago I bought a shirt that said “I (Heart) Afrikan People.”

Hmmm…

It was a good idea when I bought it. Then I thought about it, even wore it once, and felt a whole lot of weird because I’m not African. Well, not in the traditional sense. I’m clearly of African descent.

But the fact is, wearing a shirt that says I Love African People isn’t exactly showing love, it feels more like a mockery. I can wear a shirt talking about I love Black people because well…I’m a Black dude. I associate with Black people. (Allegedly) African people view me as Black. Basically, its like a white person wearing a shirt that says I Love Black People. The right sentiments might be there, but truth be told, it almost looks like a slap in the face. That’s some shit you say after you say something ignorant to attempt to cover your tracks.

And I’m ignorant…so I know what you say when trying to cover your tracks.

I keed I keed.

Back to the point here…it’s interesting how in our attempts to show support we often end up mocking other cultures, openly.

What makes it even more f*cked up is this. In the movie, Lisa Kudrow dressed up as a stereotypic “down-to-earth soul” sistah, kind of chick. Damon Wayans…was a gansta rapper. That shit doesn’t match. Which highlights another problem. Not only do folks not know what they’re doing…they don’t even know WHEN to not know what they’re doing!

So the next time you see a white chick in a headwrap with some Ankh earrings or a Black guy wearing a kinte cloth dashiki with a map of the middle passage adorning the front…

…slap the living shit out of them then tell them the good news.

You just saved a bunch of money on your car insurance by switching to Geico.

Seriously though, why do you think that we people, as a rule, generally do such a terrible job of emulating and/or supporting other cultures?

Inquiring minds would like to know?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. LET’S PLAY NICE TODAY aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

PS: VSB recently teamed up with Coliseum Apparel to do a limited run of VSB branded crewneck sweaters. These joints are dope and I’ve already been rocking them about town. It’s still perfect weather for them as well. #teamVSB. Go on over to Coliseum Apparel’s site to check them out and cop you one! They’re going to go fast!!!!