How To Make White People Uncomfortable As An Act of Grace and Mercy » VSB

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How To Make White People Uncomfortable As An Act of Grace and Mercy

It is the unfair and uneasy burden of the minority; to explain the bad behavior of some members of our communities, to the majority and apologize for their actions. You see it when there’s a terrorist attack and Muslims have to condemn other Muslims or when there’s a police shooting and Black folks are forced to condemn Black on Black crime. When a member of a minority community fucks up, we all step up and say “Hey, that won’t us, but sorry about that shit anyway.”

And then, the white people white peopled and up and elected Donald Trump. And of course there are those who wear their safety pins and post up in the Facebook groups and say, “Hey, we’re not racists!” but just like it ain’t that simple with us, it ain’t that simple for them.

Fact is, you can wear a pin or claim to be an ally all day, but the real key to overcoming racial biases is understanding that you have them and, through discomfort with yourself, developing empathy.

So that’s where we come in. It’s our job to make white people uncomfortable in order to help them evolve to empathy. Here’s a few simple ways you can start today with the white people in your life.

Refuse any and all of their nicknames

One day, a few years ago, your mother went through a long and painful labor to give birth to you (she probably told you about it). Upon your arrival on this planet, she looked deep into your eyes and said, “This is my sweet baby, I’m naming him LaTronicus.” That’s right, your mother pushed and pushed and pushed and out you popped, a LaTronicus.

And LaTronicus you were until you got into Big State U (Shuttlesworth, c/o ’98) and you moved into the suite with Taylor, Chip, and Tad who decided that your mother was wrong and it was time to call you “Nick” because it was easier for them. Now, you’re Nick at work, you’re Nick at Starbucks and you’re Nick just about anywhere you need to make white people comfortable with your name.

Stop that shit. Your momma named you LaTronicus, they better call you LaTronicus. So when they try to shorten, truncate, abridge, or remix your name, it’s time to assert yourself for your moms. You are no longer who they say you are.

When they ask if they can call you something “easier” remind them that your ancestors weren’t free to call themselves what they wanted and that you still carry the burden of the slave master every time you sign your last name.

Give elaborate daps and other greetings

Especially if you’re wearing a suit and especially if you’re the only Black people in the room and especially if you leave everyone one else out that isn’t Black.

Jone on one another in public

Roastin’, snappin’, the dozens, clownin’, whatever you want to call it. It’s a uniquely Black experience that we keep in house. Tony momma so fat her blood type is Ragu? The back of Quan neck look like a pack of dirty franks? Alonzo daddy the DJ at Red Lobster? Pointing out one another’s shortcomings is a Black pastime that we often suppress in public spaces out of fear that they’ll see us having our fun or being a little too extra.

If we want to make white people uncomfortable, we’re gonna have to stop apologizing for having fun. Our laughter, our joy, and our humor are all integral pieces of our history and nobody should make you feel weird for saying Derrick momma so skinny she does push-ups under the door.

When Bob from Accounting decides he wants to get in on the action remind him that it’s called “the dozens” because, during slavery, the slaves that were old or disabled or sick were sold in bunches or dozens and those working in the fields would pass the time telling jokes and insulting each other because it was the only way the master would let them laugh while working.

Bring chitlins to the company potluck

Office potlucks suck. It’s one big game of “who made that and what is it” with an assortment of salads, dips, and casseroles (white people love casseroles, man) without an ounce of soul to be found. And if you’re Black, it’s even more harrowing because you got too many culinary guardrails and cultural roadblocks to worry about.

Can’t bring chicken. I mean, you could, but you can’t. Can’t bring a fruit salad because watermelon. So you play it safe and bring some spaghetti and shrug like that’s what you’d really be eating at home.

Fuck that, make it weird. Bring chitlins.

Even if you don’t eat chitlins (because no one under 65 does), bring them shits anyway and marvel at the Anthony Bourdain wannabees that decide they want to try them (“It’s like tripe!”). You feel like they’re getting too comfy with that? Next time get some pickled pig’s feet or some boiled neckbones and vinegar. It’ll be like your personal episode of Fear Factor.

And when Suzanne from Legal asks if you’re gonna bring another one of your interesting dishes next time tell her that you’re serving them what the slaves made from the master’s scraps and that, much like your performance at the gig, you come from a people that are used to making something out of nothing.

Make up Black history facts

Because who’s gonna stop you from taking Fred Sanford Day off to celebrate the first Black man to ride a motorcycle across the English Channel. Or why not take moment of silence to remember fallen USC running back, Ricky Baker? And we should all be able to celebrate the feast of Percy Miller, the patron saint of transcending limitations.

Besides, it’s not like all the shit you learned in school was true either.

Recite and quote Hip-Hop lyrics in meetings

One of the worst things about working in Corporate America is useless business jargon. How many times have you been sitting in a meeting and heard some shit like this;

“We’ve got to find some synergistic ways to be disruptive and develop some strategic frameworks to take this project from soup to nuts and drive the bus and land the plane with solid KPIs, we’ll talk about everything else offline.”

I feel like Hip-Hop lyrics are just as appropriate and a helluva lot more useful in corporate settings. I mean, why not explain how serious a project is by saying, “Stakes is high” or that the scope of work impacts “Me and you, your momma and your cousin too”? Sometimes you just gotta dispense with the pleasantries and keep it real.

Honestly, Hip Hop lyrics give us a form of simplified language that, while others may admire it, they don’t immediately understand it. It’s just like the Blues in that there are the words that are said, but then there are the words that are heard so white people can like black things and still know nothing about Black people.

Tell the truth

Man, listen. Assimilation is an act of mutual dishonesty with the minority perpetrating the lie of complicity and the majority guilty of the lie of acceptance. Or, more simply stated, Black folks front like everything’s cool, white people go along with it because it’s comfortable for them and ain’t neither side really doing the other any favors. Or, even more simply stated (to quote the Fugees), “Man everybody wear the mask but how long will it last?”

That said, the final and most important act of uncomfortable behavior that we need to embrace is to remove the mask and tell folks what’s really good. It’s time to stop fronting on our own feelings to placate the emotional needs of others.

Do you know how much high blood pressure, PTSD, depression, and God only knows what else we’ve been subjecting ourselves to over the generations trying to keep up the lie that everything’s gonna be alright and “overcoming” when we should be out here demanding empathy and being treated as true equals in society? We’re literally killing ourselves by denying ourselves who we are. We have forsaken our own comfort for the comfort of others and it’s just gotta stop.

That stopping starts with our collective ability to tell the truth as a means of opening the doors of empathy.

Black folks, these intentional acts of making white people uncomfortable aren’t rooted in malice or vengeance. In times like these, that’s the last thing we need. The goal isn’t to confront active racists or to make some kind of magical negro strides to convince folks that we’re something that were not. No, the goal is to target those who might be complicit with racism by being, unapologetically, who we already are and letting them know that we’re fine being just that.

Our generation must use discomfort as an avenue to empathy in the same way that the Civil Rights generations used shame.

Corey Richardson

Corey Richardson is originally from Newport News, Virginia currently living in Chicago, Illinois with his wife and two daughters. Ad guy at work, Dad guy in life, and whiskey enthusiast, Corey spends his time crafting words, telling bedtime stories, and working hard at becoming the legend he is in his own mind. You can read his paternal musings at FatherlyNoir.com where he chronicles his life doing battle with all of the women with his last name.

  • No… don’t bring chitlins. Never.

    But do stiff them in the boardroom.

    • SororSalsa

      And leave them in a drawer where no one will look for them.

  • laddibugg

    I know most of this is for humor but…. #1 is so true. Never let anyone call you something other than what you want to be called.

    “can I call you ‘x’?’ is usually not a question but my answer is always ‘No’.

  • MsCee

    “Give elaborate daps and other greetings” there is a VP at my company who goes out of his way to do this and each time I witness it I cackle all the silent cackles one can possibly cackle.

    • Looking4Treble

      I love when we represent, and keep their heads ringing with wonder while we do it. #YepIDidThatAndYouSeeButYouDont

  • Chitlins are delicious. Screw y’all.

    • wanderlust

      Yes indeed- Thank you!

    • Well, that picture is not helping y’all campaign.

    • SororSalsa

      As compared to what…ram testicles???

      • Hater!

        • SororSalsa

          With relish! (and hot sauce)

      • Asiyah

        LOL I’ve never tasted this but this was a good burn lol

      • miss t-lee

        Cyanide.

      • fedup

        Once I had what I just thought were some pretty chewy barbeque meatballs.

        Turns out, they were mountain oysters.

        I could be convinced to give them another try, with the right gravy on em.

        • SororSalsa

          You’re good. I couldn’t get past the texture. Gravy wasn’t going to help with that.

    • Val

      I’ve never actually gotten past the smell to taste them so you might be right. Lol

      • You could add hot sauce to pickle relish to anything and I’d seriously contemplate tasting it.

    • miss t-lee
    • Cori Hoston

      I’ll eat them on a train, I’ll eat them on a plane, I’ll eat them here or there, I’ll eat them anywhere. ..YASS

    • Tasha Lawrence?

      They are!!!!!!!!!!! And you make salsa on the side. HEAVEN.

    • Brown Rose

      Sorry. They are well. Yuck. But my people do like Mannish Water.

      • Tasha Lawrence?

        What is mannish water?

        • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

          Soup made with goat testicles

          • Tam

            And good for you.

          • IAmMikeBrown

            Then……shouldn’t it be goatish water?

            • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

              Supposed to be an aphrodisiac

              • IAmMikeBrown

                I’ll take my chances on the slap and tickle.

      • I know this is hypocritical but … gross!

        • Jennifer

          LOL!!!!!

        • Brown Rose

          We are hypocrites together.

    • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

      Nassy

  • kb

    To the extent that you should be yourself regardless of making people uncomfortable I agree, but to be antagonistic is a little too much effort, I really don’t want to think about white people that much.

  • MissG

    I have a particularly “interesting name”, COMMONLY mispronounced. I am ALWAYS asked what’s my nickname. Answer: “I don’t have one” (although, for a select few, I will abide “G”, or “Miss G” if you’re nasty). ANYRAHOO, that is frequently met w/ a blankstare and “c’mon…you HAVE to have a nickname”. “No, friend, I do not. My mom said she considered one, but when my then 3yo cousin was able to say my name correctly, she said to herself ‘huh…if a 3yo can say her name, SURELY any idiot should be able to do the same’.” & usually…that…is the end…of THAT conversation.

    • grownandsexy2

      They’re good for asking for nicknames or want to shorten your name. Nope. And my name is not mispronounced.

    • Asiyah

      My name is one of the most common Spanish names out there, so I appreciate “interesting” names and I like practicing how to pronounce them. I find that when you do that the name becomes easy to pronounce and voila everyone’s happy.

      • My name is not Spanish, but people want to make it. In my early life Miami life, people took out an ‘n”. Now as an adult, people take off an ‘a’. I’, like it’s two syllables, four letters…is it really that difficult or are you just that slow?

        • Asiyah

          I think we have the same name! ;)

          • GenevaGirl

            So what is your name?

            • Asiyah

              Idk if Queen would mind lol but it’s the name of the Virgin Mary’s mother.

              • GenevaGirl

                Thanks. And, it’s my grandmother’s name as well. Despite your having a simple name I know that people can eff up its spelling.

      • Jennifer

        Same here.

        When people with interesting names give me a nickname, I ask if that’s their preference or if that’s just the name they give because people eff it up. It’s usually the latter, and then I make sure I learn their real name.

        • Asiyah

          Yes! I know some people genuinely like or don’t mind nicknames (I’m one of those) but if the only reason you have one is because you were tired of mispronouncing your name and you really prefer being called by the real name I’m going to make the effort to learn it. It’s only fair.

          I’ve recently been practicing how to say Mahershala Ali’s full first name. I want to get it right!

          • lkeke35

            It’s 18 letters long! I’ve been practicing saying that too!

          • Cranberry05

            I love him…

          • StephenP

            I like to give my white coworkers nicknames cuz their names are boring as heyl! How’s that for flippin it?!

            • Christine

              I love it when someone gives me a fun nickname!

              • Asiyah

                me too! lol

          • Eri Cad

            I love his first name. It’s just a beautiful name to say.

        • Mochasister

          Names are so important. I try to pronounce my students’ names as correctly as possible. Isn’t it funny how wypipo will pronounce or at least attempt to pronounce European names and surnames with no problem. Yet someone with a name from a non European language and all of a sudden there’s a problem.

          • My name is damn Alexander. Everyone calls me Alex, except mama when I’ve effed up. But when white people call me “Al,” I want to stab them in the sternum. Man.

      • My pet peeve in life is to be called Keke….I don’t even try to be sweet about it…

        http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ma02amNbBf1ra4sj3o1_500.gif

        • Mochasister

          Lol! Someone tried to give me that same nickname! I was NOT having it; I told the person that it sounded like a name a streewalker would give a john.

        • BmoreLikeLA

          My best friend told us we could call her Niquez, but the wypipo called her MoMo…she hated that but never corrected them. We actually got in an argument in HS over that, bc I got tired of her being mad at them but never saying anything…it got to the point that I told them “don’t call her that…she doesn’t like it, and that’s not what her mama named her.” and then we reserved Niquez for the black circle lol

          • That is real shyt… People are lazy as hayle when it comes to calling you what your name actually is… and they are quick to blow you off.. Like after I tell you 2 or 3 times.. you don’t get another pass… I’m just gonna ignore your dumb ayus. I am REALLY CAREFUL with that because i HATE THAT. You tell me your name once.. I will never mispronounce it and if I’m not sure… I will ask for a breakdown.

    • Cleojonz

      This woman I’ve known since teenage years has a very Chinese name complete with hyphen. At some point, probably in college she changed it to a more American spelling. She still pronounces the same, but changed it to a spelling that would be easier for people to read/say outloud. Even when we were young I would tell her make those people pronounce your name! It’s not hard! This bothers me so much.

      • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

        Are we applying this to Nigerians because uhhh . . . that may be a problem for me.

        • Cranberry05

          Lol! Just sound it out and you’ll get it, Kas.

          Russian names tend to get me sometimes…

          • grownandsexy2

            A lot of Jews change their names or shorten them because discrimination. One of the attorneys in the office changed his middle and last name from Jewish to an Italian name.

            • Cranberry05

              Yup!

              • grownandsexy2

                WW in the office thought it was because they were ashamed of who they are. Not ashamed I told her, discrimination. She said she thought that didn’t happen in 2017. **Sigh** I assured her it was still a problem. She apologized for being ignorant. This woman still thinks Columbus discovered America so . . . . .. .

                • Cranberry05

                  Girl, the pressure to assimilate. is very real.

                  Welp! At least she apologized and I hope that you sent her a couple of links on Mr. Columbus. Lol!!!

                  • grownandsexy2

                    And here’s the thing, we’re pressured to assimilate (adopt to their values, their customs, etc.) but we never really assimilate. We are still othered. I don’t want us to lose what’s left of our culture. I like who we are. I don’t want to be white or look white. I like me just as I am.

                    The links I sent her about Columbus, she will never forget. When I think about all the lies we were led to believe about who did what in the name of history, I’m just blown away. And this man is celebrated with a holiday and parades all over the country.

                    • Cranberry05

                      “And here’s the thing, we’re pressured to assimilate (adopt to their values, their customs, etc.) but we never really assimilate. We are still othered.”

                      THIS!

                      ‘I like who we are. I don’t want to be white or look white. I like me just as I am.”

                      Yup!

                      Girl! I, too, was disgusted when I found out about CC. People even get days off of work for his non-discovering a**, too.

                    • grownandsexy2

                      “People even get days off of work for his non-discovering a**, too.”

                      Yup, it’s a Federal holiday and the parade here in the city is a big deal. Revisionist history. And don’t get me started on the Thanksgiving holiday. Ask the Native Americans how that worked out for them.

                      http://www.salon.com/2016/11/23/thanksgiving-a-day-of-mourning-for-native-americans/

                    • Cranberry05

                      Giiirrrllll….

                      (Well, technically, I should call you, “Ma’am”.)

                      Maaaaaa’aaam…..

                • Mochasister

                  Must be nice to be that damn naive. Does she still believe in unicorns?

                  • grownandsexy2

                    “Must be nice to be that damn naive.”

                    I’ve had this thought more times than I care to admit.

                • soraya

                  Oh man. This reminds me of something my supervisor said the other day about people needed to change their names so their resumes will get read. She also said that all Thai people should change their name because of the last four letters. We work with names and deal with citizenship evidence and she has also made comments about undocumented immigrants.

                  ***anyhow, this is my first comment here. I don’t want to feel like i’m intruding (i’m latina/mexican) but the name issue really stands out to me. This site is great and makes my workday bearable.

                  • grownandsexy2

                    The “wrong name” will get your resume trashed with a quickness. Not having the “right zip code” can get a resume canned also. One of the white guys in the office was surprised when I told him that. It’s all about assimilation, but the thing is you are never allowed to fully assimilate because you will always be “othered.” And really, why do we have to assimilate with names, looks, etc? I like what makes me different, even if they don’t. This site definitely makes my work day bearable.

                  • Asking_Questions

                    Welcome to the table.

                    • soraya

                      Thank you!

                • pls

                  serious question. Who exactly is discriminating against Jews? I thought they were pretty straight in this country economically and socially. Is it old white christians?

                  • grownandsexy2

                    Sometimes we get so mirred in our own struggles and discrimination as black people in the land of the free, we forget that others are going through their own hayle. I knew that Jews were discriminated against by the comments I’ve heard over the years and swastikas popping up here and there but nothing brought this fact home more succinctly than working in employment/discrimination law awhile back. There is a lot of hatred for Jewish people. I used to read some of the case files and think, “Well gatdayuum.

                    And the hatred is not necessarily “old white Christians.” People of all stripes and persuasions hate them for a variety of reasons. Just from listening and observing the reasons I hear from most people vacillate from “they possess too much power and wealth, they proclaim they are the chosen people, they killed Jesus.” The possessing too much power and wealth seem to top the list.

                    I’d like to ask the attorney in the office his reason for changing his name, but I won’t. Interestingly, one of the partners’ welcomed his first grandchild into the world the other week and the bris (Jewish ceremony of circumcision) was attended by only the Jews in the office, as they were the only co-workers invited.

                    • pls

                      I’ve def heard complaints of them having too much power but I didn’t realize they felt discriminated against because of it. That’s interesting, though. I don’t know much about them besides them having an interesting history.

      • I used to work with some Koreans and most had their names changed to the most old lady American names ever.

        • pls

          *doesn’t speak a lick of English*
          *introduces themselves as “Stephanie” or “Kate”* -__________-

          Honestly, they make it hard for us cuz I’ll be damned if I change my name for wypipo. I don’t wanna be accepted by them. they need to be trying to be accepted by the rest of the world, they are the real minority.

  • Jennifer

    “And we should all be able to celebrate the feast of Percy Miller, the patron saint of transcending limitations.”

    I nearly spit out my peppermint tea.

    • MsCee

      uuuuuhhhhhhhh no limit!!!!

      • Cori Hoston

        Make em say unhhhhhh….nah nah nah….we true soldiers

        • mr. steal your costco samples

          i miss having just one black colleague in my department just to randomly shout bars

          YOU CRAZY FOR THIS ONE, RICK FROM ACCOUNTING

      • Tasha Lawrence?

        Aaaaaaaaaye!!! That’s that song that got IG models waving their EBT cards. Love it. *twerking*

    • Jae Starz

      You are not the only one. I hollered!

  • fedup

    I don’t know what in THE heck that is in the picture, but if it’s supposed to be Chitlins, I’m very sorry for whoever had to eat it.

    • fedup

      And, just to be thorough, those greens look iffy, and that cornbread look dry.

      A message to any food photogs out there: when it comes to the food of the African diaspora, you really don’t need to pull out camera tricks, or make summin up. It looks good on its own, as long as it was cooked by an actual Black person, and made with love.

      This looks about as questionable as that bag of “European Greens” I saw in the grocery store right before Thanksgiving. Europeans don’t know nuthin bout no greens, and neither does whoever took this photo.

      • cdj

        I was just about to say, that dry as* cornbread is making me uncomfortable.

        • IAmMikeBrown

          That cornbread needs cocoa butter.

  • will_the_thrill

    I saw your name and knew this was about to be hsit. Thanks for saving me from spending the rest of my pre-MLK weekend Friday afternoon doing any work.

  • AsamiSato

    I love it when I’m the only non-black person in a setting and someone goes down the line with ‘daps’ (I honestly don’t even know what that is) and other elaborate greetings/handshakes and then gets to me and it’s awkward and confusing. Like, I just straight up cannot participate in that authentically and it’s hilarious.

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