This post brought to you by MassMutual. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The Girl Next Door is Black.
Lately, my dad is prone to falling into reflective reveries during which he shares stories from the past with a forthrightness that is surprising given how miserly he’s been with details previously. He’ll affect what my sisters and I call his “Professor [Our last name]” voice and begin his oration: “You know, Keisha, our family…”
Just last April I learned about the six brothers – including my grandfather several generations removed – who together escaped from the plantation where they were enslaved. Had they not made a run for freedom, an entire family line may never have existed! It awed me to think of the strength and fortitude these men possessed. I’m related to people like that!
Yesterday, I asked my grandmother, who is her late 70s, (she doesn’t look a day over 60 and I told her she could score herself a hot 60-year old boyfriend) about her grandmother, my great-great grandmother. I wanted to know if she could read and write.
A tweet I read a couple of weeks ago reminded me that for some black Americans, they are only the second or third generation of readers in their family! That’s incredible when you think about it. If the idea is that each generation surpasses the one before, boosted by the foundation laid by past generations, not having the basic ability to read and write puts one at an extreme disadvantage.
As it turns out, my great-great-grandmother had basic schooling and could read and write on that level. My great-grandmother also knew how to read and write and my grandmother is a retired longtime educator, so reading and writing was her bread and butter.
I’m pleased to join MassMutual in celebrating Black History Month with their #JourneyofYou campaign. Thanks to the family who came before me, my journey is that much less arduous. I strive to live my life in a way that honors their legacy.
How has your family helped pave the way for you? How do you honor the legacy of your ancestors? Share the #JourneyofYou in the comments. You can also visit MassMutual on Twitter or MassMutual on Facebook and share your story there using #JourneyofYou.
Racists really need to update their stereotype references. When it comes to black people at least, they seem stuck on…well, they’re stuck on stupid, as many of us know, but also stuck in the old days. Music evolves, the amount of clothing women wear (or don’t wear) evolves, our language evolves, yet racist Americans don’t appear to take pride in their racism enough to keep up with the times.
For example, Jennifer Olsen, chairwoman of Yellowstone County’s Republican committee in Montana, allegedly shared the following “hilarious” image with her Facebook followers:
She deniesany involvement with this posting. In short, she says a hater is responsible. I’m sure her best friend is black, she prays to the black Jesus everyday of Black History Month and loves a scrumptious Kwanzaa cake. In 2000, Montana had a black population of less than half a percent. HALF A PERCENT! Where exactly are all these black people who Jennifer – oops, I mean, “Jennifer’s hater”- sees indulging in watermelon grubfests?
Where do these racists get their black-people-eat stereotypes? Is there a watermelon eating show on BET that I don’t know about? Um, also, because people keep forgetting, President Obama is half-white, so…
These racists need to up their game. If you’re going to decide that all people of one race (ignoring that all of us humans are ridiculously genetically similar) eat the same things, at least be current people! For you racists, I submit three popular black-people-eat stereotypes that are old as hell and implore you to consider modernizing your racist jokes.
This racial weapon has been around since the days of slavery. Watermelon was one of the foods masters deigned to feed their captives. Slavery has ended; this black chick is free and happily riffing on racists. So why does the watermelon obsession persist? Why are some racists so fixated on black people eating watermelon?
Are their hordes of black people across America buying up all the watermelon, keeping them from melon-loving racists? Was there a run on watermelon during the depression and black people were first in line, hogging the watermelon from the other poor, starving, depressed non-black folk? Do some people have a watermelon allergy and are thus jealous of those of us that can easily digest the juicy melon? Do watermelons speak to black people in special language?
Hey black girl, I wanna be in yo’ belly. Let’s do this!
Do we look hotter eating watermelon? Maybe I should try this: sit down at a public place, chow down on some watermelon, wind machine blowing a breeze through my hair, making seductive eyes at my luscious, red fruit and see how many men start throwing themselves at me. Ah, sweet watermelon, thank you for getting me a man!
You know what’s interesting? China is the largest producer of watermelon. The USDA led a super-important study on the lives of watermelon. Know what they found? Asian people actually consume a whole lotta this melon. More than black people. So BAM, racists! Check your stats, fools!
These lame racists living in the past don’t care though. This is why I don’t eat watermelon in mixed company: stereotype threat.
From time to time I’ll order a side of fruit at brunch. Sometimes, watermelon is in that mix. I don’t request it specifically; it just shows up in the bowl. If there are suspect people nearby who seem overly interested in the fruits of my bowl, I’ll loudly say to the server, loudly enough to be overheard, using my best diction: “Excuuuuuse me, sir. I did not ask for this wayward melon. It repulses meeeeeuh. Soooo guh-ross! It’s unnatural. Take it away. I said: take it away, sir! Have you people never heard of apples? Darn watermelon ruining the fabric of our society! Have a good day, sir. I said, GOOD DAY!”
Another old stereotype. Wouldn’t you know, black Americans and eating chicken goes back to the days of slavery? Chickens were one of the few animals slaves were allowed to own.
People eat fried chicken throughout the world: it’s popular in the American South among not just black people, but Southerners of all colors. If you’ve ever go to a Japanese restaurant and order “chicken katsu”, you’re presented with a patty of fried chicken. Koreans have their own version of fried chicken. Visit one of the many fried chicken shops in Los Angeles’s Koreatown and you’ll see not just Koreans enjoying it, but white hipsters too!
As mentioned in a previous post, I stopped eating fried chicken in high school. Fried food = fatty boombatty. No thanks. However. Yes, HOWEVER. I do love Popeye’s, mainly for the red beans and rice, but the chicken is pretty hot and tasty.
I do not enter Popeye’s in recognizable form. My alter ego, Diane, goes. Diane seems like a ethnically-neutral name, right? I’ve met Dianes of all colors. Diane wears a red wig, think Carrot Top’s style:a big curly mop. She also dons a white theater mask (the comedy one, not the sad tragedy one). She speaks in a deep, saccharine, Southern drawl:
“Hey y’all, I’m just a sweet ole girl from Jo’gia. I love me some fried chicken. Mmm, mmm, mmm, deep down in my churchin’ soul. Y’all know how you go to church and you just feel the spirit of the Lawd in ya? That’s how I feel when I get me some Popeye’s. Mmm. Mmm. What’s that? My mask is scary? Well, you know, I got protect myself from the cancer. That skin cancer’ll kill ya. Thanks for the chicken. Have a nice day, y’all!”
Kool-Aid (Oh yeah!)
Kool-Aid is cheap as hell. If you are trying to save a dollar or quench the thirst of a large family who enjoys uber-sugary bevvies on a tight budget, Kool-Aid is an option. If you aspire to have a crayon-colored tongue, get you some Kool-Aid. If you just like the taste of artificial powders: hell yeah, Kool-Aid. Me, I haven’t had Kool-Aid since I was a kid. Though I do love a good Kool-Aid man cameo on Family Guy.
Some more knowledge for you racists, Kool-Aid was invented by a white man in Nebraska in the 1920s. Nebraska had how many black people then? Like 2? And who engineered a cult’s group suicide making the term “Drinking the Kool-Aid” part of our lexicon: Jim Jones. Not black, not even brownish. Kool-Aid started with white people. So suck it.
I am black, therefore I am an expert on what this black person eats. Should you be the type to assume that what one black person does, all black people do, here are some ideas for new racial stereotypes. Try: spinach, low-fat milk, Sour Patch Kids, protein shakes, udon noodle soup, sushi, wonton noodle soup, pasta, coffee, fajitas, crawfish…
If you’re stuck on stupid and find yourself obsessed with what black people eat, ask yourself this: what is so shameful or insult-worthy about eating healthy fruit, tasty chicken or washing it all down with a sickeningly-sweet, cold beverage? Perhaps you are the one with the issue?
I'm Keisha ("Kee-shuh", not to be confused with Ke$ha). I am a (later) thirty-something, non-mommy, non-wife, who lives in San Francisco, California New York and has lots of opinions on lots of things.