I saw this go by on my Twitter feed today, as part of a larger tweetstorm.
Me saying things like, "Black people gotta have cornbread at Thanksgiving" had them like, "Why is everything about race with you?"— Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) January 28, 2016
My reaction: “The heck?”
Like I said, this was part of a larger series of tweets talking about culture differences, and specifically how black women tend to be more direct than white women and men, at least in some ways. Ford is mainly focusing on how this results in bias problems at work, and I really agree with her on that: being direct and honest when you’re upset is so much better than being passive-aggressive! You and the other person can do something about it!
(In case you can’t tell from the thumbnail or the discussion so far, Ford is African-American. Black.)
But for a bit here, Ford mentions how white people tend to have a hard time talking about race. Which does seem to be generally true, and is certainly specifically true for me. (See “Paint, Part 2”, and the fact that I have an “ethnicity” blog tag instead of “race”.) But this was her example.
I wouldn’t say “why is everything about race with you?”, but this just seems like a ridiculous thing to say. Is it just my usual dislike for generalizations?
- When talking to a friend from another country, I might say something about “Americans” in general. That feels okay.
- I definitely hear my friends say things about “Asians”, usually meaning “Asian-Americans”. That still seems weird. (To be clear, these are Asian-American friends.)
- When a friend is more specific, talking about, say, “Filipinos”, it doesn’t feel as weird. (As long as they’re Filipin@.)
- It’s weirdly close to the “watermelon stereotype” (which I had literally never heard of before college).
- “Californians like avocado” is still weird (which I hadn’t heard until after college).
- “Not All Men”
And a later tweet by author Mikki Kendall, as a follow-up to Ford’s general discussion rather than this particular tweet:
You can legit put DC Black, New Orleans Black, NYC Black, & Chicago Black in one room & get totally different cultural norms in many areas.— Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) January 28, 2016
So…why would someone make a generalization like that?
This isn’t a criticism of Ford; it was an interesting introspective moment for me. I don’t really have any meaningful conclusions to draw.
Ford (my interpretation): White people have a hard time talking about race. They think this is a weird thing to say.
Me: That’s true—wait, that is a weird thing to say!