Friday, October 17, 2008

Operation Black Friend

I must admit when I saw the heading "Will You Be My Black Friend?" in a recent (next month's) GQ Magazine, I knew it was to get people's attention and it worked, I decided to read the article.
There were moments of reflection, rolling-of-the-eyes and afterwards, that of understanding. This writer (Devin Friedman) decided to pose this question on "Craigslist" which got some hilarious actions and rightfully so, most folks thought he was pulling a stunt. But for me, I read this article because I remembered a discussion I had with someone who's like brother-in-law (he married into the family to a cousin of mine) during the last 4th of July weekend. I'll call him "J."

J has friends of various ethnicities (as do I) and he was trying to set me up with at least one of them. I don't know what it is about newlyweds who think everybody have to get married right away. But I digress. The pictures of some of his guy friends led to a discussion about race. J told me one of the things he despises is when some white guys are relating to each other in a normal way, only to get to him at work (or social functions) then try to appeal to his black side by being how can I say this, "urban."

Friedman's article reminded me of that conversation as he debated within himself and his wife on how to relate to "black people" or to be politically correct, African-American folks. They even thought of what to wear to a party while his wife said she never saw a black woman dressing like a "Tomboy." Gosh, these folks were really out-of-the-loop. Black women have different styles; what makes white women think we are a monolithic group?

But in the end, he found out that black people are just normal after all and it's not like a "9/11 Commission." We're not going to interrogate you to death or you need a 100-page book to understand us. It ain't that serious. But just for pointers (because I know I have readers of all backgrounds), here is how you can start your own "Operation Black Friend:"

  1. Be Yourself: If you've never greeted your white counterparts with "what's cracking," "What up" among other lingos, don't try that with a black person; he/she will see right through it. A simple "hello" or "hi" will be just fine. The same goes with hugs. Don't start now with being cool. If you don't get how black guys give each other hugs, a simple handshake will do. But if you're the "blue-eyed soul brother" (think Jon B., Robin Thicke and for old schoolers, Michael McDonald), you should know how to just "relate."

  2. Hair Matters: As the writer found out, don't be asking us if you could touch our hair when we don't know you like that. The last sentence was a bit urban. So here it is in Queen English speak: You have to be a FRIEND already (and give it about six months to a year) to feel our hair. We know we have different texture of hair than white folks but don't look at the hair when we have a different hairstyle than the ones you're used to seeing us as if it was some alien object. Just compliment it and say "nice hairdo" and move on.

  3. Easy on Race Conversations: Don't think every time you get with us, you have to get in a conversation about race. It is even draining for us. We don't talk about the "trials and tribulations of the black men" all the time. Black people like pop-culture just like white folks. We like Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and for ladies (and some black men who won't admit to it), we love "Sex And The City." Just be well-informed BUT it won't hurt if you've caught up on some "In Livin Color."
  4. Drop the Stereotypes: When you meet a black person, let the person be an individual starting from a clean slate. Don't EVER assume because that "assume" theory is true; you make ASS-U-ME. Not all black people eat chicken (well, that's open to debate), some are vegetarians or as Tyler Perry said once, some of us do eat "salmon." We don't all look alike and we don't dress alike. We don't all like hip-hop. I had a black college roommate once who thought R&B music was boring and only listened to Heavy-metal rock (but I teased her a few years she spent at an Iowa college took away her black card). Trust us, some of us like Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, etc. The aforementioned singers Jon B., Thicke, McDonald don't count as WHITE MUSIC. So is Hall & Oates or the Average White Band. Honorable mention: Justin Timberlake (we still have mixed feelings about him after the whole Janet "wardrobe malfunction" thing).

So those are a few pointers I can think of right now but they should help with expanding your horizon on your mission of "operation black friend."

Tags: Will You Be My Black Friend?, GQ Magazine, Devin Friedman, Operation Black Friend