“You’re the whitest black guy I know.”
This is by far the most offensive compliment I can be given. I’ve heard this statement since my early teens, growing up in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. I’ve heard it countless times from my friends, best friends, roommates, family members and some classmates at the University of Wisconsin.
It wasn’t until later in my life that I realized this statement presupposed that being intelligent, well-dressed, successful and well-spoken were attributes of white people and that I should be glad to be considered on the same level. When you say to me “you’re the whitest black guy I know,” it really irks me, whether you say it in jest or not. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that over the years. My guess is at least in the hundreds and that still might be inaccurate.
I’ve heard this statement from both white and black people, but the vast majority have been white. Allow me to explain why I’ve decided enough is enough. I’m half black and half white. My mom is white and my dad is black. I’m mixed, mulatto: The best of both worlds.
If I’m ever asked on an official document what my ethnicity is, I always put down “African-American.” Why? Because if you just look at me, I can’t really say I’m Caucasian.
Let me make this clear: I do understand when my friends or whoever says to me “you’re the whitest black guy I know,” those people are joking and messing around and aren’t trying to cause any offense. But what those people don’t understand is that, kidding or not, there’s subtext at play.
Joking or not, you said that statement because of your own preconceived notion of what is and isn’t normal behavior for a “black” person. But the truth is, that reflects poorly on you, not me.
When did speaking articulately, being intelligent and dressing casually become trademarked by white people?
That’s where I take offense. I never play the race card, and I hate when otherwise intelligent people do, but to me, “you’re the whitest black guy I know” is a racist statement. This statement has an unintentional racist undertone.
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Don’t call me “white” because I have a high IQ and speak intelligently. Don’t call me “white” because I like to dress preppy and love country music. Don’t call me “white” because I excel in school. There are generalizations and stereotypes about the demeanor of different races due to the dramatizations of the media and ignorance.
The bottom line is this: Intelligence is not measured by color, nor is success.
“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Devon Snyder ([email protected]) is senior majoring in microbiology and Spanish.