Thursday, May 21, 2009

No, We Don't All Shuck & Jive

Today was the second time in about three weeks that I have been approached by a middle-aged white woman inquiring if I would do the Stanky Leg for them.

I wish I were joking, but I am not.

I think I may be hypersensitive to racial issues and tension, being that I grew up here in Mississippi and have seen a lot, even in today's "progressive" stage. I work with many people who are openly hostile towards Black coworkers. I have heard disparaging remarks from people who did not know that a "nigger" was in earshot. I have been told to my face that I was a lesser, inferior being and that I was useless in the grand scheme of things (unless, of course, I was fortunate enough that a white man wanted me to lay on my back for him). So yes, I am a little defensive when it comes to what I perceive as even subtle racism.

I really wanted to ask, "Why are you asking us [I was with two other black women] to do it?" There was a group of similarly aged white coworkers sitting near us. They were spouting off all the hip-hop they knew, showing their "cool." They have heard the song and seen this dance, even said this themselves. So why turn to us for your little song and dance? I mean, did they think I was there to put on some kind of minstrel show for them? Was I supposed to jump up and say, "Why sho boss ma'am, lemme show ya this here stanky leg," and proceed to shuck and jive, ending with flourishing jazz hands and a flashing a grin that showed all my teeth?

Of course, it may have just been an innocent request. She may have just ASSumed that since we were young and black we were more likely to know the song and therefore know the dance. And I guess some part of me can understand that. At the same time, why not assume the others knew it too, considering she said that her 11-year-old daughter listens to the same music?

Anyway, I denied knowing the dance (I do actually know it, but I'm a horrible dancer) and went back to my conversation. And as I stated, it may not have even been meant like that. But still, I stand firm in my affirmation that I am an uppity negro who will not shuck and jive for anyone.

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