Let me start this little post by saying first and foremost, I ain’t mad at the woman. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel, but anger isn’t part of the equation.
With that out of the way, let me begin.
Yesterday, we went to my favorite place for breakfast: IHOP. (Yes, even divas can get off on some IHOP pancakes!) We were there with little girl getting our grub on. Little Girl decided that she too liked IHOP pancakes. Smart girl, this Zizi.
Anyhoo, an older white couple came in with a young girl who appeared to be biracial, and sat down at the table next to us. After they ordered, the woman decided to come over and get a look at Zara. Appropriate cooing ensued and the little girl came over and asked Zara’s name. I told her and then asked what hers was. It was one of those combination names that I’m not so fond of, but I held my tongue about the name and did my usual asking how old she was and all that.
The lady, who I now understand is this youngster’s grandmother, starts telling us that her (the little girl’s) parents are “just like you two.” Yeah, I get it, I think to myself, one is black and one is white. Understood. But grandma feels the need to draw me a clearer picture.
“Yes, her father is white,” she begins. And I nod, smiling. “And her mother is…well, um, she’s like you.”
I continued to nod and smile as I thought to myself, it’s OK to say black or African American. I really wouldn’t have lept over my Colorado omelette to jump at you had you used the word “black” or even “colored” or “Negro” (especially since “Negro” is on my birth certificate). I know that I’m black. You won’t offend me by saying that I’m black. It’s not a dirty word. And it certainly isn’t news to me.
In any event, I just finished with a bland, “that’s nice,” and went pack to feeding Zizi some more pancake. But the encounter stayed with me. Again, I’m not angry. I’m more perplexed.
Is being black one of those things that it is socially unacceptable to mention, like how people pretend not to see a physically challenged person’s wheelchair or ignore the short stature of someone with dwarfism? And if it is indeed socially unacceptable, then does it extend to all races? Why was white easy to say but black was not? Or is it that since they were white, saying black was uncomfortable? So then this would mean that as a black person, I could easily say that the little girl’s mother was black but then stumble and say that her father was, um, well…like them?
See what I mean? It’s just a little weird.
But I know, I know. It’s a sensitive area for many. You never know how someone is going to react when you bring up race. So my advice would be, if you aren’t comfortable saying any of the socially acceptable words to describe peoples of African descent, don’t start a conversation that will lead you to need to use one of those words! Just eat your darn pancakes. And they were really good.