This colored zoo is where white people get to ogle black people in their natural environments. When white people notice a new exhibit at this zoo, they tend to get really excited. So excited that they want to show everyone else what they’ve found! Never mind that the exhibit isn’t new, never mind that black people have known it was a part of their culture/traditions since – ever – it’s new to white people and that makes it new to everyone.
Our latest exhibit at the colored zoo: Black ministers who “whoop.” CNN did a piece on this (hat tip to my sister via FB) and while they actually put some reporting into it, it just felt all wrong. Like – look at how these hyper-emotional black folks preach! Wow – isn’t that odd? Let’s put get some academics to explain why these creatures behave as they do and blam – a piece on our visit to the colored zoo.
Clearly, this kind of ish infuriates me. I mean, I know that there are white people who are clueless about black culture – if I had a dime for every white college dormmate who wanted to know why I didn’t wash my hair every day, I’d have at least $1.70
As anti-racism educator Tim Wise said: When you’re white, stuff about being black is never on the test. If you’re black, what’s important to white people IS the MF’ing test. (OK, I added the MF’ing in there. That wasn’t Tim – who is the keynote speaker at the Gandhi-King conference in Memphis Saturday.) So, good white people (and I generalize, because there are PLENTY of white people who have taken the time to expose themselves to different theological traditions because guess what, guess what – they VALUE differences and make learning a PRIORITY in their lives), please do not act surprised when you encounter something new at the cultural zoo. Act like you’ve been somewhere before – and then go home and Google it like a polite person would.
I am aware that we are ignorant of other cultures – and the only way to erase the ignorance is to LEARN. There’s LOTS I don’t know about being Jewish, or Latino, or Syrian or fill-in-the-blank. But when I DO learn something, I don’t run around exposing how ignorant I was just a minute ago, all proud of the new ish I just learned that – if I had any real desire to learn about other cultures – I could have exposed myself to it already.