Craigslist Missed Connections: Swinging

To: The Other Black Guy at Swing Dancing Last Night,

One, two, rock-step, one, two, rock-step....away from ethnic expectations.

Congratulations first on following the Oreo rules and going to an event where you would most likely be the only of color in attendance. I apologize for not checking the memo and also showing up, I know it was awkward to be in such close proximity.

Also congratulations on fantastic footwork. Your Lindy is enviable.

Finally, thank you for not asking me to dance when we were the only two people without partners during “L-O-V-E.”

Sure, we were wasting time just standing there while a perfectly good song was playing and there was room on the dance floor. But we already looked silly in our saddle shoes and sailor pants. No need to look like RBP as well.

Best,

OW

Question: As an Oreo, I naturally feel most comfortable when I’m in a predominantly non-colored crowd–when no one in the restaurant/movie theater/saddlery looks like me. But does it work the other way? How do you feel when you’re in a crowd where no one looks like you? Let us know in the comments!

 

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8 comments

  1. Now really, how often do you think it happens that an RWP is in a crowd like that? 😉 But it depends. Usually it’s like “oh, this event isn’t targeted towards me – how weird.” But it’s very self-aware, makes you realize that in middle-class US you usually ARE the target audience for advertising, theater, culture, etc. And that’s weird in itself. But I like being in a different crowd usually – it’s like “hey, look at how narrow your world view really is, and look at all this OTHER stuff going on with other people that are just like you and not at the same time!” Always nice to realize you’re not the EXACT center of the universe – ’cause that’s a little boring after a while. 🙂

  2. Awesome question. I have about fifty-five ways to answer this too. So please bear with me as I try to squeeze my rambling thoughts into a few slightly coherent sentences. And before I dive into this topic any further, I should probably explain that my perspective on this is mainly based on the fact that I am one of the few white faculty members at an HBCU where about 97% of my students are African American. Just to further elaborate, I was also completely ignorant of the concept of “HBCUs”, until I started working here. I remember arriving on campus on my first day, and thinking, wow, there are a lot of Black students here, and then kind of shrugging and leaving it at that. It took me a few days to realize my school was, in fact, an HBCU. Ah yes, you gotta love those ignorant foreigners.

    Anyway, I am the only white female faculty member in my department, and this is the first time that has ever happened. Do I feel more or less comfortable with this than any other ethnic facultu/student make up? Honestly, I hardly ever notice it. Seriously. You know when I realize that I’m one of the few white people on campus? When I see another white person. That’s when my mind suddenly goes, “Hey, someone who looks like me! Wow! Cool!”. But when I’m just going about my business, I don’t really stop and think about it. When I teach about race, I address the fact that I’m white and my students are Black/mixed head on, and don’t skirt around the issue. I actually feel that both this openness, and the fact that I’m a white European makes the discussion more interesting, and multi-layered.

    Interestingly, my white American colleagues seem more aware of “looking different” than I do, and I wonder if this is because of their learned understanding of “different”, and “race”. I’m from Europe, where distinction between people is not made so much based on their looks, but on where they’re from (and increasingly, their expressions of religious beliefs). You can meet two Black Englishmen, but one of them can be from the West Indies, while the other one is from the Ivory Coast. You, in no way, then, perceive those two Black men as being “the same”. In Dutch, we don’t even have an acceptable word for “Black”, we refer to people by their national heritage, “Indonesian”, “Antillian”, “Surinamese”, and so on. So although you might the only white person in the room in Europe, the color of your skin does not appear to be how you define yourself (as much).

    So whenever I have (white) people comment on how they feel “different” on campus, I always have to stop and think to realize that, oh yeah, I’m white. And that makes me different. Right.

    I realize this probably sounds incredibly corny and politically correct, but all I can tell you is that in my eyes, this is true, and I don’t do political correctness. I’m from Europe, remember? 🙂

  3. Dear Oreo Writer,

    I admire your determination to uphold your principles as an oreo over your desire not to be alone. We are all tempted to find companionship wherever we can, and your strength and resolve in not succumbing to that desire at this event is quite admirable indeed.

    As to your question, it is difficult for me to answer because I am absurdly handsome and therefore everyone always looks at me immediately. However, I can only imagine that if I were to enter a room and no one looked at me, it would simply be because of dim lighting and therefore I would yell loudly and repeatedly to make sure everyone had a chance to behold my beauty.

    I recommend this approach for you. Many of us RWP love this kind of attention, even if we have to take it by force (something we are well accustomed to, given our long history of taking things by force), and although I understand your desire to avoid looking like a typical “loud RBP with attitude”, surely you must undertand that you have to take risks if you are to achieve your goal as an oreo.

    Sincerely,
    AbhayaSandwich
    (on Twitter @AbhayaSandwich)

  4. Dear Oreo Writer,

    I admire your determination to uphold your principles as an oreo over your desire not to be alone. We are all tempted to find companionship wherever we can, and your strength and resolve in not succumbing to that desire at this event is quite admirable indeed.

    As to your question, it is difficult for me to answer because I am absurdly handsome and therefore everyone always looks at me immediately. However, I can only imagine that if I were to enter a room and no one looked at me, it would simply be because of dim lighting and therefore I would yell loudly and repeatedly to make sure everyone had a chance to behold my beauty.

    I recommend this approach for you. Many of us white people love this kind of attention, even if we have to take it by force (something we are well accustomed to), and although I understand your desire to avoid looking like a typical “loud RBP with attitude”, surely you must undertand that you have to take risks if you are to achieve your goal as an oreo.

    Sincerely,
    AbhayaSandwich
    (on Twitter @AbhayaSandwich)

  5. My happiest time in high school was in Oak Cliff where I was the token white girl in my group of friends. I was one of like 10 white students in the entire school. The teachers were predominantly white, but the students really weren’t.

    A few years after that, I went to a restaurant where everyone was white, including the wait staff and busboys. It was disturbing. I really did almost get up and leave.

    But I think all that has less to do with my skin color and more to do with my financial class. I’ve never been middle class and I don’t really understand a great deal of the mentality of that group of whites. Not that I identify with the stereotypical group of poor whites (rednecks, etc) either. It’s sort of a toss up of which is more horrifying: being trapped in a small rural town or being trapped in a wealthy metropolitan suburb. Either way, the sea of white is daunting.

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