Black History Month: A Short Survival Guide

I remember it like it was yesterday.

There I was, 8 years old, making some awesome dioramas, sipping Capri Suns neat, and generally just enjoying the crap out of fourth grade.

Slip one of these inside your Trapper Keeper and you were set!

Slip one of these inside your Trapper Keeper and you were set!

To that point in time, I had made it through 6 years of schooling being able to skate under the racial radar, not draw attention to myself, and generally thinking that who I was was OK.

Then Black History Month came along. A separate but equal period of time in which to focus on what really matters — the things that make us different that we must learn to crush into submission.

Despite my years of training, people still sometimes look at me and think “Oh, a black person. Isn’t that nice/vaguely threatening/potentially interesting.” And during this month, those thoughts have the potential to run rampant. Suddenly you go from just another friendly face at the bar to someone who can potentially answer some questions.

Trust me, you do not want to answer those questions.

The more questions you answer about “your experience as a minority,” or “your point of view on current events as a minority,” or “your thoughts their new savory egg and hemp seed muffins as a minority,” the more likely you are to dirty the lens through which people see you. You’ve worked too hard to suddenly turn into someone’s black friend.

“But what do I do?” you’re thinking. “How do I avoid these conversations?” “What if someone comes toward me, MLK biography open and dog-eared, how do I escape?”

With these 5 steps, it’s easier than you think.

Get Your Blinders On

Always remember that their vision is based on movement. This advice works for avoiding dinosaurs, it works for avoiding Regular Black People, and it works for avoiding well-meaning co workers as well.

You know the feeling. You’re sitting in your cube. Happily scrolling through Instagrams for images for your vision board working incredibly hard at helping the company meet its goals when you feel it. The eyes from a few cubes away.

Do not look into them. One second of eye contact and you’re giving a green light to awkward questions.

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If you find the stares difficult to ignore, just pull out some of your polo prep. Grab a wide-brimmed hat or parasol; and if all else fails, just borrow your horse’s blinders. Colonel Beauregard Sable won’t mind at all.

Opera Sonar and Grand Jete Away

There’s a reason dolphins never run into you. Okay, several reasons actually. But one of the big ones is sonar. They send a sound into the world, wait to see what it bounces off on and avoid what they need to. You can do the same.

Keep a cadenza on your lips and listen for its echo. When that bad boy starts to doppler, get away and get away fast. Whether it’s Grand, Russian, or Tour, a jete is just the thing to get you out of the line of sight asap. A glissade will also do in a pinch.

Plus, look how happy you look!

Plus, look how happy you look!

Let Them Correct You

You only have to say “Blooker P. Wooshingbun” once in a conversation for folks to get the message.

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Look The Part

Get your hair done, slap on a shade of foundation a half shade lighter than you, press that Peter Pan collar, stand in the right light… and folks might have to look twice to confirm your ethnic status. In that second it takes them to reconsider you can make your getaway.

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Distract and Deflect

Sometimes, despite doing everything right, someone’s going to ask you something awkward. It’s okay. The good news is you don’t need to make a scene and be all uppity about it. You’re not an RBP after all. The better news is that you also don’t have to answer.

Look, it would probably be helpful to be people’s very own personal ethnic point of reference. But once you admit to identifying with the minority, that’s all folks will be able to see you as. So it’s not about being rude to get out of the convo, it’s about self-preservation.

Here’s your script: “That’s a really good question. I would love to answer it, but I have to finish this piece for a haiku festival this weekend.”

Discussing fencing is also an excellent way to change the topic

Discussing fencing is also an excellent way to change the topic

They’ll tell you that they’ll catch up with you later (or, if they’re feeling like risking it all, that they’ll “holla at you later.”) But chances are, they’ll find a real RBP or the self-awareness to know that it’s not your responsibility to explain anything to them and they’ll forget they ever asked. You won’t forget, but that’s okay. Part of being a good Oreo is learning to love that burning, gnawing feeling.

If you don’t have anything going on this weekend, feel free to use our handy Oreo Excuse Generator.

What do you think about Black History Month? Helpful teaching tool or terrifying social construct? Let us know in the comments! 

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8 comments

  1. I doubt I’ll learn any new black history this month. However, thanks to you, I now know what the word glissade means.

    Glissade: a way of sliding down a steep slope of snow or ice, typically on the feet with the support of an ice ax.

    Not sure how that’s going to be helpful but ok.

    FYI, its not your ethnicity that makes you “vaguely threatening” its the fact that you sip Capri Sun neat!!

    1. Ha! I learned something, too! I didn’t know you could glissade down a mountain on your butt! It’s also a ballet thing where you kind of shuffle to the side with pointy toes.

  2. its not vaguely threatening its more like i hope i can pretend i dont notice things ,in your case im sure they are quickly relieved because you reinforce their delusion of universal human equality. and so they can keep you in their minds eye when calling people like me haters ignoring the volumes of satistics that say youre an outlier. you know youre an outlier you know the truth even if i possibly have a hundred times more black friends than you i know you know, what blacks are really like on average so why make the white person you meet the problem child they are legitimately reacting to the lived experience of encountering black people.

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