Sunday, December 09, 2012

Stereotypes Gone Buckwild

Some folks are mad at Senator Manchin of West Virginia. He is calling out the producers of a show ("Buckwild") that shows the young people of his state in a bad light. I get why some people are upset with Manchin, and I get where the senator is coming from. He's embarrassed for "his people."

This reality show lets kids show their "country" asses for everyone to snigger at. (Yeah, I said it.) Mr. Manchin is "repulsed." We've all been there. Chris Rock certainly channeled my thoughts about Flavor Flav:

We've all felt like Manchin. If you are a woman, you are Manchin every time you see another female, out in public, wearing something inappropriate for (choose all that apply): her age, body type, body shape; the place, function, etc.  If you are black, you cringe a little (or a whole lot) when you see anyone acting out one of the many negative stereotypes.

Stereotypes are tricky, though. We can feel one way about them one minute and, the next, well... (Then again, I'm a Cancer, so I have a strange way of looking at things.)

A story:
When I was in my mid-twenties, I was at a nightclub with a big group of girlfriends. We were on the prowl ourselves so we noticed any other young women with the same mission. At one point, we spotted a gorgeous girl sitting nearby. She was getting hit on by a really cute guy. She was white, the guy was black. All was well with the world. Until my friends and I could hear a part of the conversation. I don't know where this girl was from, but she sounded like she was speaking a street patois. It was so weird to hear the slang and intonations coming from someone who looked like her. Things got ugly at our table when one of the girls in my group said the most innocently ignorant thing I'd ever heard:

"She sounds black, doesn't she?"

Excuse me? What does "black" sound like? I'm black and I couldn't sound like this chick if I took lessons.  But I knew exactly what my friend meant. Still, my feelings were very confused. Did my friend think that "sounding black" meant not even attempting to speak decent English? (That would be an insult, right?) Or did she mean the girl sounded really hip? (A compliment?)

See, that's the thing: sometimes, we can (any of us) be so very ashamed of things associated with us by race, class, gender or whatever - but at other times, we can feel proud or amused. I watched "Kings of Comedy" with a white friend and we laughed our asses off, but if he ever calls me "bitch" or "nigger," we're going to have problems. (On the other hand, my closest girlfriends and I call each other "bitch" and "heffa" as terms of affection. I don't mess with the word "nigger" at all. It's just ugly to me.) By the way, I believe that interracial dating makes people either way better or way worse at respecting all lovers. After two mixed relationships, I'm better in lots of ways. Toot-toot.

Oh, the conflicts, huh?

Just yesterday, my roommate and I were in a store and saw a woman who looked as if her mission in life is to show the world she has many damns but won't give up one. She was sloppily dressed, wore too much of the worst kind of makeup, and her hair was such a mess that I swear she hates herself.
The thing is, whenever you see someone like this, suddenly you are not just you, the individual, but you are this person's sister or brother or mother or daughter - whatever. We simultaneously feel an association with and a need to distance ourselves from "those kind of people."

But, who knows? Maybe those people - the woman in the store, Walmartians everywhere - maybe they are the ones who have it together? Maybe the ones of us who are embarrassed by association are the ones with the problem.

For me, I'm with Manchin. I get why he's embarrassed. On the other hand, he's asking for censorship. If he wants "Buckwild" off the air, then I have my own demands. I need the immediate obliteration from life any public person, show, photo or advertisment (print or televised) that makes me feel embarrassed:
  • to be black
  • not to be a size 4
  • not to be male
  • not to be gay
  • not to have long silky or wavy hair, short silky hair, cute hair of any length or style
  • not to be the desire of whoever the latest "hot" or "It" guy is
  • not to be spontaneously orgasmic at the single touch of a man (or woman)
  • because I'm not light or dark enough
  • not to be tall enough
  • for having morals
  • for being from the same state as Sarah Palin (the state of Alaska, not the State of Clueless)
  • because I don't put out after the first three drinks
  • because my dates don't involve limos or private jets
  • for not having the whitest teeth
  • for being me
I swear, I could make this into an eternal Benedictine chant. No time for that. I have to go and get the bitch and heffa in the next room (niece and roommate) so we can get the rest of this day moving.