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Laughing Liberally Press
May 20 2011: NYTimes: Enter Laughing, From the Liberal Wing
A Message From the Average Black Person
Submitted by Jenny McCartney on Thu, 06/25/2009 - 11:37am.
To Whom It May Concern:
Greetings. My name is Elon James White. I'm Black.
I write this letter on behalf of a lot of people that fall into the category of Average Black People. (Yes, I capitalize it, as if it were a title.) I do not claim to represent them because that would be absurd. I really, truly don't. I don't even represent my circle of friends. At any point in time one of my Black buddies will, in fact, tell me to go to hell when speaking on concepts of race, politics, or religion.
I do, however, qualify as an Average Black Person. I am neither a part of the Black intelligentsia, nor do I fall into the category of your garden-variety street Negro. A lot of folks see Black people in one of these two categories. Normally, let's be honest, it's the latter.
I don't qualify.
I do come from "the Hood." That's right. I am a born and bred Brooklynite raised in the middle of Bed-Stuy. If you aren't familiar with Bed-Stuy, perhaps you have never listened to gangster rap. You're probably also unfamiliar with Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls, or the thousands of songs that yell out "Brooklyn!" and then give a shout-out to Bed-Stuy. It's fine. Just understand that Bed-Stuy has a primarily negative connotation and for many years was used in boasts to gain respect or fear because it's an incredibly violent environment.
In other words, you could get shot, son.
Speaking of which, I am the son of a single mother. My father is in prison. My grandfather was a pastor and I grew up in the church. I, without shame, also enjoy fried chicken, watermelon, ribs, and orange soda. I can have an incredibly in-depth debate on the best five MCs ever. My credit isn't great and I've been shot.
With facts like this I qualify as a stereotypical Black person right?
But I am also a computer programmer. I've been known to quote Nietzsche. I, on occasion, host dinner parties where I serve five-course meals, including a specialty of mine, White Truffle Tilapia (it's delightful). I have the entire John Williams discography and wear a backpack that is emblazoned with the Thundercats insignia.
Those with one half of that story shake their head at the sheer mass of stereotypes I carry. Then those with the other half question if I even understand the Black experience at all. Some refer to me as someone who "made it out." I currently live in Crown Heights. Some say "You're not like the others." Most people I interact with are very similar to me.
I am an Average Black Person.
So, as an ABP, I have a few requests:
Supposed Black Leaders.
Critics Of Obama.
The hypocrisy of saying we are not One, and yet speaking for the exact group for which I just emphatically denied exists, is not lost on me. Perhaps there are Black people who absolutely want to be spoken for and referred to as if we were one big team. I acknowledge the possibility, but if this was the majority people like Dyson and Smiley would be way more important, and let's be honest: they aren't. I hope that my message is clear. After reading this, the next time you talk to a Black person you can feel comfortable in now knowing with every fiber of your being that you have no clue what they think or feel based on their skin color.
But if they're wearing a Soulja Boy shirt you may disregard this essay and judge them immediately.
Follow Elon James White on Twitter: www.twitter.com/elonjames
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