Hey, Hey, Paula …

Yeah, so the whole Paula Deen mess.  I don’t want to talk about it.  Instead, I’ll invite you to read Cassandra Jackson’s Huffington Post piece.

Dear White Folks who are freaking out over Black Folks’ use of the N-word:

I realize that it is disturbing to think that there might be one privilege that black people have that white people do not. Therefore, I am going to set the record straight. I have compiled a list of things that black people cannot say. This list is by no means complete. I am hoping that readers will add more items in the comments section for your further edification.

I love the challenge she throws out, and have spent much of my free thought time today thinking of my own list of things black people cannot say.   There are other things to talk about, of course (there’s Rand Paul, there’s how race affects whether or not online daters will respond to a message from you — see, I knew when I wrote about that nonsense, it wasn’t just about me!).  Chief on my mind lately has been the ugly, annoying fact that it has taken reporters and news anchors this long to stop saying, “the Trayvon Martin trial,” that it’s taken them this long to hear themselves, to acknowledge that they need to say, “the George Zimmerman trial,” that saying the first phrase is saying that Martin is the one accused of a crime … of course, we all know he has been accused (convicted, sentenced, and punished) of the dread crime of being a young black man minding his own business, but that’s a conversation for another day.

For today, I am disappointed that the comments section beneath Jackson’s piece is full of people arguing about the use of “the N-word,” not offering up additional items to add to her fine list of things black people cannot say.  So I’ll offer up one of my own:

A black person attending a King Day celebration at the senior center where she works cannot say to the frail, elderly white man who has just gotten up to sing his tribute to MLK that singing “Dixie” and “Mammy” isn’t actually a fitting tribute.  She can start to approach the confused singer, but she will find herself slapped down by her boss who will tell her to understand that the singer comes from a different time and that she should just accept the well-meaning intention.

Oh, is that too specific an example?

Never mind me.  Read my friend Samuel’s excellent piece instead.


It’s Slice of Life Tuesday!
See what the other slicers are doing over at Two Writing Teachers!



And, just to show that my bad mood isn’t all-encompassing …

6 thoughts on “Hey, Hey, Paula …

  1. I am feeling so frustrated lately. It just feels like we are losing the middle class, the democracy of the US. Education is privatized, civil rights is being legislated away. Am I still a Democrat?


    1. I share your frustration, Bonnie. Today I’m encouraged by small movements that have the potential to grow, like the Dream Defenders in Florida who’ve taken over the state house. My ability to hope is feeling renewed.


    1. Thanks, Molly. Here’s the flipside of that example: At the same event, another older white man got up to sing. He sang Old Man River. The difference was that he spoke before he sang about Paul Robeson and about Robeson’s fight for human rights and the power of his voice. But when he sang, he sang the song the way most of us know it: “Tote that barge, lift that bale. Get a little drunk and you land in jail. I keep laughing instead of crying, I’m tired of living, but scared of dying.” So after he sang I went over to talk to him and asked if he knew that Robeson actually sang that lyric differently: “Show a little grit, and you land in jail. I keep laughing instead of crying. I must keep fighting until I’m dying.” He had never heard that, and we had a great conversation about it, and he said he would sing it that way from then on.

      Roses and thorns. I guess there are always both.


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