Go Ahead, Girl!

5 Mar

Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake Disclaimer

I realize that every time I say, “I like black people because….., or “I like soul music…” inferring that that connects me to all black people,..that I am generalizing, stereotyping, maybe patronizing, idealizing, and exoticizing (okay, so that’s not a word), too. I know not all black people like to, or  even can dance, and I know not all black people are uninhibited extroverts.  I know this, and am poking fun at myself, or maybe really experiencing white guilt, for entertaining such thoughts and feelings. Please forgive me. Thank you.

 

Go Ahead, Girl!

My younger sister noticed at her last high school reunion that the white people looked rigid and bored sitting at their dinner tables.  She admired her black classmates who she said laughed, danced, and seemed like they were having a good time.

I admire black people, too, for showing a zest for life, or at least seeming less inhibited than white folks at times seem. I admire that quality because I see myself as outwardly reserved and inhibited.  When someone is demonstrative and enthusiastic, I feed off of their energy. When they’re up, I’m up.  Sure, I know there are shy black people.  I’ve met some of them.  And, I know there are exuberant white people because I’ve met some of them, too (though I can’t say I met many of those when I lived in the Midwest for a couple of years.  White people there did not seem to like to show their feelings).

While I’m happy to be around black people when they are demonstrative, I also worry that I’m going to be called out to display some white woman zest, to show that I’m a sister in my own right.  What if I’m hanging out with some black folks and they say, “Go ahead, girl,” and I can’t go ahead, and instead give a weak smile and stare at the ground?  Sometimes I feel like I’m a black person trapped inside a white person’s body.  I want to be able to throw my hands up in the air and wave them around like I just don’t care when prompted, but I was born shy, and my body freezes when the spotlight is on me.

But, one can still hope, right?  That the next time a black person says to me,”Girl you put on a little weight–you look good!” that I can show off, and break into a sassy model’s pose.  And, that when I’m asked to appear on the reinstated Mo’Nique Talk Show, or The Ellen Show because Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake has gone national, that I can get down like a white sister who is obsessed about race relations should, and just maybe I can make black people proud of me for trying.

 

 

 

9 Responses to “Go Ahead, Girl!”

  1. Ken Harge March 5, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    At first, I was wondering if all white people who “like” black people have these thoughts…then I became pretty certain that most people white or black are not as introspective as you. So, I’m left still being somewhat fascinated by this expression of yours. Interesting.

    • Wendy Jane March 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

      Hi Ken,

      Thanks so much for commenting. I was wondering what you thought of what was being said. Did it seem patronizing, or stereotyping–like I was trying to lump all black people into this one way of being? Any more feedback, thoughts, reflections, would be appreciated. Thanks for reading.

  2. Manny March 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    honesty…refreshing.

    • Wendy Jane March 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Manny! I was a bit worried about this post, because it seems with what I’m saying that I am perhaps being patronizing, or stereotyping black people, putting black folks in one lump pile, and way of being? What do you think? Thanks again!

  3. April March 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    Wendy, Wendy, Wendy. Funny you should comment on noticing the differences about the people around you. I went to Sade / John Legend concert at Mohegan Sun in July with a date. I told her at dinner, “Every black dude you see dressed like a pimp is going to the concert, the rest of the black dudes, are just gamblers”. I like to consider my estimation as correct. We sat in the front, cuz that’s how I roll….and happened to be sitting between both white and black European foreigners, and some African Americans. What I saw, was the European foreigners, both races, were affectionate (as both these artists music will make you) and deeply into the performance and each other. The African American couples to the right of us…the men were up and down to the beer and not even looking at their own wives. Sad to say, but I felt sorry for the wives. I feel empowered to share this because it’s true, and it’s what your site is really all about. Discussing what we notice. Much respect to the men AND WOMEN in America who are not afraid to show love to their own partners. No matter what color they are.

  4. kel March 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Wendy!! You HAVE to come out dancing with me—- demonstrative ain’t the word!! LOL !I don’t always comment, but I adore your writing. Your bravery and honesty is refreshing…..

    • Wendy Jane March 5, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

      Kelly!!

      Somehow I think I already know what going out dancing with you would be like–I’m scared of you, too, demonstrative, white woman! I guess I just feel like I wish I could be as free as anyone who can express their joy without worrying about what others think. Thanks so much for your words of support. They really mean a lot to me.

  5. Steve March 7, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    Wendy,

    I know I have said this before – I am not big on putting any of my thoughts in writing (paranoia) but I find your writings so intriguing and compelling that I actually put down the phone and tablet and logged on to a real computer because I have to get my thoughts out and those little keyboards (including virtual) don’t quite cut it.

    You are definitely drawing people into a conversation and this is always a good thing. Plus your writing is enjoyable to read – I wake up to reading your blog and I go to sleep reading your poem. One person commented on one of your posts that you had to write from within – that is the only reason worth writing for (I paraphrase but I didn’t feel like looking for the actual comment). I couldn’t agree more – that is the only true compelling reason for you to write. With regards to your obsession and desire to better connect across color lines, I think the best you can hope for is better appreciation and communication, but I fear you will never truly understand. I don’t mean this in a negative manner, just an observation on life. Look no further than your sisters or your daughters to see this – I think for the most part we are born who we are (no matter how hard Steve Martin tried to find his rhythm in The Jerk, it just wasn’t there). I am not sure how much this is hereditary or pure chance (depends on what you believe) but you cannot teach things like natural sports ability or any other natural ability. I think we are who we are and we think the way we think and there are very little external influences that can radically change this (aside from hugely traumatic influences that fortunately most people will never have to experience). The other things that shape our external behavior to a point are customs (which are part of our upbringing and environment) and coping techniques (which are part of human survival) – you always had the slight tilt of your head and your close lipped smile and the subtle toss of your hair and you could easily coax people into seeing things your way (every boy on the blvd noticed these – not just me). Somewhere along the way you learned these worked well for you (most likely these were sub-conscious). You also commented on another post about a high school friend who was told not to bother taking Latin. Even though you attended a highly integrated school, you will always be somewhat disconnected to what some of your classmates have experienced in life since you have not really seen life through their eyes (this is of no fault of yours – there is no way you could have – your life circumstances were different) and you looked different so at some level you were always treated different (again nothing you could have done to change this – it is just part of life).

    Anyway, I have rambled enough and I don’t even know why I had to get this out – like I said you are drawing people into a conversation. No offense is meant to you or anyone reading this – it is just meant to be part of the conversation.

    Till next time 🙂

    • Wendy Jane March 8, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

      Steve,

      First of all, I am honored and flattered that you are a regular reader of my blog and fb poems. I also want to thank you for taking the time out to comment here–to even log onto a desktop computer to write!:)

      I appreciate your insights, especially since we grew up on the same street, and so know each other’s background. I know I do have to write for myself, and yet, at times, because I am starting a dialogue, and because race can be a touchy subject to write about, I want people to give me feedback, and call me on stuff–like if what I’ve said is offensive or stereotyping, or incorrect in their opinion.

      I agree that I can never know what it is like to be black, or any other race or ethnicity, and can only hope to connect, empathize, learn more about others’ life experiences, and grow. I do love the Steve Martin in the Jerk analogy you cite:) It’s been exciting so far to begin this dialogue–I have no idea where it will lead, but am glad it’s begun.

      As for the head tilting and the toss of my hair, that’s kind of funny. I didn’t think that worked for anything. I was very shy and didn’t have a voice at all. I’m glad to be working on it here. It only took a few, okay, more than a few, decades.

      Again, thanks for your thoughtfulness and encouragement. I hope you’ll continue to be part of the conversation here.

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