I don’t know why, but it took me a while to muster the courage to tell friends and family that I was starting a blog about my obsession with race relations. For one, even though I love to write, I have a real hard time expressing myself verbally. I get all tongue-tied, and with the blog topic, especially, I thought people might not “get it.” They might think it was strange. They might think I’m coming at it from an angle as an academic, activist, or someone very dry and serious.
I am none of those things.
I’m just a gal who can’t stop thinking about the relationship between black and white people, and who tries to use humor and lightness to share about my obsession, and to connect and hear others’ feelings and experiences around race relations.
So, why the My Awkward White Girl Moment(s) title?….I stole and tweaked the title after writer, director, producer, Issa Rae’s fabulous web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can catch it on the website I’ve linked to here, or simply watch the link to an episode below. Issa plays “J”, and as stated on the ABG Facebook page, the series follows “J” and her friends as she navigates through life, love and awkward situations. “J’s” tagline: “I’m awkward, and I’m black.” Issa set out to create a show that features a young, black woman in awkward situations–situations that are universal in nature, that we all can relate to, and feel like we’ve been there, too. I hope she and her series get the attention they deserve.
Getting back to my Awkward White Girl Moment….The other day I was sitting at my work’s cafeteria eating lunch and reading a book. An intern, a black woman who I know a little bit because we worked on the same floor for a short time together, sat down at a table two over from me, and we started chatting. She asked me what book I was reading. I got up and moved to her table so I didn’t have to shout across the cafeteria, “I’m reading WHITE LIKE ME!”
Before I told her the book title I was currently reading, I went into this awkward, stumble-over-my-words explanation of how, “I’m really interested in race relations, and I have a blog about that…and I just finished reading this book–it’s by Baratunde Thurston, called, How To Be Black...he’s a comedian. The book I’m reading right now is called White Like Me, by Tim Wise–he’s an anti-racist, I mean, anti-racism educator and speaker.”
“What’s the author’s name of How To Be Black?” my acquaintance asked.
“Baratunde Thurston…he’s a comedian, and so he’s coming at race from a humorous viewpoint, trying to talk about what it’s like to be black in a white majority…he has chapters titled like, How To Be The Black Employee….”
I squirmed a little in my seat. This description of the book wasn’t coming out right. My acquaintance–did her hmmmm’s mean she wondered about my intentions as a white person reading a humorous book on what it means to be black? I should have mentioned a different chapter and given more explanation, like the one titled, How To Be The Black Friend, which pokes fun at white people who think they’re safe from ever being called a racist because they can always say, “I’m not racist, one of my best friends is black.” That would’ve been much better!
Or does she now think the only reason I’ve been ultra friendly to her when we worked together, or given her enthusiastic “hello’s” when I’ve seen her in the hallway, or sat with her at lunch to tell her about my interest in race relations–was all because she’s black and I wanted to go out of my way to “relate” to her? I suppose I could ask her.
But, perhaps I over analyze. Well, I’m certain I over analyze–I do it all the time in my day-to-day life. Yet, I do have to say that now that I’ve started telling more people–black and white–about my blog, I’ve become more comfortable with it. I am definitely more comfortable telling people who I know well about it. Perhaps, it is because I don’t know this woman so well, that there is an awkwardness of being a white person bringing race to the conversation. Perhaps, simply put, I have to own this. I have to know my intentions, and not be embarrassed, or frightened that I am doing something wrong. I have to not worry what others think of my passions, and my blog. And, I want others to question my intentions, if any of what I am doing makes them uncomfortable, or where I am coming from is unclear.
Ah, that feels better.
One awkward moment down, I’m sure there will be more to come….