Black People Are Better As Us

17 Feb

When I lived in New York City, I shared an apartment for some time with a fun couple, Melanie and Hendrik. Mel was Canadian, Hendrik was Dutch. I always admired Melanie for her artistic talent, her practical way of approaching life’s challenges, and for the fact that she always treated everyone the same. Mel never put on any airs, whether she was talking to a pseudo-celebrity artist, one of Hendrik’s co-workers, (a globally diverse team of United Nations tour guides), or a cashier at the corner Korean Deli.

Hendrik, a former performance artist clown (quick to say not of the Ringling Brothers variety), was free-spirited, and extremely creative. He often challenged my shyness by his fearless, interactive daily live “performances” at home, like dancing flamboyantly around the apartment, and making me join in. They both embraced diversity, and crossed color lines and cultures effortlessly—perhaps a European/Canadian perspective made that more natural.

Another endearing quality of Hendrik’s was his translation of certain words and phrases from Dutch to English. When I met Hendrik, he was pretty much fluent in English, and spoke German, some French and Spanish, too. But, some things just don’t always translate. Mittens were called “hand shoes,” and when Hendrik wanted to say something was better than something else, he’d say, “…that $3 dollar blue cheese is better as that $12 dollar blue.”

I recalled that better as phrase one night at the dinner table with my, then eight year-old daughter, Darla. We had watched some of the BET (Black Entertainment Television) awards the night before and Darla apparently had something on her mind.

“Mommy, why are black people so special? It’s not fair, they win a lot of awards, are on TV a lot, are good at a lot of things…,” Darla asked.

I paused.

I thought, this is one of those teachable moments. I can and should say something about race, about paying tribute to celebrated African-Americans. I should say something about how black voices so often DON’T get noticed by mainstream white society or the media. I should say something about how all races and ethnicities have special, unique, talented people, famous and not famous, that contribute to society in positive ways. I should say how all of us, as individuals in this world, have something special to offer, something that is uniquely ours, that no other person in the universe possesses.

But, then my mind flashed to Hendrik and I imagined myself blurting out, “Well, Darla, that’s because black people are better as us.”

In that moment, I thought, do I take the high road, or, take the humorous, evasive way out? I blame my Dad for almost always using humor to deflect dealing with serious matters head on. While I still consider his humor a gift he gave to our family throughout the years, perhaps it was not always the way to go.

Which way should I go? I am, after all, my father’s daughter.

I compromised.

“I know, Darla. Black people are really special, aren’t they?” I said.

And, then I rose to the occasion, and became teachable moment, Mom. And I shared with Darla all the should’s I just went through above.

I considered myself better as a lot of other Moms that night, or at least just as good.



9 Responses to “Black People Are Better As Us”

  1. Myrna Griffith February 17, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Good one, Wendy. Glad my kids didn’t ask me that !!

    • Wendy Jane February 17, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      Thanks, Myrna:)

  2. Mary K Connor February 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    Nicely done. P.S., I love your writing style. Blog-writing is meant for you. You are meant for Blog-writing (I like that better than blogging)?

    • Wendy Jane February 19, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

      Thanks so much, Mary K. And, thanks for the P.S. Right now the writing feels stilted or self-conscious, but I think I’ll loosen up in time.:) Thanks again!

      • Ellen February 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

        Writing’s not stilted at all! Sounds totally natural, and like you’re having fun. You’re a natural-born blogger!

        • Wendy Jane February 21, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

          Oh, thanks so much, Ellen! I still need you to be my editor, though:) Thanks for being one of the people who has made me a better writer.

  3. Sherry Gordon May 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    Dear Wendy Jane,
    Hi, there, Wendy Jane! I so love your great blog post articles! I agree very wholeheartedly with the cool comments above! I love your writing style. You have a way a saying things in the written word with such beauty and grace, and I think that you sound very natural and have a very fine flow to your very fantastic word usage! I truly love your writing style, Wendy Jane!

    I think your friends sound so great and cool! What a wonderful teachable moment you had with Darla! You were so incredibly brave and honest with your daughter! I can imagine even though I am black that it would be very daunting and challenging as a white parent to discuss these very sensitive and tough issues with your children!

    I am having such fun going through your very fine and excellent archives, Wendy Jane! I am truly having a very enjoyable and learning reading experience because you write in such an honest, courageous, sensitive, empowering, and gracious manner with such beauty and caring to your words! I am going to have such fun reading even more through your great archives.
    You please have a very nice, special, and a very blessed day, my white sister in solidarity, Wendy Jane!

    Very Sincerely Always,
    Sherry Gordon

    • Wendy Jane May 22, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

      Gosh, Sherry, I’m so flattered by your kind words. I do try to be brave and honest, and it’s not always easy, but always worth it, I think, if we are going to be able to understand everyone’s perspective, and move forward together as a more unified people. And, again, I’m so, so honored that you are taking the time to read past blog posts. I learn a lot from your reflections, and your support keeps me keeping on:)

      Thank you, my sister friend!

      Wishing you a wonderful weekend,
      Wendy Jane

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Following Damon Young of Very Smart Brothas With My 10 Things I Do Every Day To Fight White Supremacy | Wendy Jane's Soul Shake - October 10, 2017

    […] I am copying number one from Damon Young’s list because it is something I’ve been doing for some time now.  I know Black people don’t need me to be their cheerleader, but I can’t help myself, because like Jesse Williams said in his famed BET Awards  acceptance speech last year,…”just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.” I believe in the magic that Black people possess. I have also always been attracted to who goes unnoticed, and doesn’t receive the attention and recognition they deserve, which is what has happened to Black people for centuries. We downplay or completely ignore the positive contributions Black people have made to society–think NASA mathematicians, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who most people only found out about with the book and movie, Hidden Figures, and there’s Guy Bluford, the first Black astronaut to go into space,  and the countless inventors, and creators of what we consider American culture, like rock and roll, and jazz, and spoken word poetry, and on and on. I have been rooting for Black people ever since my white elementary school classmates would find some way to disrupt and run out of Thalia Hick’s birthday party every year, and around the same time, in fights with my girlfriends over who was better, The Jackson 5 or The Osmond Brothers. Predating the Jessie Williams speech, there’s even a post I made several years ago reflecting on when my daughter Darla asked me at the dinner table one night, Why are Black people so special? […]

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