How to get accepted into Black culture

White among Black

I am white.  I live in a very white part of town, (Mid-sizedtown, USA) go to a very white church, and hang out with mostly white people. Being white is okay, but it’s a little…vanilla for me. Had I gotten to choose the culture from which I sprouted, it would hands down be African-American.

Now let’s get one thing straight right here, I am NOT racist.  It seems as though that term is launched at every other person who acknowledges that there’s a difference between being Caucasian and being Black.  I, in no way, mean any disrespect, I just don’t see the point in trying to argue that we’re all the same.  Yes, we’re all of equal value, but WE’RE NOT ALL THE SAME.  And that’s totally awesome! We must acknowledge that this world of ours is made up of a vast array of experiences, skin types, languages, hair colors, and cultural background, and there’s so much to be learned from people who had a different upbringing from ourselves.  How to fry chicken, for instance.  Among other things.

Even though I’m white (on the outside), I have lately been paying more attention to who I am on the inside: BLACK.  I’m not a buxom, middle-aged Black woman, with spiral-curly hair, who waves her index finger, arches her eyebrow, and purses her lips when she talks.  I am the tall, slender, fashionable black woman, who never wears animal prints. My kinky curls are under control.  I’m loud and boisterous only when the situation calls for it, and can manifest the appropriate amount of attitude when people need a good verbal slap across the face.

The problem?  I’m not black.  But I’ve been trying a few ways to get accepted into Black culture, and I’ve hit on some foolproof actions.  Follow these 6 steps, and you’ll be guaranteed a spot in the club.  And in this club, somebody always getting krunk.

1. DON’T ASK PERMISSION.  If you ask for permission to join the group, the answer will most likely be no.  But if you assume that you’re “one of them,” no one will ask questions.  (This usually goes for most social groups in any setting.)  Let’s say you’re at a crowded restaurant at lunch time, and all the tables are taken, except for one large “communal” style table, almost-full of African-American women.  Don’t ask “do you mind if I sit here?”  Walk right up, pretend you’ve been friends with these ladies forever, and say “you girls are so sweet for saving me a seat!  You be looking out for a sister, I appreciate that.”  And sit down.  Just sit down.

2. USE SLANG.  Without being over-the-top.  You gotta know what you can pull off.  For instance, some people can get away with “B!+@&, while we out hanging at AJ’s crib, she showed us her threads she be throwing down the Benjamins fo, and then that new playa of hers roll up, and give this sermon on keeping up wit’ all her bling…” Others of you, will have to make do with “girl, when we went to AJ’s house, she showed us her expensive clothes, then her boyfriend came in and complained about buying all of her nice jewelry,” with a nice “it was cray-cray” thrown in there.

3. DRESS A LITTLE ON THE WILD SIDE.  Black women are daring, in ways that us boring white girls would never have the imagination to be.  Now, you have to know how to work it no matter what you’re wearing, and don’t go too far off the deep end.  It will look as though you’re trying too hard.  Whatever you wear, you gotta throw in some attitude.

4. ALWAYS THANK THEM.  You’re out shopping, and a black woman says that she likes your purse.  Don’t just smile.  Make firm eye contact, cock your head and bit, and say “thanks girl.”  And if you want extra points, you can throw in a “you know I love me some leather/stripes/buckles/whatever.”

5. PUT “ASS” AFTER ANY WORD.  You might be offended.  But it’s true, and you know it. It works.  100% of the time. In fact, this is a great one to start with, since you don’t need no have developed any of the other aforementioned skills to pull this one off.  “My lazy-ass cat won’t even go in the litter box.”  “Her ugly-ass dress should never have left the store.”  “That hot-ass barista is looking at you.”  Even stuff white people like can have an urban flair when you throw this word in.

6.  BE LOUD, and LATE.  For those of you white folk who are a little too white, this one will be tough.  But the basic idea is that you want to speak loud enough to draw some attention to yourself.  And always run on CPT.  (For those who don’t know what that means, you’ll have to Google the Urban translation, because if you’re white, you’re not allowed to say it.)

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BEING BLIND

When you’re as blind as me, you tend to not feel human without the aid of corrective lenses. Before I knew exactly how blind I was, it was a daily struggle to make eye contact with people. It was unclear to me (pun intended) at the time, that because I couldn’t really SEE anyone, I didn’t want them to see me.  It’s unsettling when people have direct access to your soul-window, and you have no access to theirs.  So, I looked away.

Then I go to the eye doctor, get contacts, and BAM! There are leaves, and clouds, and eyes.  Eyes everywhere. And for some reason, I wanted to look into all of them.

Many of us experience spiritual blindness as well. And we like it that way. Imagine if we were to behold the true weight of our shortcomings. We would get crushed by conviction.

Blindfolded

Jeremiah 16:10 ESV

“And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?'”

All over the Bible people are asking, (the Israelites especially) “what did WE do against you?  Surely it wasn’t that bad.”

It is that bad.  Anything other than perfection is complete and utter evil.  The opposite of good is evil, so if it’s not good, it’s evil.  For more on that click HERE.

I desperately want my prayer to be “Lord, open my eyes.  Show me what’s in my heart.”  But I’m deathly afraid of what that would mean.  Of what I would see.  Of what He would convict me of.

So, as of right now.  That’s not my prayer.  It’s a prayer that the Holy Spirit inside of me will have to ask for, as I don’t possess the strength yet.

Right now, my prayer is simply, “Lord, give me the strength to ask for my eyes to be opened.”

The 7-Year Itch

On the month-eve of my 7-year wedding anniversary, I’m experiencing a minor freak out.  ONLY A MINOR ONE THOUGH, DON’T WORRY!!

 

We’ve heard tell of the 7 Year Itch, and its nasty effects on unsuspecting marriages everywhere.  But honestly, unsuspecting?  Really?  You’re telling me that when half of marriages end in divorce today, you didn’t EXPECT it to be difficult?  Husbands, wives, expect it.  It’s going to happen.  You’ll be tempted.  You might even indulge.  You’ll get bored.  You’ll get hurt.  You’ll inflict pain.  (And if you disagree with that last one, you’re in deeper doo doo than you think.)

 

7 Year Itch

 

People, it happened to me.  I’ll spare you the horrid details, but the general outline is this: I’m a sinful person, married to a sinful person.  We both sinned.  It was epic.  We shattered what we had.  It was in a million little tiny shards all over the floor, and now digging into our bare feet.  And at the time, I was shattered along with it.  But now, years later, I see that it was a part of the plan.  God’s plan.  He allowed us to shatter what we had, knowing that if it had only been broken in a few places, we would have tried to fix it ourselves.  Someone get the Krazy glue.  Anyone who has ever been in any relationship with anyone, KNOWS that you can’t fix it.  WE CAN’T FIX IT.  People have been trying for eons.  There are countless books, movies, blogs, and entire religions based on the frustrations of trying to fix it.  I should have received a medal for how hard I tried.

 

But you can’t fix something that wasn’t designed to be fixed.  We are sinners, married to sinners, children of sinners, shuffling about, bumping elbows with other sinners.  And this makes it oh-so-clear how much we need the wonderful, beautiful Grace of God.  Hear that?  You can stop trying now.  The great hamster wheel.  You’ve haven’t even been going anywhere.

 

In my marriage, this lesson was YEARS in the making.  It’s still in the making.  But, it’s much more habitual now than it was right after the epic shattering.  Then God created something completely different for us. Isn’t it funny how we were trying to put this thing back together, as if it was the end-all.  But HIS plan was so much better than what we could dream up for our own marriage.

 

So, back to the 7 Year Itch.  It exists.  The rumors are true.  Be prepared for it.  And you know, there might even be an itch at year one, or two, or three.  Or anytime really.  But instead of allowing the magnetic pull to break something in your marriage (even if it seems harmless, it will break trust) turn the end of that magnet towards your spouse.

 

My 7 Year Itch has given me a new passion for getting to know my husband.  Something IS unsettled in me.  Something IS bored.  Something IS wondering if there’s more.

 

THERE IS.  And it’s right in front of me.  Drinking a beer on the couch. There are millions of questions I haven’t ask him yet.  There are millions of things he doesn’t know about me yet.  We’ve never played Truth or Dare in a crowded restaurant.  We’ve never made out in a movie theater.  We’ve never been to the circus together.  There are places we haven’t been, positions we haven’t tried, and things that we still can’t read in each other’s minds. There are spiritual breakthroughs yet to be had, prayers yet to leave our lips for one another, worship songs yet to be sung.  Knowledge of God’s faithfulness yet to be demonstrated through this man.  Through me.  Further evidence to be discovered that God’s ability to love us perfectly is mind-boggling.

There’s so much more.  More intimacy to be found.  And I’m going hunting for it.  My husband is in for it, Lord help him.

Are humans basically good?

I’m generally a good person.  I tip 20%, brake for squirrels, rarely use curse words, have never been arrested, etc. Isn’t it funny how often people say that? “I’m a good person, ya know?”  Usually followed, (exactly how I did) by a list of reasons that prove it.

But you know what else people say quite a bit?  “Nobody’s perfect.”  I realize that “perfect” and “good” are not the same word, but it’s interesting to be in a culture where two almost-opposing terms are used more than please and thank you.

Sad box-person

“Is the heart of the human race, basically good?”

I know plenty of people, but since I can’t speak for them, I’ll examine myself on this one.  A friend recently bought me dinner.  We had agreed to go dutch, but she swiped the bill at the last second, and refused to take my money.  Several hours (yes HOURS) later, we got up to leave, and I forgot to thank her.  I, the “good person” had been blessed by my friend, and just completely forgot to feel grateful.  I don’t know what to call that, but the word that comes to mind certainly isn’t “good.”

good

 [goo d]

adjective, bet·ter, best.

1. morally excellent; virtuous; righteous.

I was not consumed with moral excellence, I was consumed with selfishness.  But since no one was intensely hurt by my actions, or lack thereof, it’s harder to call it “selfishness,” isn’t it?

“Well that’s not THAT bad.  It was a small mistake, more forgetful than malicious.”  But who are we, but a collection of small actions?  And if the heart of the human race is basically good, then making extremely small, good decisions should be a piece of chocolate cake, right?

So driving home, I’m hit with this sense of conviction.  “Phew,” I remind myself, “good thing I’ve never murdered anyone.”  But the second wave of conviction wasn’t far behind!  The underlying reasons I do all these “basically good” acts is self-serving too!  Maybe not 100%, but I don’t think anyone could deny the presence of some selfish influence.  The reason I tip 20%: because I want -and expect- good service, because I want the server to like me, and I want the people I’m with to be impressed with my generosity.

The reason I don’t often curse: because I want to be respected as an intelligent person who can use a wide array of terms to describe situations.  The reason I brake for squirrels?  So I don’t get blood on my car.  How inconvenient would that be?  The reason I’ve never been arrested: (notice I didn’t say committed a crime) is because I have a reputation to uphold.

But nobody’s perfect, right?  Many people in our world today would arguably maintain that if one person’s crimes against another weren’t physical, then it’s not as bad or evil as it could have been.  Stealing a purse isn’t as bad as hitting someone, verbally de-valuing someone isn’t as bad as punching them, raping isn’t as bad as murdering.

Let me ask this, how many people do you know who have been through something physically traumatic at the hand of someone else?  (Beating, raping, abuse, shooting.)  Maybe a few come to mind.  And these few were no doubt greatly affected by these experiences.

Now, how many people do you know who have been through something emotionally or relationally traumatic?  (Divorce, verbal threats, end of a friendship, breakup.)  Ummmm, let’s see, EVERYONE.  You.  Me.  My friend who bought me dinner.

Isn’t it strange that we consider these “little” things we do to one another to be no big deal and just part of life as “basically good” people?  But in reality, these selfish, hurtful things affect everyone we’ve ever met, more often, many could argue, than physical crimes against one another.

Basically, the things that we use as examples of our “goodness” are most often the culprit in dividing friends/lovers/families and causing our own happiness to deteriorate.  The very actions that we offer as proof that make us “not as bad as the people who do such-and-such” are usually the ones giving the “nobody’s perfect” statement its truth.

Less than perfect is, well, IMPERFECT, now isn’t it?  Synonyms include: flawed, deficient, below-par, and defected.  Hmmm.

Are those real?

Plastic surgery.  I have never understood the concept of artificially altering one’s appearance.  Maybe organically altering yourself, sure.  Many times have I been swayed by cultural pressure, and, bouncing back-and-forth between the gym and the ice-cream section at the grocery store, realized that my appearance had been altered, (sometimes for the better, sometimes not.)  But surgically removing something natural, or inserting something foreign just boggles my mind.  Honestly.

I’m not saying those who have partaken are inherently wrong, or sinful. Please, don’t feel judged.  It’s just that I hurt for women who have felt so unloved because of their appearance; to the point of giving silicone or plastic a “forever home” under their flesh!

Mona-Lisa-before-and-after

Dolly Parton.  I mean, was it an accident, or did she look in the mirror and say to herself, “these would be so much more lovely if they were bigger than my head.”

And all the facial reconstruction!  I mean, forgive me, but I always thought the beauty of being unique is that no one else on earth looks exactly like you.  But when every other person is getting their nose trimmed, cheek bones implanted, face lifted, and forehead botoxed, why is it any surprise that everyone has begun to look like clones?  Similar to clothing styles, many people are now following “face shape trends.”  Does this not freak anyone else out?

All that’s missing:  a duck-faced, iPhone, mirror-selfie, with our heads all cocked to the same side.  Guess what, it takes WORK to be original.  (But not as much work as the Octo-mom… please.)  And most of the work was already done for you.

Not all of you may share the same belief, but I believe that you were CREATED, in God’s image.  That means you weren’t an accident.  No part of you was.  He planned you, just the way He wanted you, each flaw for a purpose.  My body is far from perfect, but each imperfection exercises my patience, character, love for others, and -news flash- these are all good traits.  Traits that other people like, and are drawn to.

Now, I haven’t said anything about medical intervention, so please don’t put words in my mouth [or fingers?].   Burn care, scar tissue, birth defects…. in my book these are more noble causes.  But even in some extreme cases, the patient is confused after the operation, (particularly adults) and left feeling separated from themselves when they see an entirely different person in the mirror.  Talk about an identity crisis.  But, that’s not really the topic under discussion here.

Can it be, that in effort to make ourselves more appealing, we’re losing what made us, us to begin with?

My most embarrassing moment

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.*

Girl hiding face B and W

The moment I laid eyes on Taylor, I just knew we would be friends.  She wasn’t overly pretty or frilly in the way she dressed, and in my experience, pretty girls ran together in unofficial packs that us plainer girls were not invited to.  Much like certain species on the African plains, I imagine.  Lions with lions, antelope with antelope, naturally drawn to each other by similarities in behaviour, appearance, and diet.

Anyway, there I was, watching just such a group form between two of the girls on my left.  The only other girl present besides the choir leader and my sister, was Taylor.  She stood next to me on my right, so we naturally fell into conversation.  She was around my age, (13) but a little less developed than I was, which, naturally made me feel as though I had some prior claim on adulthood, meaning I was a little more important.  She definitely seemed a little un-decided in certain aspects of her life.  She was sporting a short, boy-cut hairdo, and wearing gender-neutral clothes.  Even her name was sort of nondescript.  (I’ve never been a huge fan of names that made their owner’s gender unclear.  It’s the reason I have trust issues.)

During the first break of the day it was meal time.  We had all brought a bag lunch, so we scattered around the facility to partake.  The boys on one side, and the girls on the other, Taylor and I next to each other.  The only thing to really talk about at that age was who liked whom.  “Josie likes Adam, but I like Ryan.”  Just as our break time was coming to a close, the choir leader joked around in my direction, “well somebody likes Taylor.”  Trying to play cool, I pretended like I knew who she was referring to, but I was slightly confused as to why she had directed this comment to me.  I grew up homeschooled, so I spent most of my time in a general state of social confusion.

Back in the music room, we assumed the same places we had before.  Pretty girl squad on my left, me, then Taylor, my sister and the leader.  At one point, Taylor manifested a small toy out of her pocket and began tinkering with it.  We launched a secret game of trying to snatch it from one another without the leader discovering our activity.  Just as another short break was called, Taylor commandeered the figurine, so it was my turn to get it back.  We went back to the kitchen area for a drink, and Taylor sat on a wooden chair with her legs folded Indian style.  Freeing up her hands to uncap a water bottle, she put the toy on the chair, protected by the Indian-style fort made of legs.  I saw my chance.  I reached into the human Venus fly-trap, fully expecting her to snap her knees closed around my hand.  I was alert and prepared for anything…

Except what I found.  Instead of a small plastic action figure, my fingers had clasped around something…. else.  Something else entirely.

As we filed back to our places, I avoided eye contact with Taylor.  It was around this time that my sister began comparing the number of boys to the number of girls.  Looking at Taylor, she lamented “if only you were a boy, then we’d have even numbers.”

Taylor looked up, with the most innocent indignance I’ve ever seen.  “I AM a boy.”  Eyebrows high, desperately hoping to be believed.  It was repeated. “I am a boy!”

My sister, finding herself in the same “try to be cool” situation I had stumbled through earlier, sheepishly dismissed the issue, “oh I know.”

She hadn’t known.  And neither had I.  Until I got a handful of the proof.

Onions have layers

Shrek and donkey

Shrek:  “Ogres are like onions.”

Donkey: “They stink?”

Shrek: “No.  LAYERS.  Onions have layers…. Ogres have layers.”

Donkey: “You know, not everybody like onions.”

*pause*

Donkey:  “CAKE!  Cake has layers.  And parfaits.  Everybody likes parfaits.”

Friendships have layers too.  Today’s societal tendency is to stay on the surface, because, well, we all know that the friendship could be like an onion, and make you cry the deeper you get into it.  BUT, what if instead of an onion, it’s a parfait?  And you never get to taste the sweetness that’s buried beneath the surface, because you’ve held it at arm’s length?

Peeling back the layers is scary.  Getting real with people is scary.  You’re exposing places of yourself that can cause old wounds to sting, embarrassing traits to be seen, and bad decisions to be judged. But it has only ever been worth it, in my experience.  Even when I got hurt.  That’s usually when I learned the most about myself. Getting to the heart –and hard stuff– is usually how we get to know each other, as well.

And think about it! We feel important when our friends have the guts to open up to us!  The shear joy, honor and esteem makes us feel loved, accepted, and valued by this person, our peer, who had faith to tell us about the REAL stuff that’s going on in their world.  So make THEIR day and spread the love, value and acceptance.  But I have 3 points of warning.

1. Don’t act like your pain is worse than mine.  Everyone’s been through something hurtful.  Obviously, at varying degrees, but the emotions that these varied experiences create are often very comparable.  You can only speak for yourself.

2. Gossip disguised as a prayer request.  “Did you hear, our mutual friend so-and-so is considering divorce, so would you pray for them?”  Listen, I BELIEVE IN THE HEALING POWER OF PRAYER, but I also believe in the destructive power of gossip.  It can destroy the joy in our own hearts, as well as tear down friendships, trust, and love for one another.  If your mutual friend so-and-so has given permission for you to share, then by all means, be my guest. But if not, you must take it up with the Holy Spirit.

3. If you dish it, be willing to take it.  Being a good listener.  It takes practice, people.  And it’s not always fun, but it’s an excellent character-building exercise.  And much like physical exercise, there’s quite a sense of accomplishment that comes with it.  Not to mention, deeper trust, relational intimacy, and you never know, you might just learn something about your friend that you didn’t know.  More blackmail material for later.