Thursday 8 November 2007

Are We Almost There Yet?

In time honoured tradition, that of giving the author of the blog a break and a chance for you to read something different (and perhaps more interesting), I'm honoured to be able to give you a guest post tonight from Lucy, who's blog, The Rise to Comedic Stardom, can be found here.

Trust me, it's good. See you later!

Crushed recently asked me to do a guest post on his blog relating to injustice and race in comedy. I hesitated to take him up on the offer because, to be honest, I'm not an authority on subject. I haven't had much experience with out-and-out "in-my-face" racism. And I count my blessings everyday for being allowed to live a relatively injustice-free life.

To make this easier to digest, dear reader, let's start from the beginning, shall we?

My name is Lucy.

I'm American.

I'm black.

I'm female.

I'm a writer.

I'm a comedian.

I get a chill down my spine just writing those 5 short descriptions.

Why? Because I hate, absolutely detest, labels of any type.

However, to live in the society we live in today, I need to have a method by which I can relay to you (the reader) an idea by employing a "label" or "definition." Everyday we sample each other. We sample people, places, things, ideas, etc., by placing them into categories. It's how we function. That's how we can quickly surmise if we relate to someone or something.

Example: She's black. I'm black. I understand her.

Another example: She's black. I'm not black. I don't understand her.

Now if the latter example is a situation you've faced before in your life, then the ultimate question then is, "Where do I go from here?"

Do you decide to:

1) Write this person off and say, "I don't relate to her because she's black and I will place her into some category and move on."

2) Or do you say, "I don't relate to her, but I would like to, so I will endeavor to dwindle down that category into something very, very, specific so that later on I can relate to her--specifically" ?

Even with the above labels, I KNOW that you, the audience, the reader, will never get a true glimpse of who Lucy is--who I am. Those words above don't really define me. I'm much more than that.

And so are you. You are more than your name. Your are more than your clothes. You are more than your address, than your vehicle, than religion, than your national affiliation. There are too many layers of you to describe in a blog post.

Now bear with me, I will be making my point shortly.

Crushed asked me to discuss being a black female in comedy and to mention my experiences or injustices being a minority.

Now, I'm AM black person. But I don't relate to that label, "black." Yes, I have a dark skin. But that's it. That's where it ends. If I walk into a room full of black people (people with dark skin), I don't feel any closer or more related to them than I would if I were in a room full of non-blacks or a mixed group. Actually, I would feel more comfortable in a group of mixed people because that would force people to really get specific to know me--to really get down to the nitty gritty and figure out who I am, specifically.

Do we see a theme? Have you gotten the point?

Now many people would not want to admit it, but the former option (#1 - "write me off") would be a preference. It may not even be a conscious decision. Perhaps, a decision you make in a split second. Perhaps a decision that someone has made for you, thereby making you a product of your environment. Perhaps, your parents had an opinion on a race of people and they have embedded it into your head since as far back as you can remember. And only now, after reading this post, you realize that you never got a chance to really think about the way you feel about a person, a race, a religion, a gender. The only thing that matters,

And now we come to the theme of this post: If you have made that conscious choice, make sure to it's your choice and no one else's. And make sure you have a solid specific reason to back it up.

I ask you to really understand why you're making that decision. What is it based on? Is it because of a bad experience you had with a member of that group? Is it because of something you saw on the television or in a movie or THE NEWS?

I say, if you're going to be racist, then be racist, as long as you have a decision to back it up. As long as your opinion is one you developed on your own volition. Not because of some leader of some group said it, not because your parents, not because of someone else's experience. Only because of you and your life experience. Hopefully, you'll several experiences so as to not base it on one single solitary limited p.o.v.

Believe it or not, many people can't take this all too important step. A lot of people can't make decisions on their own. They RELY on others because they would rather not venture out on their own--whether it be because of the actual process that goes into a making a decision (the pain of thought) or whether it be the result of the decision not matching up with those around them. (They don't want to be separated from the crowd or go against general consensus.)

You, the reader of Crushed's blog, I assume are a critical thinker and you endeavor to make wholesome full decisions based off of some truth but mainly based off of your own experience.

To me, every experience I have is specific. I always slow down my thinking and say "You know, Saturday was a bad day because I stubbed my toe."

"...But Sunday....?"

Well, what about Sunday?

Are you going to let what happened to you Saturday affect what happened to you Sunday?

Social injustice in comedy. Yes, I'm sure it happens. But I have yet to experience it, firsthand. I haven't come across it. Perhaps one day. Or maybe never. Either way I have remain open. I can't let someone else's opinion colo(u)r my experience.

I think this is an important lesson we all need to sit back and think about. We need to take a step back and really analyze if these judgments that we make everyday, are they really warranted? Or are they an amalgamation of what our peers have said? Ask yourself everyday, "Is this my experience?"

Be fully aware of what choices you're making. Because that's what Life is: a series of choices.

Food for thought.

If you want to read more about Lucy's opinion of race and bigotry in comedy (and in life), read her post called, "MetaBigotry in Comedy.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant post, Lucy , and you are right: most of us make split-second judgements without analysing why. How I wish everyone in the UK would read this post!

Anonymous said...

A very interesting thoughtful post Lucy and one to make us stop and think about it.

In all my years I think I have tried to judge people based on my response to them as an individual. From my university years and on, and having lived in three different countries, I have made friends of many ethnic backgrounds. I have found there are good people in all groups and jerks too.
Let's hope that eventually we will all judge people judged on that basis and not on their ethnicity.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts there Lucy.

Labelling is such a cruel thing, but sometimes it's the only way to describe something or someone.

A bread toasting machine is called a 'toaster'. It's labelled a 'toaster' so everyone knows what it is. Same goes for different people.

For instance.

I'm a woman.
I'm a lesbian.
I'm a butch.
I'm white.
I'm ginger.

5 labels, but they all describe ME.

To be honest with you, I don't actually see colour in people. As crushed knows, where we used to work, there was probably more Asian and black men and women than there were white, but if you asked me to look at a group of people in my mind, and tell you which ones were white and which were Asian or black? It would take me ages to do it, because I don't see people as a colour, only as human beings. I guess i'm colour blind when it comes to race.

People look at me in the street, and think i'm a scary monster who's gonna beat them up, that i'm threatening, and a person not to be crossed.

Now I don't mind people thinking that, because it means I get less hassle, but they're also wrong to think that, because as crushed knowsn, i'm nothing like that. Just because I dress butch, have tattoos and piercings, and walk like a man, doesn't mean i'm trouble. I'm one of the softest people you'll ever meet, i'm completely opposite in personality to what I look like. Only problem is, people make first impressions of me, and of course they're usually the wrong ones, and many don't bother to stick around to get to know me, and find out what i'm really like as a person!

Anyway, hope we get to hear more from you in the future Lucy, and well done on your first post x

Anonymous said...

Well you are certainly better than crushed (I was getting a bit fed up with him anyway) - also sexier...

Anonymous said...

very thought provoking. I think humor is an effective way to communicate cultural and political issues of the day, and the attention that needs be paid.

Anonymous said...

To All readers:

Hey, everybody! This is Lucy. Thanks for reading. It took me a while to even feel comfortable with guest posting--particularly on Crushed's blog, because his blog is so far from my political leanings.

However, my mission is to make people laugh while simultaneously think. I want to bring humo(u)r and lightheartedness to society. I'm not a doom and gloom kind of blogger. (No offence/offense, Crushed.) But I do believe we need the balance that doom and gloom brings. But I emphasis "balance."

Sorry for the delay on responding to comments. I'm currently in Las Vegas at a Blogging Conference (yeah, laugh at me later when my back is turned.) I haven't even posted on my own blog because of travel and complete lack of planning. So thanks for hangin' in there. But I will be posting on the conference as soon as a I have two minutes to myself.

Welshcakes Limoncello -- Split-second judgments are dangerous. And relying on those judgments can hurt both the judge'r and the judg'ee. I think there is something to said for "instinct" and "institution," which are vastly different from "prejudice" and "split-second judgment". I endeavo(u)r to make that distinction here and through my comedy.

JMB --- Thank you, JMB. I did really try to play "a communicative diplomat" or "mediator" when I wrote that post. I wanted to keep all peoples, cultures, religions, orientations, etc. in mind.

Based on your background and the catholic (strict definition) mindset you have, you must know that you are a rare breed. Many people don't even leave their native country, let alone their hometown. A lot of people are afraid of ANYTHING that is different from themselves. They don't see meeting/coming in contact with someone/thing different as an opportunity to change and grow from this novel interaction. But instead, they grow wary and that wariness turns into fear which is where bigotry stems from.

So I applaud you and I hope you continue with your open and welcoming ways and I hope you spread your knowledge and your open liberal attitude becomes contagious. Congratulations!

SouthernSoftee --- I agree with you to an extent. Labels are necessary in this world, on this earth plane. I don't want to get metaphysical on you here (and feel free to disagree), and it's a trite and cliché phrase, but I'm going to say it here: "Everything is everything." We are everything around us and everything not around us. We are the chair you sit on, the car you drive, the air you breathe, the sun that warms your skin--everything. All of these barriers and "labels" we have created are just illusions.

Now many people may disagree and people may think I'm crazy. And I'm okay with that. I don't expect people to understand in this day and age. Yes, we need words and language to distinguish what we're talking about. But imagine a world where all I need to do is think---"toaster".... and the person I'm communicating with would understand. But now we're talking about telepathic capabilities... a whole other story.
And about your comment about being colo(u)r blind and recognizing black, white, asian persons, etc.

I just finished interviewing a comedian who grew up with one black parent and one white parent.

His father was (passed away) white.
And his mother is black.

Now get this: Growing up, if you asked him which parent is black and which parent is why, he couldn't give you an answer. He didn't know what black people or white people were. He didn't learn until he went to school where kids making fun of his mixed background--and it was then that he figured it out.

CAN YOU IMAGINE? Can you imagine growing up never seeing colo(u)r? Fascinating. Truly fascinating!

My issue with labeling, is that the minute you state that something is "other"...

He is a boy. I am a girl.
He is black. I am white.
He is rich. I am poor.

The minute you make a (that) distinction, you are placing weight on that distinction and difference. And thereby judging. Separation and categorizing is immediate classism.

The minute you accept someone as apart of you, perspectives change.

He is black, but he is my son.
He is rich, but he is my brother.

Accepting different people as your own, they no longer become strange and weird and foreign, and suddenly there is no strife, no tension, no fear.

mutleythedog - Well, Mutley, thanks, but I think I'm having a hard time with that label, "sexy." (lol)

Anonymous said...

It is actually the split second decisions that are usually the problematic ones, for they are without logical reasoning, and less under our control. It is so worthwhile to put these automatic assumptions under question, and ask why something makes you cringe, smile, whatever. Sometimes even that questioning can make you change your mind.

Anonymous said...

A very Crushed post indeed.