COMPLIMENT SEGREGATION (if that’s not already a term I’m coining it now): This daily confession is just more of a PSA than anything.
Yesterday someone said I was the coolest black guy on tumblr. Now, I’ve been black for a pretty long time, for as long as I can remember really, so I’m pretty jaded by “for a black guy” style compliments by now. Pretty cool for a black guy, pretty funny for a black guy, pretty smart for a black guy, pretty good artist for a black guy, pretty attractive for a black guy, etc. And while it’s meant to be nice it’s super demeaning because the obvious subtext is that I’m handicapped by having dark skin. I’m in the minor leagues of human beings so to speak.
Now, don’t worry, I already know that I’m pretty badass for any kind of person period. But one part of what that anon said did get under my skin. They said they don’t care if I found it offensive. They had the forethought to understand that they’re saying something that might rub me the wrong way, but decided not correct it because what? It would’ve been so easy to just say “You’re the coolest guy on tumblr.” but on some subconscious level they had to make sure I knew my place, so that “black” part was crucial.
You may think I’m making too much of this, but remember I’ve been black for a long time, and while I can’t read minds and tell you for sure someone’s intent was racist, what I can tell you for sure is how comments like that have made me feel throughout my life. Not great, it especially hurt as a much younger person not yet emotionally equipped to deal with it. It’s very aggravating to hear this over and over throughout your lifetime, coupled with all the other various forms of subtle and not so subtle “othering” and racism. It is really frustrating to feel like you’re never going to just be treated like a normal person.
The reason I wrote this though is to give you this advice:
A) if you’re going to compliment someone, compliment them as an individual. For example, one I’ve seen/heard a lot, is people telling girls they’re cute for their (bigger) size. I bet you they’d appreciate it even more if you just told them they were cute, full stop. Black, mexican, asian, female, gay, lesbian, transgender, fat, skinny, whatever, when you compliment someone just pretend like they’re just a person (because they are) and compliment them as a person, not as a segregated category of person.
B) If you think someone might take offense to what you’re about to say, pay them the courtesy of maybe trying to find a better way to say it or perhaps not saying it at all. This is just a thing you should do at all times whether someone is a minority or not. It’s not hard to do, and it has the added bonus of making people like you more.
To the anon who left the message that inspired this post, forget about it, I’m not mad and I don’t hold a grudge, and I’m not trying to shame you into an apology. I’m sure you’re probably fundamentally a cool person and meant no harm. I’ve been just as guilty of saying some insensitive or hurtful things, but I try always to keep an open mind, learn from my mistakes, and correct my behavior when needed. That’s the best any of us can do.
Be excellent to each other, and party on dudes.