Wednesday, December 08, 2004

humility's never fun

So I'm watching TV, and I see a woman being interviewed by comic D J Hughely. She reminds me of someone... oh, yeah, it's Fantasia, the recent American Idol winner. The thought crosses my mind that maybe it is her. She looks older, and much prettier than I had remembered, but her skin tone and hairstyle look very similar...

Now I'm having trouble remembering what Fantasia looked like -- in my entire life, I've seen her (on The Tonight Show) for a grand total of about 1 minute before I changed channels -- maybe she got a professional make-over, like Courtney Love did?

And how many young, attractive black women with that haircut are being interviewed on TV this month? She really looks different, but I wonder who else would it be?

Then I tune in to the interview, and the woman is talking about funny things that come with being in entertainment. The next thing she says (with a grimace) is "...and white people all think I'm Fantasia!"

Aaagghh!!! Turns out the woman is comedian Sommore, and I am the stupid white people I have always made fun of. You know, the person who only knows (or knows of) about 6 black people, and think every black person they meet looks like one of them.

I guess if you live in a white world, and have few black friends, you never need to distinguish any kind of features other than white ones -- when you see a non-white face, the recognition center of your brain gets to skin color and calls it a day -- so you end up mistaking Chris Tucker for Chris Rock, or [random asian actress] for Lucy Liu. Or maybe, Sommore for Fantasia.

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, you can just shoot me right now. And you may as well bury me in a white sheet.


At Wed Dec 08, 01:55:00 PM PST, Blogger Stephanie said...

That's pretty darn funny. I lived in Seattle for a year and yep, it's pretty darn white.

At Wed Dec 08, 07:36:00 PM PST, Blogger No_Newz said...

Take heart, somewhere, right now, some black guy is saying the same thing about white people. :)
Lois Lane

At Fri Dec 10, 02:38:00 AM PST, Blogger mamacita said...

Very interesting observations, but I'm afraid you are watching too much TV and not getting enough sleep. And yes, strange as it may be, my blog name is mamacita and I really AM yours! :)

At Tue Dec 14, 02:59:00 PM PST, Blogger unca said...

Who's Chris Tucker?

At Tue Dec 14, 08:27:00 PM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

Chris tucker ( is a youngish black actor -- he was in a Jackie Chan movie called Rush Hour, not sure what else.
he doesn't look much like Chris Rock except that they both have huge mouths -- when they smile you can see about 200 teeth...

At Wed Dec 15, 03:22:00 PM PST, Blogger unca said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Wed Dec 15, 03:24:00 PM PST, Blogger unca said...

So what's the big deal? Did you ever mistake two white people for each other? I watched an entire movie once and thought that Kevin Spacey was Russel Crowe and I'd seen both a couple of times (I don't get out much).

At Wed Dec 15, 04:26:00 PM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

Of course you're right -- I have mistaken white people lots of times -- and i haven't really castigated myself about Fantasia/Sommore as much as i make it sound.

But there's so much baggage with "X people all look alike", and the often-legitimate inference that the person who says that
a) doesn't know much about X people, and
b) usually doesn't care to.

While that may not be so true now, or so true of you and me, it certainly was true of many thousands of people in the past, and that attitude caused untold harm. Very seldom does "They're all alike" mean "They're all admirable" -- it's a dismissive, negative view 99% of the time.

There's also the struggle of any minority-culture member to be seen as an individual rather than as a generic member of his/her group -- mistaking one chinese (or whatever) person for another one suggests that maybe the mistak-er isn't fully on board with the minority person's quest to be a person rather than a symbol.

So it's the basically history and context that are the cause of my embarrassment, rather than any real feeling of guilt, since I believe my intentions and attitudes were pure.

Of course, we all tend to have biases, so maybe I *am* a secret racist after all, and just didn't know it until now... ;-)

At Wed Dec 15, 06:13:00 PM PST, Blogger unca said...

Of course, we all tend to have biases, so maybe I *am* a secret racist after all, and just didn't know it until now... ;-)

Yeah, I'm sure that's it.


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