Dear White America, for the average black man and woman on the playing field, whether it’s in corporate America or in a sports arena, being a good “team player” is meaningless when the team he/she is playing for sees him/her as inherently inferior or exceptionally different, especially when they have to compromise their black identity to assimilate and receive well-deserved respect.
We can still respect our individual journeys in life and still coexist in the two worlds we occupy. My world, unfortunately, exist inside a dominant culture which views me as a wild horse that needs to be broken. So they’re jealous or suspicious when I create my own lane—attend a school on my own dime, open my own business, and exhibit pride in my community.
None of that makes me an “exception” to the black rule, so if I’m given a specific job to do, I must, at all times, be judged on my own merits: I don’t have to completely assimilate into the white dominant culture, especially if I’m adhering to all of the rules and doing all the right things.
I don’t need to prove my worth at the expense of my individuality, so I’m not going to cut off my nuts and give them to you. I’m not your damn token black sidekick, dancing to your coon music. I’ve always welcomed you into my home without forcing you to change your identity, so it’s only right that we eat at the same fucking table. Whether it’s chitlins or caviar, class or a broken moral compass should never hinder human progress.
“…only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” -Viola Davis
You’ve always gotten it wrong about African-Americans; my community is not a monolithic group. We are multidimensional people who want to be treated the way white people treat themselves. In other words, we want you to take the “do unto others” passage seriously, because in an equal level playing field, we can produce just as well. And we all benefit.
“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” -Fannie Lou Hamer
The weight of blackness in white American society, the fatigue, is a burden onto itself—sometimes, I’m simply tired. I’m tired of having to constantly prove that I belong in this country. I’m tired of the dominant culture dictating my every move.
And I don’t need to resemble you in order to be successful. Don’t force me to mimic the way you walk and talk because, even in a marriage, individuals have agency. Individuals still exist– we must respect each other’s sex, our different social environments, and unique personalities.
You must respect, not just my physical experience, but also the fact that I just might be a black introvert looking to simplify my human experience in your white world. And as I’m doing so, I’m being the best ‘team player” that I know how to be. If you ask me to play point guard on a team, that’s no problem— If one of the requirements of being a “team player” is to also give up parts of who I am, then that’s a damn problem I won’t take kindly.
So, let’s redefine what being a team player means:
If it means I should remain an invisible man, count me out.
If it means I should ignore the plights from my own community, count me out.
If it means that I must go out and binge drink, uncontrollably, with rowdy, fraternity-like white friends for the sake of “building rapport,” count me out.
If it means that I must accept your condescending jokes when I don’t want to, count me out.
If it means that I should change my name to a white-sounding name just to get hired, count me out.
If it means I should cut my natural hair to appease white men in power, count me out.
If it means I can’t act human in the most intense moments, count me out.
But…if it means I must control my destiny by owning businesses, supporting my community, and being proud of my heritage, count me in.
I’m still just as American as you are when I do it.
We’re different, but that’s ok– because what you eat don’t make me shit. I’m free from the physical plantation and I refuse to allow you to keep me entrapped in the mental plantation. However, when it’s time to go to war, we’re in the foxhole together– we got each other’s back, as Americans, but, while we’re in the foxhole, you don’t have to cut my balls off. We’re in a different era now; I’ll always be Kunta Kinte, not Toby.
Your Angry Black American Man
“You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have!”