Act Your Color!
By Kellye Beathea
Individual: "What do you act like?"
Me: "Excuse Me?"
Individual: "I'm sorry, WHO do you act like?"
Me: "I'm not sure what you mean...?"
Individual: "Aw, you know you act white!"
I have had some variation of this conversation for what seems like my entire speaking life, and after all these years, I still don't have a clue as to what the individual is talking about. I mean, what is "acting white," and what have I done for the individual to think that I "act white?" Maybe if I make a list of my behaviors, then I (and you, too) can figure this out. Let's see:
I like listening to classical, country, and rock music (but I listen to everything).
For the most part, I follow the "longest fingertip" rule in regards to how short I will wear my skirts and dresses.
I smile and laugh excessively.
I get pretty decent grades.
I communicate well with my peers and my elders alike.
I prefer a quiet evening reading over a loud night of craziness (unless I feel like going crazy).
Sometimes I take things too seriously.
I rarely watch BET.
I like to stay busy and remain proactive in my community.
My plan for the future is to essentially rule the world.
Hmmm ... I still do not see where this "acting white" statement fits in with my behavior, and I still don't have a clear understanding of what "acting white" is! All that list-making, gone to waste.
I do have a theory: it is possible that my behavior is deemed "acting white" because only white people are seen behaving this way in our media. I believe that if black people saw other black people in the news and on sitcoms acting like me (I'm black, by the way), then maybe my behavior would not seem so taboo.
So that is my theory on "acting white," but now I have a new question: if listening to rock, getting good grades, and wanting to rule the world are all characteristics of "acting white," then what is "acting black?" My guess (not theory-I refuse to believe that anything I'm about to say could remotely be fact) is that "acting black" means:
Having a love affair with fried chicken, grape soda, and watermelon.
Allowing men's boxers to show, due to their pants resting below their hips.
Laughing about getting a GPA that's lower than a 2.0.
Complaining about things that can be changed, but not having the courage to change them.
Blatantly disrespecting people in authority, and demeaning those who want to lead.
Being sexually promiscuous.
Getting into fights over cities in which they have no stake in.
Calling other black people "N" names.
Doing item numbers 3, 6, 7, and 8 that I've listed above Monday through Saturday, then going to church on Sunday.
Doing numbers 1-9 and thinking that it is OK.
But this list is just a figment of my imagination, right?
It has to be, because I'm black, and I don't do those things. My friends and family are black too, and they don't act that way, either. Certainly, the Mighty Bulldogs of BSU don't live up to these stereotypical behaviors so prevalent in American society.
I firmly believe that the black people who "act black" as depicted in popular culture are few and far between, but since film, television, radio, and even print consistently portray my race in a negative light, then that negativity is all that is going to be shown and consumed in our society.
I sincerely hope that one day - soon - this negative light will flicker out its last spark, but until then, I ask that people stop using the terms "acting black" or "acting white." To be frank, it is insulting: You cannot act like a shade of skin.
So the next time I have a conversation with the Individual, it should sound something like:
Individual: "You know who you act like?"
Me: "Excuse Me?"
Individual: "I'm sorry, do you know who you remind me of?"
Me: "Ummm... no?"
Individual: "Dr. Bailey off of Grey's Anatomy!"
Me: "Hahaha! You are so funny!"