I started performing stand-up comedy around 2004. I had been working in corporate America for a few years and I hated everything about it. I didn't hate it because it was soooo racist (I worked in what was affectionately referred to as the "I.T. Ghetto" at a primarily black company in Brooklyn, so race wasn't a problem . . . well . . . depends on what you see as a problem), I hated it because I had always wanted a more creative outlet. When I first stepped onstage, I felt like I had come home.
Funny enough, when I stepped OFFstage, people would question me as if I just admitted to signing off on CIA kill squads that were never approved by Congress. I'd hear comments like:
"Where are you from?
"You said you're from Brooklyn. You can't be from Brooklyn."
"I've never heard a Black guy sound like that."
"Negro, you ain't Black!"
I didn't really talk about being Black onstage. I would tell amusing (or so I thought) anecdotes about my family and other vanilla (no pun intended) subjects. But my demeanor and speech pattern caused people to pause. They kept waiting for me to acknowledge that I was, IN FACT, Black and yet I wasn't falling into the acceptable Black mold.
The first joke I ever wrote to acknowledge this was: "Greetings and salutations, one and all. My name is Elon James White and I know exactly what you're thinking. You're currently looking at a large Black man and yet you don't 'HEAR' one. Some of you may be asking: 'What type of sorcery IS this?' "
And laughter ensued. The laughter wasn't because that was SO funny. They laughed because I let the audience know, that I KNOW, that I'm not the "Right Type" of Black. That put them at ease.
Since then I've taken on the concept of Black head on. I joke, I make videos, I write, I tweet. I am constantly Blacking it up. And you know what? I have moments when I look at my body of work and wonder to myself: Should I really keep tackling this "Black" thing? Should I lay off it?
Then the past 2 weeks occurred.
It started with my *cough* White girlfriend's parents acknowledging that I'm not what they want for their daughter. This was something they had decided upon hearing of my Negro coloring a long time ago, but felt the need to let it be known again Independence weekend.(Happy 4th!). Then I get 1000 tweets about the Valley Swim Club turning away a group of young Black kids because they might change the "complexion and atmosphere" of the club. Next, I sit through four days of Supreme Court judge confirmation hearings that may have been one of the most racist government-sanctioned events I've witnessed in my life. This was followed up by a segment on CNN on segregated proms, and then watching Pat Buchanan freak out about the rights of White males.
As a Black man/minority/not a White male, I find Pat Buchanan's rant outrageous. Forget the ludicrous claim that "White people built America and deserve more" because that's so idiotic and laughable it's not even worth my energy. To imply that affirmative action is somehow ridiculous is to suggest that the socioeconomic ripples of slavery and discrimination are absolutely moot. This breaks down to saying what America did to a people -- My People, mind you -- should be forgotten.That racism is now "fixed" and that any further discussion is simply bellyaching. Taking responsibility is one thing. Claiming that real issues are pure nonsense is another.
I watched Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Jeff Sessions pat America on the back because of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Ricci vs. DeStefano case. White males are now getting promotions, so the American justice system should be applauded. How many minorities have been ignored? Currently there's a young man, Eric Frimpong, from Ghana sitting in prison because a White girl, who was dangerously intoxicated and can't remember what happened, claims he raped her. None of his DNA was found on her, but her White boyfriend's was. Her boyfriend has not been considered a suspect. The Black guy OBVIOUSLY did it.
That seems really justice-y.
To praise America for the firefighter case is offensive. I'm not arguing whether it was right or wrong (although John Payton of the NAACP Legal Defense fund makes some clear arguments why the case isn't so cut and dry), I'm arguing that there are more pressing issues that have gone through our system and have been ignored.
I understand that the confirmation hearings are not really confirmation hearings, but a showcase for the Republican party to clarify where they stand on the issues, but as a Black man, it struck a chord in my soul. It created an "Us vs. Them" environment. If that was the GOAL, then kudos, job well done.
So here I am. I'm Blacking it up even NOW. I have the appearance of a angry, fist-pumping, screaming, militant Negro. Please note: I am NOT an angry, fist-pumping, screaming, militant Negro. I'm not sitting here with my big afro thinking about how I'm going to take down the White man. I am an Average Black Person. I would much rather play my Xbox 360 and watch reruns of Scrubs (yes, I said it). I would much rather argue why Batman can, in fact, take down ANYBODY. I don't want to rant and rail against the system and the perceptions of Blacks: I'm FORCED to. Why? Because I'm not deaf, dumb and blind. If I had those three ailments perhaps I wouldn't be able to tell how NOT post-racial America actually is.
That's not true. I'd probably still feel it.
Follow Elon James White on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@elonjames