I work with young people. Many young people do not know the value of choosing words carefully. They do not understand connotation and inferencing. I am so afraid of my students leaving their little comfortable bubble and getting punched in the face because of something they say, so exercises in ignorance are met with mentoring moments.
The other day, one of my dear students exclaimed they cannot stand Justin Bieber because he thinks he’s black. OK, so… Bieber is kind of an annoying and I am embarrassed to admit I’ve really liked all of his last three singles (I can’t believe I just put that in writing, but whatever).
I reply with, “I’m sure he knows he is not black.”
Student says, “You know what I mean. He tries to act all gangster and he tries to be all ghetto.”
My reply, “So that is being black, being a gangster and being ghetto – I’m Black, am I a gangster or ghetto?”
Student reply: “No.”
I then explained to the student the importance of crafting their outbursts so they aren’t offensive and more appropriate words could be they don’t like the choices he makes and he is a poser.
Some people might think that we live in a too politically-correct world and we shouldn’t have to worry about sensitivities so much, but saying someone thinks they are black because they act ghetto and try to be gangster insinuates Black people are ghetto gangsters; which perpetuates stereotypes about black people and it can be dangerous.
Now, Rachel Dolezal, she does think she’s black, but that is another story…