Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Black Table Syndrome

Disclaimer: This post is inspired by How to Rent a Negro, a hilariously satirical book about good intentioned but completely naive people who in an effort to broaden their own horizons, play into stereotypes and prejudice.

First, lets start with taking a look at your Facebook. Click on Friends and then scroll down your friends list starting at A, working all the way down to Z. Notice a pattern emerging? If not, you can stop reading here.

However, when examined closely you’ll probably see that the majority of your friends or co-workers share three or more things in common. Often these things are locale, age and race. I, myself am not immune to this categorization. When doing this exercise the majority of my “friends” on Facebook were of similar background. We can’t all possibly like the same kind of music and the same sports, can we? It’s creepy but true.

How did this happen? Surely, in the age of post-race America (sarcasm), we have progressed further than the “Black Table” in high school to a more collective and diverse peer group. The grim truth is, “The Black Table” still exists, as does the Jock Table, Popular Table and so on. And it isn’t just high school cafeterias where this is prevalent. Examine your own relationships, how diverse is your network, community, or place of employment? If everyone around you looks, sounds and thinks the same it is due time for you to expand your horizons.

Often times we are apprehensive about meeting new groups of people. This is the dilemma and plot in How to Rent a Negro. So frozen by fear and ignorance, people actually answered a fictitious ad that proposed to rent well-spoken African-Americans for parties, business events and social gatherings. Don’t let this fear paralyze you from creating organic relationships with others who don’t share your immediate background. Challenge yourself to try new things. Start by saying yes to the foreign, the strange and unfamiliar. As the old folks say, experience is the best teacher.