auburn university

“Talking Black”

I’d like to recount an experience I had at Auburn University my freshman year. The people and organizations will remain nameless, for the sake of their privacy. (Hopefully they’ve grown a bit during the last couple years.)

It was early in the Fall semester, when most fraternities are having parties to attract new members and new girls. A guy from my math class invited me to a party at the frat house he was rushing. I agreed to come, as long as I could bring a few friends.

The friends I had at that point were almost entirely from my high school, which is very diverse. I graduated in a class with a large group of Indians, Koreans, African Americans and a few random ethnicities that were fewer in number. In high school race wasn’t a big deal, although whoever scored the highest on the physics test and broke the curve for everyone else was.

So a few of my friends from high school and I went to the party. Three of those friends were black. We all knew just from walking up the block that this was going to get a bit awkward.

Confederate flags could be found in all corners. On the walls, draped from the balcony, tattooed on more than a few arms and slapped across a dozen hats. Country music was blaring and everyone, except my three friends, was white.

Although uneasy, we decided to roll with it. One of my friends asked two guys nearby for a light (who were, in their defense, highly inebriated). They responded by saying, and I’ll never forget this, “Hey dude, you’re black. Can we, like, talk black to you?”

Okay now pause. When I first heard him I was convinced he had drunkenly meant to say something else. I was horrified and embarrassed because I was the one who suggested we go to this frat party. But I thought that maybe, just maybe, he’d somehow swim through the natty light his brain was currently drowning in and reach his senses and apologize.

No such luck.

“Excuse me?” my friend said.

“Yeah, like yo man. Homie?” he replied, completely missing the looks of disgust across our faces.

It was at that point we decided to leave. I told the man who had invited me what had happened the next class day. I asked if that was typical. His response? “Oh yeah, we don’t really have those people at our parties.”

I think that was the point in my life when I realized how unfortunately ignorant someone in college could be. How a group of people could continue ignorant stereotypes and racism is completely beyond my comprehension and totally appalling.

I wish I had said something to that guy. Something along the lines of “Those people, excuse you? What the hell do you mean, you ignorant-”

But I digress.

I hope my generation and the next generation will work more towards eliminating encounters like that. And I hope people will realize (if they have not already) that there is no such thing as “talking black.” Someone’s race does not determine how they talk and what slang they would use and it’s incredibly inappropriate to assume such. Similarly, there’s no such thing as “talking like a white person.” Speaking in ebonics or speaking “proper english” depends entirely on an individual.

Neon Lights and Acceptance

One for the Show <- LINK TO AUDIO SLIDESHOW

In the supposed most conservative campus in America, pockets of people have found a safe haven. Every Friday, the bar Stir in Auburn becomes a place of greater than average blush amounts, sassy retorts and freedom of expression.

Almost two hours is spent on getting ready for each show. Performers swap eye shadows, dig for the right pink lipstick, and do their eyeliner to perfection. Wigs are brushed and outfits are laid out as a steady stream of light girl power music is played, contrasting with the heavy bass vibrating the walls from downstairs.

Lotus and Imberli, Auburn residents, have heard of other bars targeting possible gay costumers, but say nothing negative towards them. Its right in this case to just be the better woman.

The other bars are missing a huge market however. Handful by handful, curious people have started frequenting Stir. Compliments and hello’s are given freely and judgment upon atypical lifestyles is not passed. The show starts when the ladies are ready, and the audience clambers to the front or to stand on barstools for a better view of the first performer that saunters out.

The queens balance delicately on 4.5 inch heels, strutting, tutting and twerking to the music they have selected for the night.

In between acts they joke with the audience and perform an orientation roll call that never fails to get the audience laughing.

For one night at least, there is no judgment. No one blinks at the gay couple dancing together and if shocked looks are thrown, it’s only to comment on the performers greater dancing abilities.

It is not the place is defining, it is the people. And the people of Stir have made it a place of neon lights and open acceptance.

What I Want to Convey and Why it Matters to Me

With over seven billion people in the world today, it’s hard to imagine ever feeling alone or out of place. With so many people and just as many unique personalities, it’s hard to imagine being able to get by without ever meeting someone who doesn’t share the same viewpoints, skin color, or abilities as your own.

Yet for some reason, some try to seclude themselves to people just like them. Some people go their entire lives without seeing and understanding cultures different from their own. Without stopping to get to know the guy who lives right down the street who walks a little different and talks kind of funny, who’s just odd enough that not many approach him. Some people never get the nerve to strike up a friendly conversation with the old lady who rides the bus with them everyday who seems nice enough, but she doesn’t say the same prayers they do.

As easy as it is to forget sometimes, diversity is everywhere if you know where to look. Diversity isn’t just black and white. It has variety and depth, ranging from skin color, to body modifications, to religion, to handicaps, to nationality.

And diversity is a good thing.

How boring would it be to have a conversation with someone who looked just like you? Who thought just like you, who watched the same television shows you do, ate the same food, shopped at the same stores, had the same beliefs, the same sports interests? Would you ever have a reason for passion of any kind if you never met anyone different from you?

I’ve been lucky enough to encounter many diverse people. My military upbringing forced me into new situations almost everyday, where I had to meet new people, move to new places, try new foods and learn new concepts. It was scary, definitely. But it started a passion to know more. I wanted to understand and learn about all the things and people that were different from me and what I had been taught growing up. Some things and traditions have been easier to understand than others, but they’ve all been worth knowing.

That’s why I’ve created this blog. (Not just because I have to have a blog for my class, haha) I choose this theme because I want to know more about the diversity around me. When you look around Auburn, Alabama, it’s easy for your eyes to glaze over and start believing everyone is just the same in this town.

But I know there are thousands of unique perceptions waiting to be seen here and I know there are people like me who want to learn more about things they don’t quite yet understand.

So here’s to first blog posts, may this be a set up for good quotations, the continuation of (hopefully) acceptable grammar and the start of a new look into diversity.