To Anyone That Enjoys Black Culture and a Good Story. . .
By: Amarachi Anakaraonye
As a Nigerian-American woman born and raised in the Southeast United States, I know my fare share of racism. It’s a common myth that the North and West are more progressive than the South, particularly in regards to race relations. While this is fairly true on certain political and social platforms, let’s be real, racism is everywhere. Had you talked to me a year ago, I’d have said racism in the South is explicit, while racism up North is implicit (e.g. gentrification, redlining, etc.). While this is still fairly true, the leader of the free world is explicitly racist which makes racism explicit everywhere.
My belief a year ago was rooted in the ideologies of the Great Migration when African Americans moved by the millions from the agrarian South to the expansive Northeast and West seeking opportunity. Going on two months ago, I made my great migration to New York City for a new job. While I did not embark on this sojourn thinking the northeast would be some profound promise land of racial equity and harmony, I was shocked to witness the explicit racism I experienced on Monday when I visited The New York Times Podcast Club for The Nod at the Greene Space.
Launched a few months ago, The Nod is a podcast that celebrates Black culture and history. I was put onto this show a month ago by a fellow co-worker of color and it was a breath of fresh air ever since. I love The Nod because it discusses on a public platform the topics I love to talk about with my peers, particularly with my Black peers. From exploring the scientific dimensions of artificial grape/purple flavoring and why it makes treats such as Skittles, Jolly Ranchers, and Gatorade taste so good, to unearthing new black historical figures that surround us, the significance of The Nod is relevant to members of the Black community and beyond.
During the Podcast Club, the significance of The Nod was put into question literally by a white, female audience member (hereafter referred to by the pseudonym Tracee). Tracee boldly asked the co-hosts, Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings, what audience The Nod targets being that they are both half white and the show is about Black culture.
Pause. Tire screech. Bih what?
Use whatever gif, popular quote, or explicative you prefer, but the minute she made the comment, I shook my head and chuckled quietly in disbelief. Prior to her question, the room was filled with calm and pleasure as we discussed the intricacies of one of the Nod’s most popular episodes at yet most highly criticized episode’s “I Want That Purple Stuff.” The diverse audience, racially speaking, was filled with laughter and curiosity as we listened to clips from the episode, and learned about the background research that took place in its creation.
When Tracee asked her question, you could have heard a pin drop in the room. While I was heated that she had the audacity to ask such an ignorant, senseless, and racist question that marred such a healthy discussion, I was SO proud of how Brittany and Eric responded to her. A video clip of part of their response is captured in the video clip below:
As a social commentator and writer that investigates and strives to make sense of -isms and phobias in pop culture and current events, I had to document this exchange because of how it illustrates taking the higher moral ground in the treatment of people who arguably do not deserve respect.
First of all, unless there’s an ancestry.com profile out there that I’m not privy to, Brittany and Eric are not half-white and I don’t even think they ethnically or racially identify as such.
Second of all, I’m not sure why Tracee asked her question after she verbalized that she had not listened to The Nod or the episode of discussion, and by her actions, had no intention of doing so. FYI, all the audience members were asked to listen to the episode and read a corresponding article PRIOR to attending.
Third, as mentioned by Brittany, I don’t think Traceee would have been as bold in making race the center of her question had she been at a discussion for such shows as RadioLab or This American Life; both hosted by white men.
Last, but certainly not least, even if Brittany and Eric identified as half-white, what would be the issue with them having a show that celebrates Black culture?, and what does being bi-racial have to do with the purpose of a show or increasing audience members?
As a audience member, it was VERY clear that Tracee was ignorant and didn’t really know what she was even asking. However, it was clear that she had an issue with a show centered on blackness and black culture. Her question was grounded in racism and her action was a reflection of what America has done to Black people and people of color for centuries, especially when we strive to carve out nuanced spaces for ourselves beyond the status quo; question our humanity, purpose, and worth.
As stated and exemplified by some of my role models, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, and Ava Duvernay, attempting to persuade bigots of the humanity and value of Black culture is useless and the best way to teach bigots, if your aim is to educate, is to live, which for people of color, particularly in this day and age, is an act of resistance.
By no means am I saying that Eric and Brittany were striving to prove to Tracee the value of Black culture to their own detriment, definitely not. I think their response was very respectful and professional based on the spontaneity of the question, and appropriate based on the circumstances of time and space. However, speaking on a more macro scale of when Black folks or any person of color is questioned by ‘others’ about their worth or humanity, based on time and space, we have more options than just to submit to ignorance. Our lives on this earth and what we leave behind when our time is no longer, is our answer to racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of prejudice and discrimination. Just by striving to live wholly and unapologetically despite how the world strives to break us is how we resist unjust institutions and systems.
So to anyone that enjoys Black culture and a good story, I invite you to continue living and being.