Dave Chappelle was practically vilified when he abruptly departed from his hit show and gave up millions of dollars. When Dave asked "why did you give all this up?" his response was "I had to get in touch with my inner coon." Some may not quite understand what Dave meant, personally I somewhat understood but it wasn't until today at an all day team meeting that it really sunk in what Dave may have felt.
During our meeting there was a period of dedication to the team's VP who is moving on to another role within the company. To celebrate this new endeavor the team performed a parody based on the sitcom song from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Lyrics were changed to suit the occasion and two of the team members performed. The team member who performed the rap was white and as he got up to perform, he did the whole "Yo, Yo Son! thing, walked with a supposed swagger and wore a
baseball cap tilted to the side. His sidekick who was a sistah, was adorned in her Bonquiqui attire, big earrings, baseball cap and good lord an Adidas sweat suit top. As the fake Fresh Prince began rapping and his sidekick went on to do all the former hip hop dances the crowd roared in an uncontrollable laughter.
For some reason my reaction was not to laugh, I did not see anything funny about this performance. As a matter of fact I found the performance offensive; at first I didn't understand why I was offended; was it because I didn't like the rap (it was whack) or could it be I felt a migraine coming on? But as I looked on the laughter I saw were of people laughing at the way black people act not at his performance. I saw a crowd who genuinely found a musical genre founded by my people and its actions as comical. The worst part is, the few black people in the room cracked up too. I don't know if I'm being hypersensitive, but for the life of me I couldn't see or feel it any other way.
In my mind if it feels a certain way then it is that way, no doubts! There was no disputing my perception and how uncomfortable it felt. The feeling was reminiscent of watching an old movie in which a white character makes fun of Old Joe, the negro butler as he belts out one of the negro spirituals and all his white friends laugh and say "Oh Thomas you're such a hoot!" For the rest of the day I couldn't shake this experience, I was sour, very anti-social and couldn't wait for this meeting to conclude. Once the day ended I got in my car and didn't regret the sour disposition I had displayed. In my mind there was no need to pretend like I enjoyed the day. I took the stance in recognizing I'm an adult with over 25 years experience in Corporate America and if I don't like something I be dammed if I act like I do.
For professional reasons I couldn't express myself, but I think my silence spoke volumes. While I can't and like many others necessarily verbalized our feelings it is equally important that our actions display our disagreement. While the parody act really messed up my day, I was proud that my reaction was authentic which for me helps gets through the hidden inner challenges we face as Blacktinas in Corporate America.