Being Smart, Black, Young And American

Decent Essays

In my early 20s, before I was cast on 30 Rock and while I was still trying to find my way as an actor, I attempted a very odd social experiment: I would often walk into audition rooms using an English accent. I’d introduce myself and engage in light pre-audition conversations with a standard upper-class British dialect. I would then launch into the scene with my regular speaking voice, and after the scene was over, I’d return to the British for my salutations. The truth of the matter was this: I did it because I was frustrated. Being smart, black, young and American had become a liability. People seemed to think I was some kind of walking oxymoron. I was often asked to be more “urban,” and it never seemed like the right time or place to …show more content…

Don’t’ get me wrong, a person who is being discriminated against doesn’t have a responsibility to educate or inform their discriminator (it is never the job of the oppressed to stop their own oppression), but I suggest that we merely can’t disconnect from the event; for disconnection breeds further ignorance. When I was told I talked white, my natural instinct was to get offended, think the racial divide was hopeless, and then passive aggressively speak in a British accent. What I’ve come to understand, however, is that in these moments, revealing more about myself is exactly what’s needed. My response to being told I “talk white” has now become a non-confrontational, genuine question: “How do you think black people are supposed to talk? Because for me, every black person I’ve ever known talks like I do.” This is either met with defensiveness or apologies or a genuine desire to understand the bias – but it is always met with some form of engagement. I try to treat it as an open door to a further dialogue. Some people walk through that door, some people don’t. But through it all, I get to remain steadfastly myself. I don’t see that response as being more tolerant in the face of racial bias. It’s not about taking the high road. I see it as avoiding a diversion from the road I’ve already chosen. It’s about not getting angry or frustrated in the presence of prejudice; but more about being open and forthright. I

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