I live minutes from the Louisiana border in Texas, and I’m always amazed by the colloquialisms I hear from people when they talk about race. It usually borders confrontational, and as someone who has lived mostly in the mid-west, and on the west coast, I often find myself culture shocked by the occurrences.
For example, when I was a grocery clerk, I once had a black man come in my line and tell my white manager, “Give me those Newports behind the counter, white boy.”
My manager asked him which kind? Menthols or reds? 100s or shorts? Right then, I told the man that everyone deserved the dignity of respect.
My manager stared at me in Texan, and said, “But I am a white boy.”
Since then, I began taking inventory of these instances, because I want to use them as teachable moments for myself and my child. You never know what some people consider as bigoted language, and my manager definitely did not see the word “white boy” as something to be offended by.
According to The Wrap the AI finalist told Fox 5 Atlanta that he was called a “white boy” by a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen employee at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport this week. The Wrap reported,
“The three ladies behind the counter asked whose food it was,” Bice said. “Just when I turned around, one of them said ‘that white boy.’”
The comment left a seriously bad taste in the singer’s mouth, with Bice suggesting a double standard was at play.
“If tables had been turned and I used something as insensitive like that … I would be boycotted, people wouldn’t buy my albums,” Bice said.
A part of me does not understand the big deal in this issue because I’m proud to be a black girl, and I’m usually ready to offer a huge smile when someone calls me “black girl,” whether they intended to be offensive or not. I often see the same things happen when my white friends are referred to as “white girls,” white chicks,”white boys,” or “white dudes.” Hey, if they like it, then I love it.
What I wonder is why Bo didn’t tell the woman directly that some people find that word demeaning, so that she didn’t do it to anyone else? If he did explain the issue, and she took offense, then I could understand why he would be outraged. But he told social media about his anger before he told the person who offended him, and I’m not sure that helped anything.
What I know is that as a woman of color, I face sexism/racism every day. I don’t have to tell social media why I am upset about racism before confronting it in person. Bo missed an opportunity to talk to the woman, who could have very well been from the Louisiana border, where “white boys” seem rather proud of the adjective.
We can each save space for teachable moments for our neighbors, friends, family, and community members. But confronting presumably bigoted language with demanding a public apology doesn’t always work out, as many people may not get why they offended you, if you don’t tell them.
Either way, I still don’t think any of this will help Bo Bice’s PR image. I still have trouble identifying him outside of an AI advertisement.