Trading Places

The younger crew at my work… how to describe them? Young, naive, accidentally ignorant of the world around them, disadvantaged, black, and in some glimpses incredibly profound. I think they’re great kids and I hope they understand that they all deserve better than what’s been dished out to them.

As per usual, I’m not using direct names. Simply isn’t fair since they have no idea they’re included in my musings. The internet can be a small world after all. 

Yesterday “D” wanted to ask me why northern women hate to be called Ma’am. Why do we cringe at southern courtesy? I tried my best to explain it. “Ma’am up north means very, very old. It’s not a sign of respect, it’s a sign of elderly age.” He was astonished by this.

“What do you call your teachers then? How do you address your friend’s mom?” He seemed to think the northern notion was unfathomable.

“By their last names, like Mrs. Smith or Ms. Jones”. D reflected on this.

“What about sir? Do y’all say sir?” 

“Yeah, we might say Sir. It’s not as faux pas as Ma’am”. D looked at me like I was a foreigner from a far off country rather than just a Yankee. My supervisor overheard the conversation and laughed.

“It’s a whole other world up north,” he added.

D thought on this for a bit and sighed. Then he said something that’s been running through my brain ever since.

“You’ll never get to experience what it’s like being a southern black man.” He sounded wistful. D is young, he’s only 19 or so. He’s right though. I’ll never know what it’s like to be a part of that culture. People don’t watch me when I’m wandering through the aisles of convenience store. I’ve never had a race issue with a teacher. My friends have never talked about weaves with me. Soul food to me is Chinese food, not amazing southern cooking. I’ve never had black eyed peas on New Years nor will I ever, most likely. People don’t assume I’m good at basket ball or listen to rap. D has probably been stereotyped his whole life.

He’s incredibly smart, thoughtful, and hard working. Like all the crew kids I work with – it’s a great journey getting to know them deep down. Very talented group of awesome young adults. They deserve better.

One thought on “Trading Places”

  1. I’m not on target here but I have a good friend from Arkansas (my former mother in law) she is white, 73 and makes black eyed peas for new years every year and I do too! (white yankee here) I serve them with of all things, corned beef and cabbage and usually if whole family is coming kraut and pork too! I’m not taking any chances! LOL
    Have a swell weekend my friend. The Mexican Wed was awesome and so was the ‘rita.

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