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IBAR: Her Meme-ish Proposal, My Way - Hotitudinosity
fiction by jalabert
jalabert
jalabert
IBAR: Her Meme-ish Proposal, My Way
In celebration of International Blog Against Racism Week, I decided to take up rydra_wong's meme-ish proposal and “just grab the Character of Color/Colour of your choice, and then pimp like whoa.” So you're expecting something about Aiden Ford, right? Wrong. While I have written over fifty stories about Aiden, the fact the of the matter is that 90% of the character I write about is my own creation. Characterizations of people of color on television are usually paper thin (a lot like those of their Caucasian counterparts, actually), a problem I resolve by using canon strictly as the jump off point for my fiction. Recently, I have begun to write in new fandoms and I totally have fallen in love with the character of Dr. Sheldon Hawkes. So I set out to write about him, except that my muse kept dragging me away from the task at hand, demanding that I write the piece below instead.

There is much to love about Sheldon Hawkes, not the least of which is the fact that he is a person to whom I can personally relate. I also have a good deal in common with Hill Harper, the talented actor who portrays Sheldon Hawkes. Sheldon and I are both characters of color (ask anyone who knows me--I'm a real character) and both New Yorkers. All three of us are well-educated and, by virtue of our education and our chosen professions, we often find ourselves thrust into a sometimes uncomfortable prominence, expected to excel when others are allowed to just coast. We are all role models, whether or not we choose to be, because we rank in the 99th percentile in terms of educational achievement for our race and gender, representing the best and brightest of our people.

Hill Harper and I both think a great deal about the young people we encounter on a daily basis and worry about their future. In light of those concerns, he wrote a book entitled Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny. While I have yet to read it, I still found myself writing this soliloquy this week whenever I sat down to write about Sheldon Hawkes. This little piece is written from his point of view.

******


Hear This

All the world's a stage, my man, and you're on it. The whole world is watching.

A woman dressed in some old tired outfit may not sound all that desirable, but if she got a “nice rack,” a little “back” and a come-hither smile, no one's really going to care what she's wearing--especially if she's in heels. A man, now that's different. Clothes make the man.

Put a brother in a wife beater and some droopy-assed jeans and his look screams "don't." Hook him up with rapper's threads and he looks cliche'd, somewhat buffoonish and, depending on the neighborhood he happens to be in, possibly dangerous. But put the same man in a little J Crew polo, some pants that stay up on his butt, lose the hat, the grill and the gangsta lean, then heads begin to turn. People take notice. Go a little corporate with a button-down oxford shirt and some khakis and suddenly you hear voices saying, "I'd hit that." Put that same man in a designer suit with a silk shirt and a tasteful bit of bling and his woman will be dragging him home to meet her mother.

Yes, clothes do make the man. But only to a point; what a man makes of himself isn't determined by the garments on his back.

No matter how good he looks, when a black man opens his mouth it's his words that define him. Those words send a message far beyond whatever he intends to say. Rightly or wrongly, he carries the unenviable burden of speaking for all of us--past, present and future.

His actions, too, are inextricably linked to history. One wrong move and all of us slide down that slippery slope behind him. Our children's children's lives will depend on what he does today. Never, ever forget that, brother.

So choose your words carefully. Your words reflect a whole nation--our very history. And before you take a step, brother, remember the whole world is watching and judging you, judging all of us. Our whole world rests on your shoulders, young man. No matter what's in your closet, your words and actions speak loud and clear. They set the stage for the rest of us.

Think before you make that move, brother. Clothes may make the man, but what the man makes of himself, he makes of us all.


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Comments
hsapiens From: hsapiens Date: August 11th, 2007 03:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Growing up is hard enough when all you have to do is represent yourself. I can't imagine how much harder it would be to have to "represent" one's race. That's one hell of a burden to carry.
jalabert From: jalabert Date: August 12th, 2007 11:29 am (UTC) (Link)
It's a problem made all the more difficult by the fact that one is often called upon to represent her race before she has figured out how to represent herself. Perhaps the matter is a bit overstated a bit here, and I truly hope that it's less true than when I was younger, but the perceptions of us all often hinge on something so fleeting as a sentence in an interview or a faux pas in a social situation. Imagine how life would be for you if the behavior of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan influenced public perceptions of all white women? You'd know why I cringe every time I see MTV Cribs--or just about any crime show that's not CSI:NY, which ironically enough has been criticized by some people for its lack of crime perpetrated by people of color. The criticism was actually that it featured so many crimes by white people it wasn't truly representative of life in New York City.
hsapiens From: hsapiens Date: August 12th, 2007 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been thinking about this while cleaning house - hey, I'm having a doozy of a weekend - and trying to figure out why this horrifies me so much. My personal philosophy is to try to take credit/blame for my own actions. It means I can't blame others for my mistakes which can be uncomfortable when I screw up but it frees me, too. Because while I control my own actions, I cannot make choices for or force others to do or not do. I don't have to take on responsibility for other adults' choices. The thought that I'd have to pay a price for Lohan's drugging, Paris's sexual antics, or Britney's unique approach to marriage actually makes me angry.

I also know that when one holds prejudice, one forgets the 10 examples that disprove it and remembers the one that "proved" it. I don't mind answering for my own behavior but I blanch at the thought of having the worst human behaviors used to represent me. :| I was thrilled to turn 20 because I was no longer a "teen" and I couldn't be lumped into that "doesn't vote, is irresponsible, doesn't care about anything outside of herself" stereotype any longer.

The criticism was actually that it featured so many crimes by white people it wasn't truly representative of life in New York City.

Excuse me while I go and hit my head against the wall.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 17th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Me too

I am too one of those asked to answer about our race, represent our race and carry the burdens for our race. Since I am not like all the "others" of our race.
It truly is a heavy cross to bear, but bear it we do.

I was impressed with Sheldon also. I saw him on Oprah talking about the book and was so pleased.


You wrote---
"So choose your words carefully. Your words reflect a whole nation--our very history. And before you take a step, brother, remember the whole world is watching and judging you, judging all of us. Our whole world rests on your shoulders, young man. No matter what's in your closet, your words and actions speak loud and clear. They set the stage for the rest of us.

Think before you make that move, brother. Clothes may make the man, but what the man makes of himself, he makes of us all."

WELL SAID.

Thanks for a wonderful post. I felt some of my stress leaving just knowing you feel that same way I do.

Peace sister. Much love.
Liv
jalabert From: jalabert Date: August 21st, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Me too

Thank you!
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