My White boss invited me to have dinner with her family. I am a person of color with WTF (White Trigger Formation) and fear that I am being tokenized. She never asks me about my work, though she always calls me “girlfriend” and goes in for a fist bump when she sees me. Can I confront her about my concerns?
Token, Saint Paul, Minnesota
No. Let me rephrase that: Hell No. Under no circumstances can you bring up the r-word to White people with whom you work. I don’t care if your job is diversity and you’re sitting in a “safe space” holding the talking stick: Do not say that shit.
Bottom line–Go to dinner and play nice with the White folks.
Unfortunately, the increased emphasis on multiculturalism in the White American workplace, coupled with the failure to address institutional inequity, has resulted in these tricky dinner situations. Gone are the days when people of color could seek refuge in complete invisibility to their racist White colleagues. These days, intimate dining with White people is not only the burden of vulnerable children of color who were adopted by White parents.
People of color everywhere are asking this question: What can I do when White folks invite me to dinner?
Therefore, I offer you the Self-centered Adoptee’s Top 5 Tips to Dining with White Folks.
1. Study Whiteness. This is not difficult because White culture is everywhere. If you are a professional of color in the United States, you most likely can provide insights into whiteness that many White people cannot see for themselves. Nevertheless, the entire conversation will likely revolve around White values, beliefs, and behaviors that you, as a person of color, will be tested on during the post-dinner trivia. I recommend watching trending White TV shows and movies so that you can be proactive and impress them with your savvy White cultural references.
“That Amy Adams in Man of Steele is just a modern day Mary Tyler Moore. She really knows how to balance the role of hard hitting journalist with vulnerable hottie who is impervious to true love.”
2. Make eye contact. White people love eye contact, especially when eating. I know this because they always stare right at me when I go out to eat in the suburbs, and when I take the samples at Whole Foods. Try not to blink at all. This will make you look like a confident leader, unlike Asian communities who are always bowing their heads and averting their gaze.
“Did anyone ever tell you that the deep creases around your sinking blue eyes make you look quite presidential? So nice to meet you.”
3. Be memorable. White people are always confusing people of color with one another, so it is your responsibility to distinguish yourself. What can you do for White people to make yourself sparkle? I suggest picking up your neighborhood coupon book that supports local and sustainable businesses, and distributing freebies as the conversation allows. They will remember you as that nice minority who is also socially responsible.
“Oh, I love Trotter’s Cafe. That’s where I met my White lover. You know what? I think I have a coupon for a free cranberry and flaxseed scone.”
4. Validate everything. This is the cornerstone of interracial relationships in our post-racial society where White people suffer from tremendous guilt about still perceiving people of color as violent, savage, illegal, and alien. It is our role to fulfill the emotional needs of White people who have been traumatized by other White people.
“I see. It sounds so frustrating to be misunderstood and devalued. You are so brave.”
5. Last but not least, put a bow on it. White people love to take large, complex problems and reduce them into simple, solvable issues. Here are some one size fits all “conversation bows” that I have learned from real White people.
“Let’s just agree to disagree.”
“Better to be safe than sorry.”
“At least you’re not dead.”
There you have it. These are the Self-Centered Adoptee’s Top 5 Tips to Dining with White Folks. Even though these strategies accomplish absolutely nothing, they will make White people feel more comfortable. And let’s face it: nothing is more uncomfortable for us than a disgruntled White person with positional power. Bon appetit!
The Self-centered Adoptee is a mock advice column brought to you by Laura Klunder, another self-appointed adoption expert who provides insight into oppression through misguided wisdom to your everyday issues. No matter the question, her answers will always be self-centered and self-serving to her experiences as a transnational transracial Adoptee.