Home > Ground Zero, reflections on race > Black Women Like Their Books Trashy

Black Women Like Their Books Trashy

Sometimes people say some shit that’s so stupid, you actually catch a case of stupidity yourself. It’s like the stupidity flowing out of their mouth infects you. There you are, in a state of shock, trying to figure out what the FUCK you can say to cure them, except you’re mouth is hanging open and you can’t speak. It’s like you’ve been hit upside the head with a stupid stick.

white privilege cardSo here I am, with a pen in my hand, dumbly signing my charge slip, thinking that I just spent an awful fucking lot of money but I don’t remember asking the proprietress if she had a racist stereotype that she wouldn’t mind bagging up with my books. I checked my receipt after I left, but it wasn’t listed so I guess it must have been a perk that comes free with my white privilege card.

What’s truly mind boggling about this is that I had actually been attempting to compliment the woman on the diversity of reading materials I’d found at the annual book fair was at. In addition to the standard book fair items you expect to see (cookbooks, you’re the best kid/parent/teacher ever, box sets of all occasion greeting cards) and the racy looking novels with black women I’d noticed the year before, there were several books for teens with African American protagonists; of the three I selected as potential gifts, two were teenage boys. I’d have to read all three first to screen for content that may be too mature or stereotypes I’d want to discuss, but considering how rarely I see books with diverse characters (protagonist or otherwise) for children over the age of eight and/or that aren’t a self esteem message on steroids, not to mention how hard it can be to find books that will interest a young man, I was thrilled to see these and three others for tween/teen readers.

So it was as I was trying to tell the woman how pleased I’d been to see books with diverse racial and religious characters, she interrupts me to warn me that some of “those” books can be a little risqué. I responded that I planned to pre-read them, and again tried to express that it’s not easy to find diverse literature for my kids so it was nice that they had a selection, limited as it was… but once again I was interrupted.

Black women like their books trashy,

she tells me, voice lowered. She doesn’t want to be overheard… but because I’m white, she assumes I’ll welcome being taken into her confidence.

BCwhitegirl0804

I struggled for a minute. I wanted so badly to insult this woman the way she had just insulted and offended me. I wanted to scream at her,

WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE TALKING TO? I’m not in your fucking club. THOSE ARE MY DAUGHTERS you’re talking about. MY BEST FRIEND. MY OTHER BEST FRIEND. MY EX FUTURE MOTHER-IN-LAW (ok, so she’s Tyler’s grandmamma but I loved her first). My son’s second grade teacher, who was also my older daughter’s first Big. Her kindergarten teacher. My baby girl’s “Nani.” Three of my kids’ best friend’s mothers. Two moms I met thru volleyball that I consider good friends and among the few people of any color that I’d trust my children with.

But alienating her wasn’t going change her thinking. I didn’t know what, if anything, that I could say in that moment that would. I still don’t know the answer to that question, so all I could do was my best to tell the truth.

“I’d have to say that’s a pretty broad stereotype. I know that several of the black women I know wouldn’t consider reading those,” as I gestured to the handful of racy novels with Jezebels on the cover.

She started to backpedal with, “Well, ours beg us to get these books… they just love them.”

Ours? Really? OURS? They BEG you to sell them books they identify with, for whatever reason? ARE YOU SHITTING ME? I was about to lose my job for slugging a vendor in the cafeteria at work.

I took a big breath, and as I gathered my purchases, I said that I didn’t know if she’d noticed, but it isn’t always easy to find books with Black characters in stores, and that I know this because I am always on the lookout for books that will appeal to my own multiracial children who don’t always want to read about little white heroes & heroines, but most of the books that we have were bought online, thru Scholastic Book orders, or out of state. I pointed out that if her Black customers were excited to see the few books she carried on the bottom shelf, it might have more to do with the overall lack of availability than the taste of the individual reader.

And I walked away. I don’t know how well received my final comments were, but at least I knew that I’d made it crystal clear that she if she wanted someone to support the BS she was spewing, she was talking to the wrong one.

Hindsight is always 20/20… and looking back, I wish I had pointed out specifically how asinine it is to assume that ALL Black women like their books trashy based on the requests of a few… even if ALL the Black women in the Phoenix Metro area loved these books, simple demographics should tell you that number is not representative of ALL Black women. I also wish I had pointed out that just because SOME Black women enjoy racy novels or that particular line of books, that doesn’t mean that is the ONLY genre that they enjoy. I still wonder if I should have told her to reverse the charge and shove the books up her… never mind.

The only thing I know is that we are so not post racial. Not even close.

     

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  1. Ei
    October 4, 2010 at 5:12 AM

    Ours.

    *facepalm* (Too friggin early for anything else)

  2. October 4, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    Besides “Are you F’ing kidding me?” there are NO words.

  3. Becky
    October 4, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    I am totally speechless. TOTALLY speechless. WTF?!?!

  4. October 5, 2010 at 9:15 PM

    Yeah, mamas… That racial tension headache lasted for four days.

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