Dear everyone, becoming a humor writer is not something to be taken lightly. Like Spiderman from the Broadway musical would say, “With great power, comes great…aiiiieeeee!!! Arrghh, my leg, my leg is broken!” When one chooses to be a humorist, one is choosing to make a big sacrifice. Mainly, none of us will ever hold political office. All of this stuff I’ve been writing these past three years in Jagged Noodles will come back to haunt me if I ever run for the Senate. I knew I shouldn’t have made all those jokes about rednecks (“Maw, come quick, that dang vegan is all regretful-like of making fun a’ us.”) Anyway, now that I have built up enough incriminating material to never be a viable candidate, more stuff will not make a difference. So on to today’s topic.
Racism is a no good, very bad thing, but when contained within the frame of a loving relationship, it can be fun. For example, Jameelah consistently beats me on the game Just Dance on the Wii, so I say, “You only won because you have natural rhythm.” Then she’d call me a racist, and we’d both crack up. When we’re doing our bills or taxes, she would say, “You do it. You’re naturally good at math.” Then I’d call her a racist, and we’d laugh.
What, like YOUR Saturday nights are so much more exciting?
As someone who has been in an interracial relationship, I have gleaned many insights. I noticed there are three distinct stages when two cultures merge in a relationship:
Stage 1: Ignorance. What you see of other cultures outside your house and in the media is not necessarily what you get if you start dating. Jameelah was surprised, for example, that I did not know how to make rice, even in a rice cooker. “But…you’re Asian!” she said. She also thought I used soy sauce with everything. One day, I bought some collard greens, having never had this before, and was shocked and disappointed she didn’t have a recipe taught to her by her grandmother while getting her hair braided.
Stage 2: Hyperawareness. After being corrected several dozen times in Stage 1, you become hyperaware of cultural differences and your role in the dynamics. If you are intelligent people, you start exploring and discussing issues of systemic racism, internalized oppression, White privilege, etc. Or, if you are us, you just force each other to watch ethnic movies. “Ok, this is Madea,” Jameelah said, “she’s a Black woman, and she doesn’t put up with $#!%!” “Great,” I said, “after that, we can watch Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. “Wow,” she said after watching Lady Vengeance, “Asian people don’t put up with $#!% either…”
Stage 3: Humor. After a while, you reach the final stage, which is where appreciation of the other person’s culture is a given, and you find humor and satire in stereotypes and the interactions of cultural differences, in a way using levity as a tool for transcendence. Basically, you now make a bunch of inappropriate jokes. Whenever I buy a watermelon, Jameelah would glare at me. “You’re saying because I’m Black, I have to like watermelons? That’s racist!…Why didn’t you buy two?”
During Stage 3, you also learn to use stereotypes to get out of doing stuff:
Me: Let’s go see a movie
Jameelah: All right. You drive.
Me: I can’t drive. I’m Asian.
Jameelah: That’s true, you’ll probably get into an accident. But if I drive, we’ll get pulled over.
Me: You’re racist.
Unable to decide who would drive, we would usually stay home. Since Jameelah didn’t have recipes of any sort passed down by her grandmother while getting her hair braided, we ended up experimenting and made a gumbo and jambalaya hybrid dish called “Gumbolaya,” which was like a culinary metaphor for our relationship. I ate it with soy sauce.