Thursday, July 13, 2006

Doing the right thing

As alluded to in previous posts, I was in Vancouver last month. I was there (for the fifth time in six years) with my dragon boat team, the Killer Guppies, for the largest tournament in western North America. (And if you want to read about how we fared, you can read this write-up--which I did not compose--from the team's website.)

Last week I sent out this link to my Vancouver pictures to the people in my department at work, as many of them had asked about the trip; I figured they might enjoy the overview album I put together. (Do go ahead and click on the link and give 'em a look-see, if you haven't already, as you'll need to have an idea of what's there before we move on here. You don't have to log in; just click View Slideshow. And when you're done come back here. We'll wait.)

[Muzak playing...]

Most of the replies I got were along the lines of “Looks like you had fun”--most likely due to the inclusion of just a couple shots at the end (from the sake bomb sushi dinner and a club some of us attended afterward)--but one was a bit different. It started with that same looks-like-fun sentiment, but then asked (in this exact phraseology): “Where are the Black people?”

Allow me to interrupt myself with this clarification: I am not making that up, nor exaggerating, nor twisting in any way the words of the respondent in question. Really. Allow me to further explain that the question was not meant in a humorous or ironic context; it was asked in full sincerity. The person is not someone with whom I have conversations with this sort of presumed familiarity, and we generally discuss only what is absolutely necessary for professional [sic] purposes. Just so we're clear.

Although this may disappoint some of my readers, I didn’t respond; I didn’t know how. I'm not suggesting that I was surprised this person thought such a thing (and the question should tell you everything you need to know about the person with no further elaboration), but I must admit I was taken aback just a bit by the act of actually composing it in an email (that I could share with the rest of the world but choose not to) and clicking Send.

I wasn’t sure whether this individual's insinuation was that our team was somehow racist for not making sure we had a full complement of all races on the roster for the trip, or whether it was that the sport was racist for not having African-Canadians (or whatever the appropriate term would be north of the border) at the tournament (at least not so prevalently that they would appear in my pictures), or whether it was that I was racist for not including any Blacks in the shots I chose but assuming there must have been some up there—and in sufficient numbers to be noticeable in what would prove to be the better shots, regardless of subject. Heck, maybe there was no insinuation at all.

Make no mistake: I had a number of comebacks come to mind, to be sure. “I’m afraid Affirmative Action doesn’t apply to our team/sport.” “We’ll get right on putting recruitment ads in Essense and Ebony magazines.” “Like we could get Black people to get up that early. Don’t you know we practice at 8 in the morning?” And my personal favorite: “Blacks don’t feel comfortable around this many Asians and whites with paddles.” However, I have enough difficulty in my life without some sardonic witticism being misinterpreted, especially in an email that could be shared with the human resources department. As funny as it would be, it's not quite worth losing my job for.

[As you may have surmised, I don't tell people at work about the blahg. Please don't mention this if you happen to know someone who works where I do. Unless you think they'd find this hilarious.]

Pointing out that we have had members who would be considered of that ethnicity on our team in the past (not necessarily a lot, but some) would have only brought about questions regarding why we can’t keep them on our team, and really only serve to prolong this interaction. Mentioning how our team is actually more diverse than a lot of teams in the sport (that I’ve seen) would be rather futile as well.

In the end, I figured: There’s no point in trying to overcome the ignorance of someone with being logical. And I shouldn't have to.

Besides, everyone on the Guppies (past and present) knows that I view them all as my niggas, no matter what they look like.

[Our next tournament is coming up on the 29th and 30rd of July, at the Marine Stadium in Long Beach. Everyone is welcome, but you don't have to do anything you don't want to.]


  1. The comment itself seems to me to stem from a racist point of view. I imagine that the person-in-quetion's racial hackles went up due to the large number of Asian people who are, themselves, commonly stereotyped as racist--thus leading to the question about a lack of black people in an obviously Asian-oriented sport. And what are you personally supposed to do? I suppose that the next time you see a black person at a dragon boat event you should approach them and ask them for a picture for the sake of photographic diversity? "Look, Ma! I found me one of them colored people!" That doesn't seem like the , um, appropriate thing to do.

  2. The could be form places other than Africa, you know. Kinda like honkeys can come from places other than Europe ('course, you're all still honkeys).

  3. True, but "Black Canadians" lacks the same absurd punch of "African-Canadians" (or so it seemed at the time).


So, what do you think?