On Thursday night, a friend of mine had a birthday party/get-together. He, an African American from Atlanta, invited a multi-cultural crowd of ex-pats. I arrived at the party with another Miami native and a friend teaching at AUC. I immediately checked the dynamics of the room, greeted the host and other people I knew, and poured myself a glass of wine. As I made my way to the kitchen to say hello to another African American guy from ALI, I noticed a brooding blonde guy in one corner intently listening as 2 white women admonished him in a harsh whisper.
When I walked into the kitchen, the guy looked relieved to see me. He'd been talking to a petite brunnette-or more like she'd been jabbering away non-stop under the influences of one too many glasses of wine- and he was glad for any distraction. "I'm so sorry about the watermelon," she said to me almost immediately. A bit taken aback, a looked over at the kitchen counter to see a large watermelon cut in half and hidden from view of the rest of the guests. I looked over at the African American guy and he gave me a pointed nod and a knowing smirk. I turned back to the girl now with a half amused, half bewildered smile on my face. This is going to be good, I thought to myself. Slightly embarrassed and more than slightly tipsy, she stammered, "Our friend, he's German, and he just didn't know...we didn't even realize what he'd brought to the party until we got here...I'm so sorry, He really didn't mean anything by it. He's not from the U.S., you know, and he...he just didn't know." I don't know if I was more amused that she felt the need to apologize to me- and every other black person in the room- simply because I happen to be black or that our obsession with political correctness had turned a simple fruit into a means of supposed racial oppression.
I looked into her pleading East Coast- politically correct- liberal eyes for a moment, "As long as he didn't show up in black face with the watermelon in hand, It's no biggie." I laughed at the ridiculousness of the entire situation and moved on! Knowing how sensitive Germans are to political correctness since that little... incident they had a while back, I wasn't ready to jump to the conclusion that the young man had done anything except bring a fruit to a get-together. When he wandered over to apologize, face beet red with embarrassment, I cut him off and changed the subject. I know that his friends were trying to preempt what they assumed would be an awkward situation or the next installment of the Rodney King riots but, the record didn't stop spinning when he walked in the room with a watermelon for a black man's party. No one even noticed! Although I do try to be as respectful of other people as possible, I think there are times when political correctness is taken too far. It is good to be aware of our differences as well as similarities but it is not necessary to constantly remind others of these things. There are instances where it is productive to discuss legitimate grievances; however, when no issues are brought up, one shouldn't create an issue.
White people, we appreciate your attempts at racial sensitivity and quelling your white guilt but there is no need to try to out-black us. In some regards, the intent of an act or statement is more important than its connotation. 500 years of oppression makes us a lot more laid back than you think so relax, don't send any emails trying to explain what you meant, and have some watermelon. Hey, we may even try those jager bombs you're so fond of as a bonding experience lol.