The Danger of White Assimilation
And more importantly, how deeply rooted it is in the American fabric.
assimilation: /uh-sim-uh-ley-shuhn / def.: the process of adopting the language and culture of a dominant social group or nation.
Even as I am writing this piece, I take issue with the title of it because by definition, assimilation eludes to freewill adaptation and that’s not why we’re here. Someone tell me, what’s the correct word?
I sat down in the kitchen Monday morning for breakfast and turned the television to Fox 5 News. The lovely Sharon Lawson was on air covering a segment about Atlanta Rapper Metro Marrs, whom I’d never heard of. Long story short, he was kicked out of (and escorted in handcuffs from) his own graduation ceremony for throwing $10k in cash to his classmates. In response, Marrs shifted the narrative of this story by starting the Loner Foundation, an organization that will distribute $10k to the valedictorian and salutatorian of his high school and eventually others throughout Atlanta. It’s a great story and I love that he challenged the status quo here.
Marrs also inspired me to write this piece because seeing him (literally) on the news, even before I heard his story, highlighted a deep seeded issue that I, as well as many others, should honestly be ashamed of. An issue that needs to be brought to the surface, addressed and abolished. His appearance (blond colored dreadlocks and a hoodie) as well as his dialect made me cringe. “Oh my God” I thought. “Why do they have him on the news?!” Not because I thought he looked like a criminal or thug as I KNOW for certain that many white Americans thought when they saw and heard him, but because I knew that his image would be the focus and not what he was actually on the news for. I hated it. Hated hated hated. Because nothing that he could have said or done would have been good enough to pardon what and who he looked like to so many viewers. Even deeper, realizing how much of a problem it is that he needed to be pardoned, which he doesn’t. And that’s why I decided to write this.
Just because someone doesn’t assimilate and look the part of what is societally acceptable, which is a standard set by white America, does not mean that they are bad, stupid, unattractive, lesser than, undeserving, dangerous, or whatever derogatory adjective that is used to describe people that don’t fit into the box that makes the dominant group more comfortable.
If you don’t take anything else away from this piece, please rehearse that last run-on sentence daily until it sticks.
It is so deeply ingrained in our American culture to fit in this box that many black people have abandoned the traits which are indigenous to them. The easiest example is with our (I’m speaking as a black woman) hair. I’ve been in corporate America for nearly 20 years and I have never shown up to work with my hair in its natural unaltered state (I have an afro naturally). I can’t even fathom the idea of this because I’m convinced that I’d be fired. But of course, not blatantly for this reason, as I’m sure there isn’t anything in the employee handbook that bans afros , but for some other *justifiable* reason. So yes, I’m natural and I have a huge afro but I straighten my hair or wear styles to disguise my hair’s natural state. I also honestly don’t like the way that my natural hair looks because I’m also victim of the European Beauty Standard which is also deeply ingrained in the American fabric. I salute the women and men that don’t assimilate and show up as their natural selves. I hope that one day, it won’t be taboo to do so because it’s shameful that we live in a society that judges people based on their natural appearance. Still.
So back to Marrs. He represents the bravery of black America in an unorthodox way — by showing up and not conforming on a very public platform and using his experience and resources to give back to others to push the agenda of acceleration for minorities forward. Despite what anyone may say about him. Despite the stereotype associated with his look. Despite his background. Despite the statistics. Despite any notion that would serve to oppress him and others like him — he’s doing the good work.
And this highlights the most significant danger in white assimilation — *subordinate* groups in America spending so much of our lives and energy trying to fit in and achieve the American Dream and mimic the image of standard acceptance in how we speak, dress, look, etc., that we miss out on what our purpose really is. It’s not to fit in. It’s to love and help any and everyone that we can, no matter who it is. What color you are, how you speak, where you’re from, etc., should have no bearing on that. And Marrs, along with the many individuals like him that don’t fit in that wretched box, is the perfect example of this. This piece serves as my ode to him because someone should give him his flowers while he’s still here.
Happy Birthday Kanye.
Backdrop: All Falls Down.