Originally published on July 8, 2015
“What do you mean that you don’t like rap music?”
He sounds truly amazed at my statement.
I, on the other hand, am getting more and more annoyed with his small talk.
My friend’s neighbour is leaning on the frame of his door chatting me up because he has nothing better to do. I’m on my knees, trying to fix the lock on my friend’s door. It’s really hot, sweat is pouring down my back and the booming base of rap music blaring from the building next door is getting on my last nerve.
“Yup, that’s what I said. I don’t like rap music.”
My hand slips as I try to keep the lock balanced in place and everything, including my screwdriver, crashes to the floor.
“How can you not like rap? Have you looked at yourself in the mirror?”
I stop mid-reach to the items that had fallen.
Now, I can’t help myself and I look at him. I wipe the sweat from above my lip with my less-than clean hand.
Did he seriously just say that to me?
“What do you mean?” I need him to clarify before I decide what next to say.
“You’re Black and you don’t like rap? That’s pretty weird. Most Black people like rap.”
I feel my face getting hot and it’s not from the heat of the beautiful summer day. I see this conversation going in a number of different directions, most of them not good. And getting angry is at the top of my short list of options since I’m not in the greatest of moods.
But in looking at him, I can see that he genuinely believes what he is saying and isn’t being mean. And he isn’t trying to be stupid.
Well, at least not on purpose.
What is more surprising to me is that we are the same age and that he has such old-style stereotypical thinking. Then again, there is no age limit on the type of stereotypes a person can hold.
I choose to go a softer route, especially since his kids are home. I’d heard from my friend that his kids are so constantly confined to his apartment that the noone realized that children lived in the small building.
I pick up my screwdriver, determined to get the lock fixed so that I can escape the conversation. I put my focus back on the task at hand and talk as I do.
“Well, then I guess that I’m not most Black people. How many White friends do you have?”
“Uh, I don’t know. Lots.”
“Ok and out of all those White friends, how many of them like rap music?”
“Oh, lots of them do. But I personally hate it.”
“And how many Black friends do you have?”
He hesitates before answering. I can tell that he is not trying to stall with his answer, he’s just trying to count the number out in his head.
“I’d say 2 or 3.”
“Do they all like rap?”
I try to remind myself that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. The last thing I want to do is make him feel stupid. And I’m not interested in schooling anyone today so I choose my words carefully and decide to make a light joke out of it.
“In your circle, it sounds like your White friends like rap music more than your Black friends. So it sounds to me like you should be the one looking in the mirror.”
He cocks his head to one side, contemplating what I just said.
“That’s funny. You may be right.”
He seems to have caught the undercurrent of my message – if you are going to generalize, at least do it based on your own personal experience.
We hear a loud crash from inside his apartment and then crying. He turns to head inside.
But just before he closes his door, he turns to me.
“Are you sure that you don’t like rap music?”
It takes all my energy to mask my frustration.
©2015 Marquessa Matthews. All Rights Reserved.