Wassup party people!! Whas happenin’!!?
It’s ya boi back again, with another installment in this series of Working With White People and I do indeed promise to keep it 100 for all my real software ninjas.
There’s a lot going on in the world today. As I’m looking at the news and the inevitable reaction on Twitter, I often say to myself… “yep.. that’s White people alright”.
Before I get too far into this shit tho, I strongly suggest you get all caught up by reading part one and part two. I especially recommend part one because it sets the stage for why I’m writing this series at all and what you can expect to get out of it.
Aight, so if you’re all caught up and ready for me to rock the mic, then let’s get it. In this joint, I’m gonna discuss another common thread that I’ve observed in my 30 years of working with White people; these muhfukkas are consumed with appearances.
One thing I learned right away about White people is that they are fukkin obsessed with appearances. They don’t seem to care about how things actually are, but they go ape-shit bananas over how things appear to be.
If you think I was startled by how nosey White people are, that wasn’t shit compared to how hard I was hit by this realization. It was like being struck dead in the chest by 40 going North. I had zero training on how to exist in this environment. None.
If “minding your own business” was the central tenet of the Street Code Of Conduct, then “keeping it real” immediately followed it.
Don’t front, don’t stunt. Own it if u on it.
Never bite, come from ur own heart. Keep it 100 from the start.
Never pretend to be something ur not. That fake ass shit will get ur punk ass shot.
~ Street Code of Conduct
Since I was a kid, this is one of the rules that I lived by. The significance here being that before I was ever even old enough to hit the streets for myself, this mindset permeated my existence. Everything about me and my way of life revolved around authenticity and that’s still the case to this very day.
Keepin’ it 100 is a highly valued commodity where I come from.
If you’re familiar with rap music, then you’ve no doubt heard the stories of middle-class kids or some shit making some dope ass jam only to be ostracized later on once the fanbase found out that they didn’t really live the life they talked about on wax.
Once these muhfukkas find out that ur shit ain’t legit, that you haven’t actually lived the life ur rappin’ about, they will most certainly fukk yo shit up. Ur rap career is ova playa.
Why is this?
Because authenticity is baked into the collective consciousness of the rap demographic (the hood). We expect the shit ur rappin’ about to match the life you live or have lived. This is a core requirement. It. Must. Be. True.
Hell… the strong desire to keep it 100 for all my real software ninjas is the very reason for the existence of this blog in the first place.
If you’re reading this blog, then you know that other muhfukkas don’t always keep it real in these software streets. This is probably a good thing because a lot of muhfukkas can’t handle that real. Those types certainly won’t last here.
The fact that everybody ain’t ready for that real is why my shit was removed from hacker news.
This is also why I’m always stressing over and over that I’m only writing for the real ones.
This overwhelming desire to keep it 100 is not so with my White peeps. These muhfukkas go out of their way to keep up appearances, regardless of what the fukkin’ truth is.
While the effort of keeping up appearances certainly involves “looking the part” mixed with a spattering of status symbols, the bulk of the work goes into how White people communicate. Their entire communication framework is built upon conveying the desired appearance.
The dominant appearance that White people try to project is the one that matches their (pretty much) universal value system. You see, White people damn near without exception prefer to have humble, unassuming, non-threatening interactions. These interactions make them feel happy and they firmly believe that this will make others happy too. Further, if others around them can be made happy, it will, to some degree, ensure their own happiness.
So they all pretty much try to project an appearance that’s humble, unassuming, and non-threatening hoping that this will grant them favor with the other White people and generate positive interactions.
And it works!!! Sorta…
White people in America live in a world of illusions and they pretty much get away with it… except for when they have to deal with the rest of the world where this pristine, happy-go-lucky, enchantment spell hasn’t taken hold.
Like when they’re forced to deal with a nigga from the streets that just so happens to have a very valuable set of technical skills but no exposure to the world of White illusions.
There are four main manifestations of this that I’ll cover in this joint. I’ll try to explain how each manifestation ties back to appearances, what’s expected from you, and what happens when you don’t comply.
I’ve found that White people are easily injured by words.
You know that old saying: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” You can throw that shit out the window playa. We all know that this phrase was originally intended to convey a sentiment of “as long as they don’t put their hands on me, they can talk shit as much as they want cuz their empty words are just meaningless threats until they actually physically engage with me”.
That notion has certainly been discarded by my White colleagues. To them, there’s no such thing as “empty words”. Almost any group of words, when used correctly, has the power to damage and wound these muhfukkas. I’ve witnessed colleagues enjoying wonderful days, filled with significant accomplishments and awesome successes only to have it all thrown away because some random fukkin person said some shit that they considered painful and this completely disabled them.
You see, they do not separate actions from words. Therefore, the notion of “actions speaking louder than words” does not exist with these muhfukkas. To them “words are actions”. And if they do have occasion to differentiate, they’ll certainly err towards the words over the actions.
By this I mean that even if your body of work supports Position A but you uttered some words that gives the appearance of Position B, then you’ll be judged by the words you spoke, not the body of evidence that you’ve demonstrated for decades. In the end, you will most certainly be labeled as a B. Remember what’s actually true doesn’t matter. Only the appearance matters. If you do something (and recall that saying something is doing something) that gives the appearance of a thing, you will most certainly be labeled as that thing regardless of what the truth really is.
Now all of these muhfukkas know this. This is not groundbreaking news to them. So they go out of their way to communicate in a such way where they ensure that they’re projecting the highly desirable persona that I described above. Keep that in mind throughout… they want to, at all times, appear happy, humble, unassuming, and non-threatening.
To this end, their conversations are rife with euphemisms. Oh my goodness, oh my damn, I used to find this so sickening. I recall that when I first encountered this early in my career, I did not know how to handle it and I was very, very upset by it. These muhfukkas would go out of their way to try and make a situation sound better than it was.
Euphemism: make something bad sound good
This was so counter to all that I’d ever known. Not only did I embrace reality with no sweeteners, but the harsher the reality, the more important that I tackled it head on. This was the only way to survive.
I could not understand why they would do all of this shit to avoid accepting a blatantly obvious truth. What da fukk??!! Why are you doing this???!!! What do you hope to gain here??!! Are you trying to deceive yourself??!!
Just in case you didn’t know this, whenever a Black person shouts racism, the very first thing that happens is all of the White people start denying it. They don’t accept racism exists. Therefore, they won’t accept the Black person’s account of what’s going on and they’ll always insist that there’s another, more reasonable explanation. At the end of the day, no matter what, racism doesn’t exist and being a victim of it isn’t allowed.
Since this barrage of euphemisms made no sense to me, I automatically assumed that it was yet another manifestation of prejudice and racism. This was an easy jump to make because they were constantly trying to make obviously bad shit seem nicer than it was. Have you ever heard the phrase “don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining?” If you haven’t, look it up.
So there was this one time when they were demanding that I work through a holiday or else I would get written up. When I objected, the engineering manager brought me into his office and told me “I wouldn’t say that you’re being forced to work on a holiday. You’re being given an opportunity to demonstrate to your family how seriously you take your job and your role as provider for them”.
Ummmm… no this muhfukka didn’t just try to Jedi Mind Trick me into believing that being forced to work on a holiday is actually a good thing. As he sat there smiling all proud of himself and shit, internally I was adding another entry to my ever-growing list of racial injustices.
To my mind, he was trying hard not to admit that I was being done wrong. That this was somehow OK… an “opportunity” no less. Let me repeat that it was easy for me to make the jump to racism because White people always try to make racism look like something else.
Eventually I figured out that they really weren’t giving me these bullshit “alternative-ways-to-view-reality” as a way to cover up racist actions. Not only did they do this shit to me, they did it to each other. These muhfukkas were actually trying to do me a favor and be nice to me. They were legitimately attempting to use their powers of delusion to help a brotha out.
Even though racist shit did indeed happen, once I figured out just how important euphemisms are to their way of life, I realized that the volume of perceived racial incidents was nowhere near what I first believed. These baffling muhfukkas find “more appealing” ways to look at shit all the time as a central part of their core existence. So a brotha had to go back and update my array of injustices.
const index = racialInjustices.indexOf(ForcedToWorkOnLaborDay()); racialInjustices.splice(index,1);
So I eventually came to understand why these muhfukkas were proud of themselves for coming up with a sentence that could make a thing appear more happy than it really was. I was no longer confused by this!! I’d figured out why they spend energy on this!!
I personally continued to reject the practice and its perceived benefits because, to be absolutely clear, the situation was not any better. It was the exact same fukkin situation. But at least now I understood why they did it.
This lead to a very important discovery for me: It took a very long time for me to figure it out but, if you’re gonna work successfully with White people, one of your primary responsibilities is to help them deceive themselves.
I’d bet money right now, that when a White person first reads that previous sentence, they’ll instantly know a bajillion different ways that I could’ve (and should have, to them) worded it differently so that it didn’t sound so harsh. And of course, this illustrates my point perfectly. They don’t like plain talk that exposes harsh realities.
The good news is that you don’t have to change the reality for them. You’re not required to actually make it better. You just have to help them spin it into a form that appears better. Again, the truth doesn’t matter. Hence, the over-indulgence of euphemisms in White conversation.
Before I’d figured all of this out, I was constantly being brought into the office for scoldings on things that, to me, I was completely innocent of. You see I never really did anything wrong. All of my work was stellar as was my attendance. It was so frustrating to be called into the office for telling the truth.
Them: “Developer X says you make her feel dumb”.
Me: “I don’t think she’s dumb”.
Them: “You told her that her code had too many bugs that she should’ve found on her own”.
Me: “That’s true. She should find more of her own bugs before she interrupts my work for me to help her”.
Them: “You can’t say it to her like that though”.
Me: “What? Why not. It’s true”.
Them: “The truth doesn’t always serve us.”
Me (internally): OMG why did I agree to work with these muhfukkas??!! I cannot believe I’m in trouble for telling an obvious truth and especially when all of my work and attendance is spot on. Racism!!!
Of course it was racist to me, because I’d believed that hard work pays off and that there was still a chance of being in a meritocracy if I worked hard to educate and separate myself from a certain crowd. Now that I’m finally here, how da fukk am I being scolded when I’ve done nothing wrong??!! The only option remaining had to be because I was Black. And not just Black, but visibly Black.
But again, I eventually figured out that where I would appreciate the direct feedback of “find more of your own bugs before you ask for help”, when working with White people, you’d better be skilled at finding another way to say that shit.
If you want to survive in a world of working with White people, you must develop a strong vocabulary of euphemisms.
How would one continue to give the appearance of happiness, humility and such when they can’t find a good euphemism to use? Why cloaked speech of course.
Let me tell you the story of Sherri.
Once upon a time, not long ago in a gym far, far away there was this White woman that I met at the place where I was trying to lose weight. We never went out but we had quite a few interesting conversations. After a few weeks, she asked me out on a date. I thought about it, but I had to decline.
“I’ve thought about what you said Sherri, but I’m not really in a good situation to start dating. I’m too fat and I need to focus on losing this weight. I do appreciate it that you’ve taken that kind of interest in me tho.”
That’s it. That’s all I said. Very clear and to the point. To my amazement, here’s what happened next.
She comes back to me and says:
Her: “So do you think I’m too fat? Is that why you don’t wanna date me?”
Me: “What? No. I already told you why I can’t go out with anyone. It has nothing to do with you.”
So she says ok and we part ways. She comes back again later and says:
Her: “So do you think I’m crazy or possessive? Is that why you don’t wanna date me?”
Me: “What? No. I already told you why I can’t go out with anyone. It has nothing to do with you.”
So she says ok again and we part ways again, but of course, she comes back again later and says:
Her: “So what’s the real reason you don’t wanna date me? I’ve been trying but I can’t figure it out. You can be straight with me now. I’ve prepared myself. I can take it.”
Me: “What? Figure what out? I’ve already told you everything. There’s nothing for you to figure out. It’s exactly what I’ve said already.”
Through the course of this exchange, I find out that no matter what I said, she was not going to take my words at face value. To her, the “work” began after I said what I said. This highlights another thing that you need to understand (that of course I didn’t when I was first thrust into my new surroundings) when working with White people and their obsession with appearances…
When dealing with situations that the recipient might consider bad, White people will not say exactly what the facts are. If they can’t find a good euphemism, they resort to cloaked speech with hidden meanings. There’s a lot of cloak and dagger activity heavily woven into their communication routines.
You see, just about whenever White people have to talk about unpleasant or bad shit, there’s this thing that happens between them that I personally like to call “the decipheration period”. This is where they take time to analyze what was said to figure out what was really meant. They do not expect the two to be the same.
This is why Sherri could not accept that I had told her exactly what I felt. In her world, no one did that. She assumed that I was trying to “lessen the blow” by blaming it on myself, while I really thought there was something wrong with her. Needless to say, I was confused by this (why can’t these muhfukkas just keep it 100??).
This is why every time I told her something, she went away and thought about it during the decipheration period and came back to me with what she thought was the “true” meaning.
So we played this game for a while where she would go away, try to decipher my hidden message, and then come back to update me with her current guess. This process is sooo fukkin tedious. It’s like talking to fukkin’ Gandalf or some shit. Conversations filled with riddles and clues but never a straight answer. At least with Gandalf there was some reward if you could figure the shit out, but there’s no fukkin treasure or piles of gold waiting for you at the end if you do happen to figure this shit out when talking to regular White people (non magic wielders). Fukkin ugh.
Eventually I told her:
Me: “Look. I don’t have no time to be playing these dumb ass guessing games with you. I told you the very first day what I really meant. Why is it so hard for you to accept what I said?”
Her: “Because if I had something to say to you that I thought would be painful, I wouldn’t just tell you. I’d hint at it hoping that you’d figure it out so I wouldn’t have to say it. One of the worst things for me would be for you to make me actually have to say it. That’d be cruel of you not to get the hint.”
Recall earlier when I said that White people are easily injured by words and that, at all times, they want interactions that are happy, humble, unassuming, and non-threatening. Well… delivering bad or unpleasant news breaks that mold. When in this situation, they will most certainly resort to cloaked speech, if they can’t find a good euphemism.
This leads to the next invariant… if you’re gonna work successfully with White people, you need to accept right away that
White people are always gonna “read into” every fukkin thing that they ever see and/or hear.
This is because they know that if another White person has something bad to say to them, that they’re not gonna say it directly. They prefer it this way. It’s considered rude to “force” the speaker to spell it out for you. It’s like an act of mercy for you to catch on to the hidden meaning. In this way, you’ve spared the speaker some grave fate. So these muhfukkas are always listening to what you say and what you don’t say trying to figure out what you really meant.
Conversations with them are wrapped up in implications. They’ll tell you quickly, that yeah even though you didn’t say that, you “implied” such and such and so and so. Muhfukka I didn’t imply shit. I said exactly what I meant and meant exactly what I said. Fukkin ugh. It’s so tedious to say even the simplest of shit to White people.
But it gets worse because of…
In my opinion, White society is a culture predominated with insecurities.
Do you remember when Kanye said “the prettiest people do the ugliest things?” Well there’s something similar here with White people: “the people with the most built-in, securely cemented advantages have the biggest insecurities”.
This, combined with their penchant to read into every fukkin thing that they ever see and hear looking for that “one true message” leads to some very, very dark outcomes. Their insecurities force them to continually twist every fukkin thing into some insult against them.
There was this other time when I was called into the manager’s office for something that I’d said. Notice again that this was for something that I said… not something that I’d actually done. Again, my work and attendance are both stellar. Check this bullshit out… it’s gonna look familiar.
Boss man: “Developer Y says you called her stupid.”
Me: “Not this shit again. No I didn’t. I haven’t even talked to her in like two weeks.”
Boss man: “You two weren’t in a meeting together with the other engineers?”
Me: “We were, but I didn’t say anything to her during the meeting.”
Boss man: “What happened after she suggested that the team could use a global variable to track concurrent logins?”
Me: “After the team kicked the idea around for a bit, I said ‘that’s not a good idea’, and explained why’.”
Boss man: “Well there you go.”
Me: “There I go what?”
Boss man: “You said her idea was no good.”
Me: “It wasn’t her idea that was bad, it was the idea that the team was kicking around which was bad. It doesn’t matter who said it first. Either way, I never called her stupid.”
Of course we continued to go round and round with this, neither he nor I making progress with the other. Shortly afterwards, a White buddy of mine explained that the entire team agreed that I called her stupid.
What?! Fukkin how?!
My White buddy: “If you think developer Y is stupid, you’re not going to say those words directly. She’ll never know that you think she’s stupid because you actually called her stupid. Instead, you’re gonna drop indirect hints and clues for her to pick up on it. Saying her idea is bad is calling her stupid.”
This is when it clicked. Sherri tried to teach me this.
Of course, where I’m from if I thought she was stupid, I’d have zero problems telling her to her fukkin face. Why wouldn’t I tell her? I wasn’t fukkin afraid of her, of him, or any other muhfukka in that entire building. Scared to tell her to her face for what??
Well, as it turns out, I should’ve paid more attention to that interaction with Sherri. She was trying to teach me how White people talk, but instead of learning from her, I was too busy being annoyed that she couldn’t understand such a primitive English sentence.
Either way, I’d finally accepted another piece on how their communication system worked. Which leads to another invariant…
Due to the dominance of insecurities in White culture, as they’re reading into what they hear, they don’t interpret words based on dictionary definitions. White people interpret sentences based on how it makes them “feel” when they hear it, regardless of the actual meanings of the words. And they’re so fragile that it’s amazingly easy for them to feel some type of hurt, pain, or insult. So for all intents and purposes, dictionaries might as well not exist.
In the earlier example, I was told that I made a developer feel stupid. In the most recent example, they thought I actually called her stupid… even though I’d said no such thing.
Because of the way White people cloak their speech, they’re not going to take your words at face value. Further, with all of these insecurities, they’re gonna always read into your words and look for the worst possible interpretation of what you said (or wrote). This is regardless of what you actually said (or wrote) or meant.
They only care about the appearance, not the truth. Do not expect the truth to matter much or count for much.
I was once involved in a conversation with a room full of awesome colleagues who told me:
Them: “we know what you mean with the words that you chose and we know you don’t mean anything negative and we understand clearly your intent… but… it makes us feel some type of way and we don’t want you to use that narrative anymore”.
I kid you not. Even though they knew the truth of my statement and could explain it back to me verbatim, they were still more concerned with the appearance of what I said and the feelings which that appearance invoked. The sad part is, they were correct to advise me to change my language. This is largely because they know the other White people aren’t gonna spend the effort to look past appearances. It’s not expected.
Lemme finish this section by telling you what a good friend of mine told me about White people communication rules.
I was discussing with a close friend (White guy) a recent hot-button topic, the details of which I won’t go into here. However, it all hinged around something that was written but was grossly misinterpreted by the masses. So much so that I didn’t believe that the masses had actually read the document for themselves.
My friend (who had read the entire thing btw) told me that, even though the masses were indeed greatly misinterpreting what was written, that it was still the original author’s fault because “he’s a White male and he knew that people were gonna read into everything. He knew that they would look for the worst in all that he wrote and he should have used language that did not allow anyone to take any other meaning”.
Of course that reinforced all of my thoughts that I’ve expressed in this post.
I’m not done with this topic of White people and appearances and how it affects their communication protocols. This joint was just getting too long so I figured I’d better cut it off here.
I’ll make a part two for this topic that finishes the two remaining manifestations of this dynamic. I hope that’s not too confusing. In the near future, look for On Working With White People - Part Three, Book Two.
The next joint up, though, deals with a topic that I’ve been catching a lot of heat on. I’ve discussed it with several colleagues and people that I have high respect for. Each time has led to a very heated argument.
This next piece will be a collaboration with (believe it or not) five White males. Y’all muhfukkas don’t wanna miss this one.
Next up in this series of working with White people: Attack on the White Male.