Performing for White People

By Teka Lark (March 13, 2018)

“We did not feel that the cops were protecting us, for we knew too much about the reasons for the kinds of crimes committed in the ghetto; but we feared black cops even more than white cops, because the black cop had to work so much harder–on your head–to prove to himself and his colleagues that he was not like all the other n%gge&s.” –James Baldwin 1967

The system of oppression is complicated. It is not one that can be solved by simply changing the color of the tools of oppression. Today at a meeting in a predominantly white room a Latina from Brooklyn used the term “illegal.”

A Latina from LA corrected her and said, “The term is UNDOCUMENTED.”

And then Brooklyn said, “It is the same.”

And then LA said, “No, it is not stop dehumanizing people, it is UNDOCUMENTED.”

LA leaned over to me and said, “WTF is wrong these people out here?” And I said, “I don’t know, I’m scared. It’s a horror movie out here. We better be-quiet before we get sold down the river to Mississippi.”

And the use of that word by Brooklyn, wasn’t because this very educated Latina did not know. She knew, but she was performing for the white people. She purposely used “illegal” that’s the part I thought was interesting. She knew exactly what she was doing when she used the word “illegal” in a room full of white people.

There was no reason for her to do it, she did that as an extra.

I think that is why me and LA were so very unhappy with her, because we knew, she knew AND she knew, we knew, she knew.

But she didn’t care she was was letting white people know that she wasn’t an “unreasonable” “person of color (POC)” and she was completely willing to dehumanize people who looked like her to do it.

Brooklyn actually would prefer we not use race at all or labels, yet she didn’t have a problem using the label “illegal.” Weird how that worked…anyways….

Every person of color with a degree and a job with retirement has to perform for white people. Well, everyone has to perform to keep their job, but Black people and other POC generally, we have to be very triple threat about it: you know dance, sing, and act.

Things like letting your white boss know, “OJ definitely did it and he is satan and should burn in hell.”

Letting them know that you definitely do not think they (they is inclusive of their company, department, kid, car, dog…) are racist and they will always ask, “Of course not, you’re a super awesome white person.”

That lie, excuse me line, that line has been keeping Black people employed for over 100 years.

Entertain hair/national origin/name questions. I know what you see online, in reality we just smile, because not smiling…and making people feel uncomfortable will result in unemployment.

But you know if you perform the role of the reasonable POC, the Black cop who beats people harder –when your existence is dependent on drawing the real blood, silencing, and the breaking of people who look like you, you are no longer performing. It is no longer about you just eating.


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