Thank you so much for clearing up the intricacies of proper social discourse in our confusing post-segregation, post-feminist, LGBT-empowerment era, in your article “You Can't Tell the Attorney General She Has an Epic Butt, But Here's What You CAN Do” http://jezebel.com/you-cant-tell-the-attorney-general-she-has-an-epic-but-471311007
As a White heterosexual male I am fully cognizant of my complicity in the deeply entrenched patriarchal hyper-masculine Caucasian power structure which tenaciously objectifies and denigrates the racial and sexual Other, despite our disingenuous claims to have achieved enlightenment and equality.
But alas, I am one of the many confused you speak of, in part because I am a Jewish Canadian who now lives in the Bible Belt. Navigating the waters of American political correctness has often left me befuddled and afraid of talking about boobies and Black people, lesbians and Latinos, Mormons, Muslims, foreskins, and Indians. Canada has legalized gay marriage and we have even had a female prime minister (whose boobies were never an issue for reasons I need not go into), so the rules here may be different. And may I say, your guidance goes a long way.
Now since you have such keen insight into how the hypersexual White male is supposed to interact with “the Other” in the work place, even if this White male happens to be a Black president perhaps you can shed light on proper behavior in our politically-charged racialized society. Although you write about gender issues, your universalist guidelines certainly apply to color as well:
Am I allowed to compliment a Black man on his suntan? Do there exist office space, water cooler rules for that? Can I say, for instance, “Mr. President, your face glows with color from your vacation in Hawaii; nice suntan My Man”? Is that inappropriate? What if I’m at the beach with a Black man and he doesn’t put on suntan lotion? Can I say “You should put on suntan lotion Mr. President.” Or am I really saying “Hey you may be a Black president, but that doesn’t make you special. On our post-segregation beaches you, Mr. Black man can get burned like the rest of us.” Will this serve as a painful reminder that a mere six decades ago the Black man couldn’t even enjoy the sun at our exclusionary White beaches and country clubs and may not have even known about sunburns?
What if I give the Black man suntan lotion with UVA protection 15 instead of 35? Does this imply that his Nubian complexion offers innate protection that the White man doesn’t have? Am I Othering President Obama by ascribing racial Otherness onto him through a discourse of suntan lotion, thereby underscoring my Whiteness and hence my systemically entrenched hegemony, as Judith Bulter would put it?
If I may quote you, Lindy, you maintain that “if you work in an office and a woman from IT fixes your computer, you may officially go nuts complimenting her on her computer-fixing skills! It is not appropriate, however, to compliment her on her boobs. Unless she fixed your computer with her boobs, in which case, loophole! Ka-ching.”
Well this, as the Talmudic Sages say, raises a question: What if by saying you’ve got a great tan Mr. (Black) President Man, I really mean to say that “your gleaming (Black) color suggests a renewed vigor that will have a positive impact on your agility as Chief Executive, giving you the wherewithal to implement health care reform, gun control, and the repeal of DOMA?” Accordingly, it may follow that Mr. Obama will have fixed this broken country by being even Blacker than before. Black Power and Black is Beautiful. A loophole? Ka-ching?
As a Jewish Canadian who grew up in an insular frigid neighborhood, where I admittedly offended the odd Eskimo who got burned by the midnight sun reflecting off his igloo, I’ve never had the opportunity to meet a Black man with a suntan, let alone complement one on his sub-Saharan skin tone. Now that segregation in Dixie is over and done, I’m eventually going to find myself in the sun with a Black man, and I’m afraid to say the wrong thing. Do you have any insight? Or do you know a Black man with a suntan who may be of help?
A Yid in Dixieland
P.S. Our IT technician is a Black woman with an MIT degree and a voluptuous body. She has on occasion defragmented my hard drive and tweaked my CPU with an elaborate set of screwdrivers and dongles, all of which she carries with no briefcase, opting to store them in her flexible boobs and unusually large vagina. Her private parts have brought cost reduction and efficiency to the workplace. A loophole! Ka-ching!