What Yoko Ono and Ethiopians have in Common or my earliest Cincinnati experience
Just as a disclaimer, this was written when I first moved to Cincinnati, OH from Washington, DC. I was a little fragile, to say the least, but I stand by 99% of my rant…..
After having lived in Washington, DC for 10 years I relocated to Cincinnati,OH
Having lived in a major city for 10 years, it was difficult, to say the least, getting used to the differences in the two cities. I was trying to make it work, though. I bought a house a couple of weeks ago and the neighborhood seemed awesome. There seemed to be tons of young professionals, lots a space to walk the dog, a nice clubhouse with all the amenities you could think of and the clubhouse even has its own little pub. To add to the fun, the neighborhood association hosts parties every month, and sometimes bi-weekly. It all sounded great, so I moved in thinking everything would be great.
Last Thursday, the neighborhood hosted one of their monthly parties at the clubhouse. I walked in, and I was the only black person there. Not a big deal, because that’s not an uncommon occurence where I currently live. I didn’t think it would be a big deal anyway because I’m used to hanging out with people from all races and it’s always a good time, no matter who I’m with.
So the party was in full effect: The DJ was playing, the drinks were flowing from the bar, there were a couple of games on some of the TVs and there was a karaoke book being passed around. No sooner had I settled upstairs next to another couple, when a girl downstairs decides that she’s going to sing Band On the Run by Wings. (Wings, for those who don’t know, is a band that included Paul McCartney, former Beatle…from the group The Beatles…you know who I mean, right?) She finishes her song, and then decides it’s stand-up hour. She declares to the entire room that she has a joke, and proceeds with:
“What do Yoko Ono and Ethiopians have in common?”
**silence and general apathy from the group**
“What do Yoko Ono and Ethiopians have in common?”
“They both live off of dead beetles (Beatles)”
There were a few scattered boos from the crowd, but the next second the party resumed as if nothing happened. Everyone got back to their merriment….everyone, that is, except for me. I was apalled by the joke. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am AWARE that all sorts of people make off-color jokes, but WOW, REALLY? I mean, dead beetles? Have you ever been to Ethiopia? Have you ever met any Ethiopians? Have you ever even left the state of Ohio? I mean, there are TONS of people that aren’t from Ohio that live there (both national and international) due to major international companies that have offices/plants/etc in the area and somehow, she felt her joke was an appropriate one to share with the group.
This couldn’t be a better example of how the black tax extends way past Corporate America. For those who don’t know, the black tax is the amount of extra work that blacks have to do in corporate america in order to be viewed as equal to our colleagues. The tax also applies when something out of line has been said ( whether around the “water cooler or in a business meeting) and you have to decide how you are going to react to it. And the taxman showed up that night. Now I had to decide how I was going to react to “comedy hour”. Do I say something? Do I walk out? Do I approach the girl, who may or may not even realize (or even care) that she said something inappropriate? I could walk out, but would people even know or care why I left? I could have said something, but then I would be dealing with all kinds of assumptions: “Why do black people always make everything about race?” or “Is the menacing black girl going to try and fight her?” or “Why can’t they just act like nothing happened. Everyone was having a good time. She didn’t mean anything by it” Yeah yeah yeah, I’ve heard it all.
Right after her “joke”, I sat in stunned silence for about ten minutes. Then I said loudly,” I’m Ethiopian, and that’s not funny.” The couple next to me looked horrified. Then I said,”Just kidding, guys, I’m not really Ethiopian.” They looked relieved and continued on with their fun evening. I, however did not. The sad thing is, I AM Ethiopian. Not my parents or grandparents, but if you did a search of my African heritage, you would find Ethiopia back there. So now I felt like I had let down my entire race because I made a joke so that everyone else would feel comfortable. That was a completely un-characteristic response for me. I was so sick with myself. I’m usually an up front sort of girl, even in situations where I’m completely alone in my opinion, but for whatever reason, I just sat there and took it. Needless to say, I ended up leaving the party that evening without saying anything to anyone. I went home and cried for an hour.
I’m really starting to lose faith in the human race,guys. I mean, it’s 2008 and people are really telling jokes like that in public forums? I mean, I’m not going to tell you what sort of jokes to tell in private. If you and your frinds are racists, than by all means be racists together, but can you at least have the decency to leave your racism at home? Or maybe, this girl wouldn’t have cared if there were Ethiopian people in the room. Either way, I was so done with the city of Cincinnati after that. I mean, I’ve been here for almost a year and have been trying desperately trying not to write this city off and then something like this happens. What in the world am I supposed to do now?….Welcome to Cincinnati! Ugh.
Not too long after I wrote this, I met an AMAZING group of people of all races, religions, sexual orientations and political leanings and I couldn’t have been happier. We all became great friends, and I still keep in touch with them to this day. I’m just sorry that this situation was one of my earliest in Cincy. Glad it didn’t last 🙂
Posted on January 10, 2012, in Philosophies R Us and tagged Cincinnati, DC, Ethiopia, jokes, karaoke, off-color, Ohio, racism, suburbs, The Beatles, The Black Tax, tolerance, Washington, Yoko Ono. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.