Crossing Cultural Boundaries

Food for Thought @ Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken

I enjoy playing with stereotypes. Since Charles @cssmithcarpentry6 is black, I suggested we go eat fried chicken. I wanted to know what he thought of Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken. Apparently, his standard is pretty high; he thought it was okay. He said he makes it better at home. Nevertheless, he ate a lot of it. And, this is after he had a whole trout dish at an Austrian restaurant nearby. He is tall and fit, so I asked him how he stays in shape. He said he does Aikido, yoga, and situps, and sometimes fasts for four days.

When he is around, he completely dominates the conversation because he has a bottomless pit of stories and opinions. He doesn’t just dominate our group; he dominates whatever space he occupies. Because of it, he knows everyone. You cannot walk with him without stopping every five minutes because he has to say hi to everyone he bumps into. And, what impresses me is that he does not discriminate.

If you are white or Asian and have a black friend, chances are, it’s not because you’ve mastered the black culture; it’s because that black person mastered your culture. When we were talking about 80s music, he pulled up a bunch of British New Wave bands in his YouTube playlist that I’ve never heard of. He knows more about the art world and history than I do even though I studied fine arts in college, and he didn’t.

As an Asian immigrant, I had to master the white culture because that is what it takes to survive in the US. Black people would have to do that also to some degree. It’s only white people who do not have to worry about mastering other cultures. It’s like how the rest of the world has to learn English, and English speakers do not have to learn any other language.

The typical way whites and Asians learn other cultures is by looking through the windows of a safari tour bus, that is, by watching movies and reading books, not by walking on the ground. Sometimes, you literally see a busload of Japanese tourists looking at you, which makes you feel like a safari animal.

Charles just walks across the cultural boundaries unprotected, yet, he is unapologetic about who he is. I feel ashamed that he knows my world, but I don’t know his.