Thursday, June 18, 2009

Don't Call Me "Boy"

Well... that's what I've been taught.
But this past weekend, I spent the a day talking with two old school neighbors.
One is a developer (He's just now cutting the streets for his new gated community) and the other is a former basketball player for the 76ers (during the early seventies).
Both were friends with my grandparents.

Much of the day was spent just talking ish and eating and drinking.
But what took me aback was the usage of the word "Boy".
I didn't grow up here in the South - so words like "boy" or "gal" were not thought of as offensive.
By the time I was old enough for them to be offensive (back in Cali.) - I was out of the environment that understood the terms in a condescending manner.

"Boy" - one of the gentlemen said - as he began to lecture me.
But it's in it's intent, it depends on who is using it and why.
"Boy" in this instance means "Listen".
They told me that I was doing too much for too many people who it really wasn't going to help.
These men had come from the neighborhoods of which they were speaking.
These men still get involved in some of the charitable activities of those neighborhoods.
So I listened.

Later during the weekend, I took a young cousin with me as we installed ceiling fans in the homes of the elderly.
This is a troubled kid who was recently taken out of his mother's home by CPS.
This kid is said to lack respect for authority.
But this kid was oh so polite to every adult we'd encountered.
"Yes Ma'am", "Yes Sir", "Thank You" and "Please" would flow from his mouth as though he were a household slave.
This kid didn't lack a respect for authority - he just didn't respect those who were supposed to be in authority.

As I was giving the kid a lecture after a hard day of volunteering - the word "Boy" just slipped through my mouth.
He sat up attentively and listened.
Like Nigga'/Nigger - is it all in the intent?


FreeMan said...

Well I was once called colored when talking to one of my friends father who was white. He was just a old school cat teaching us how to bet the odds on craps in Vegas.

I agree depending on who and what context a lot of words are in I can give a pass. Now the "N" word I try to make sure no one calls me that even my own folk. I just don't like the word at all.

It's funny how most youngins respect those who are doing instead of the ones who are telling.

RiPPa said...

Good post, I liked the idea of volunteering and passing on jewels to the youth as you did. Yes, it's all about the intent. I feel you though on the politeness of the kid you were with. That's something that throws me off about kids here in the south. I wrote about it before alluding to how that is very misleading.

brohammas said...

No matter how I mean it, it wouldn't sound right coming from me. I'm fine with that.
In some parallel world, "boy" or "son" just reminds me of football coaches.

uglyblackjohn said...

@ FreeMan - Wait...
Your friend was white,
or just his father?

@ Rippa - Yea... I read that.
But the thing to realize is that while they may be calling you "Sir", they may be calling someone else "Man".
"Sir" is to be prefered. It means that you're the one in charge and not their friend (but still able to be friendly).

@ brohammas - Coaches can (sometimes) get away with calling a kid "Boy" or "Son".
Even a well respected white coach can (sometimes) get away with calling a Black kid "Son" or Boy" in the context of a game or practice session.

The funny thing is that many kids will call their former coaches "Coach" even decades after their playing days.

RunningMom said...

I might say: I need a cute boy to _________ or... he's a dumb boy..... or.. he's my boy-friend. If I ever say BOY! it's only to my son when he's likely doing something he shouldn' in BOY! you better cut that out!

It could be used a few ways, some good/ok some derogatory. The meaning changes with the context of the person doing the talking, the inflection, the tone, etc.

LOL at: "@ FreeMan - Wait... Your friend was white, or just his father?"

FreeMan said...

@UBJ - The friend and his father are white!

Mr. Noface said...

I think that the person saying "boy" is just as important as the intent of the word. If man (white of course) could tell a younger man (black of course) boy with the intent of "Listen", but more often than not the young man will take it as a sign of disrespect and give a response like, "Boy?".

uglyblackjohn said...

@ RunningMom - From one's mother - there are no rules.

@ FreeMan - I know.

@ "...just as important as the intent of his word..."
I'm stealing that.

Max Reddick said...

I knew this old white cat who used the words boy and gal a lot. As in, I sent that boy at that shovel five minutes ago and he still not back. Or Is that gal finish with dinner yet. When I first met him, I didn't know how to take him. He certainly appeared to be a racist--old white man who had lived exclusively in the South. But as I got to know him, I realized that that was just his way. He called everyone younger than he was boy or gal whether they were black or white. There was no intent to demean.

Again, it is perhaps in the intent.

DPizz said...

Context and intent means everything!