Being born and raised in Decatur, Alabama I was taught certain principles by my parents and family. For instance, I say "yes Ma'm and no sir" to people at least 2 decades older than I am, I say hi or "hey" to others as they pass (not everyone, but usually those I make eye contact with), and I am friendly and treat people with respect, from the homeless man on the street to the cafeteria lady serving food or the CEO of a company. This is how I was raised, and this is what I try to practice on a daily basis.
Based on my experience having lived in living in DC, L.A., Sendai and Tokyo Japan, I do feel that such principles are practiced more by people from the South. Taking this step further, I would also say that blacks and hispanics, especially practice the principle of "speaking" to others like them, especially in situations where it may be unusual to see each other like ummmm.... Tokyo Japan.
Last week, I was reading a thread on Black Tokyo and I noticed a common trend developing among discussion participants. Aside for noticing the blatant disdain and insults towards African-American women, I also noticed that there seemed to be a cultural divide emerging between board participants, in regards to 'speaking'.
For those of you not too familiar with 'speaking'-- in summary, it simply greeting or acknowledging someone as a form of respect. As I mentioned earlier, this is practiced by SOME black people. So back to the BT Board. One commenter felt that the Black women in Tokyo have 'stank attitudes' because whenever he has crossed paths with one on the streets, she didn't say 'hi' or speak. Another commenter suggested that he felt it was silly to expect others to say hello or strike up a conversation just because someone was Black.
After reading the board, I thought about my beliefs for few minutes and I tried to remember all of the times I've come across other black women or black men in Tokyo. I am a speaker :) (hehehe). Yes, there have been times where I have said hello and have been completely ignored. There have been other times where we've chatted for a few minutes. Either way, I don't expect every black person I see to speak and I don't take it personally because I understand that for some, it's just weird and stupid.
I wanted to post specifically on this topic because I understand that some readers may happen across this blog and want to know about my experiences of being an African-American woman in Japan. I have noticed though, that the group of people most likely to speak and who are the most likely to strike up a conversation are African men. Of course, it's possible that this is due to the fact that there seems to be a larger population of African men than African-American men and women.
What do you think-- are you a speaker?