Hi all! Big thanks to Katy for allowing me to guest post on her awesome blog. Since 99.9% of you have no clue who I am, let me quickly introduce myself. My name is Doyin (pronounced “doe-ween”) and I'm the author of the daddy blog, Daddy Doin' Work. I've only been at this for a few months now and the positive feedback I've received thus far has done wonders for my fragile self-esteem and ego. Additionally I'm learning that there are some not-so-positive aspects to this gig, and that is totally fine too. Oh, and by "not-so-positive" aspects, I'm not referring to the haters. Anyone who is worth a damn will embrace haters because they are the best indicator that you're on the right track with your chosen career. I'm talking about something a little different here. Let me explain.
My most popular and controversial post to date was one that reviewed why Stay-At-Home Moms (SAHMs) have the toughest job in the world. Some loved it, some thought I was off my rocker, and some were left completely confused. Let me spend a moment on the "completely confused" folks. They weren't confused because they didn't understand the concept I was trying to convey; they were confused when they saw what I look like.
Here are a few of examples of emails/Facebook message exchanges I had with people who were referred to my FB page or blog by someone. Please note, I omitted the non-essential stuff and changed the names to protect the, um... "innocent."
First was Laura. She's a white woman (probably in her 30's based on her Facebook profile picture) and we had the following Facebook message exchange:
Laura: "Hi there! I was so moved by your SAHM post. It was brilliantly written and it makes me feel validated as a SAHM. Quick question, who is the black guy on your page? Is he a professional athlete or model?"
Me: "Thanks for the kind words! That's a picture of me. Why do you ask?"
Laura: "Nice! It's so refreshing to see a black person who writes well and doesn't act all ghetto. I wish they were all like you. Keep up the good work!"
Debrief: First off, it never gets old to read that someone thinks that I look like a model or professional basketball player. However, our friend Laura hit one of my pet peeves squarely on the head. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I cringe whenever I see people who:
· Say “that’s retarded” to describe something or someone that they believe is dumb or unintelligent.
· Say “that’s gay” to describe something or someone that isn’t cool.
· Say “that’s ghetto” to describe a behavior or something that isn’t of the highest quality.
If you’re above the age of seven, you should know better than to say these things. I’ll go out on a limb here, but I would bet a paycheck that Laura hasn’t been within 100 yards of a ghetto in her lifetime. Fortunately I’m not one to get offended easily so I brushed it off – but a memo to my wonderful white readers: Please don’t say things like “act ghetto” to a black person. Most of us don’t like that very much. All in all, I think Laura had good intentions and didn’t mean any harm by her comment. I could’ve done without the “I wish they were all like you” statement, but I’m willing to let that slide.
The second was James. Here's our email exchange:
James: "Hey there, great blog! Have any of your readers commented on how weird it is that you’re the author?”
Me: "I’m not quite sure what you mean. Care to explain?"
James: "No disrespect, but don’t you find it odd that a black guy who looks like a pro basketball player composed such a great piece about Stay-At-Home Moms? It’s definitely not what I expected.”
Me: "Just out of curiosity, what did you expect?"
James: "I don’t know…I'm just shocked that someone who looks like you writes so well."
Me: "So what does a good writer look like?"
Debrief: The universal law states that whenever someone says "no disrespect," it means that somebody's about to get disrespected. Again, much love to James for thinking that I look like a pro baller, but I took issue with his comments. Why would my appearance have anything to do with writing an article about SAHMs? My mom was one, so if there’s a man who knows about the topic it’s me. I ended the exchange by asking him what a good writer looks like. Would I be more credible if I looked like Steve Urkel from Family Matters? Or if my skin color was a few shades lighter? By the way, aren’t these just words on a computer screen? Who cares what the person looks like who created them? I sure as hell don’t. Since James never responded to my question, I hope he’s thinking “Wow, it was pretty stupid of me to say that” instead of “What an idiot. How could he not understand what I’m trying to say here??” I guess I’ll never know.
The last one was Jackie. Here's our email exchange:
Jackie: "A friend referred me here. I think it's cool that you're writing a parenting blog about your daughter. You don't see that too often."
Me: "What do you mean?"
Jackie: "I work in the inner city, and trust me - black men never talk about their kids, especially their daughters. They're always too busy talking about rap music, smoking weed, or basketball. You can be the change they need."
Debrief: I have a fundamental problem with the words “never” and “always,” because there are, um…always exceptions. Maybe it’s just me, but I chuckled that Jackie believes she’s an expert on black people because she works in the inner city. I live in Los Angeles – does that make me an expert on pretentious, stuck-up, self-important skanks and douchebags? Well, I do know a lot about those things since I’ve lived here for ten years, so maybe she makes a good point there. Anyway, all of the black fathers I know (including my dad and two brothers) love their kids and don’t spend all day freestyle rapping, getting high, or playing ball. It’s a dangerous exercise to throw a blanket over a group of people like that.
Overall it starts with us as parents. We have to teach our kids “not to be dicks" and stop judging people based on appearances. Speaking of appearances, let's test something out: Check out the picture that I included for this post. Based on appearances alone - would you guess that this individual watched Finding Nemo over 25 times and sobbed uncontrollably at the end of each viewing? Would you guess that he's a Carly Rae Jepsen fan? Would you guess that he enjoys cooking more than playing basketball? When he’s not asleep would you guess that he spends 80% of his time smiling and laughing? Would you guess that writing is his favorite hobby? Would you guess that everything he does is centered around making his wife and 17-month old daughter happy? If your honest answer is “no” to any of these questions then you’ve probably fallen victim to the stereotypes that exist in society. I want to raise my baby girl to embrace diversity, because in doing so she'll realize that we’re a lot more similar than we are different.
In closing, I know that stereotypes still exist; even in the blogging world. I could be pissed off or frustrated by it, or I can be my best self and show the people around me that I'm just one of many educated, positive, black fathers in this world who put his children first. Maybe I'm just naive, but as a writer I want to be judged for my writing. I don't want any of this "You're a great writer for a black guy" shit. Additionally, I don’t write for just black people – I write for anyone who has kids, will have kids (like Katy), or wants to have kids. If you think my blog sucks, that’s cool. If you think my blog is epic, that’s even better. Just don't grade me on a curve or give me any patronizing props because of my skin color. It’s just nuts to me that it’s 2012 and race is still an issue with some people.
I hope I didn’t come off as an angry black man who wants to kill whitey. Anyone who knows me understands that I’m a teddy bear without an angry bone in my body. Also, I love whitey. Literally, I do – my wife is half-white and half-Japanese. My main motivation to share this story with you is so you can take a deeper look at yourself to see if there are any negative stereotypes that you subscribe to. If so, you could be missing out on a lot of cool people, experiences, and blogs that could make your short stay on earth all that more enjoyable.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to work on my freestyle rap album.
Doyin Richards shares his unique and hilarious adventures as loving new dad on his blog on Twitter at @daddydoinwork, and Facebook