By India Taina
Now that election season is upon us, we have already been subjected to political pandering by candidates. What exactly is pandering, you ask? Pandering (in politics) is when a candidate tries to appeal to a specific voter group by imitating and gratifying their needs to make it seem like they are “down with the culture”. It is a very sad (and cringe) thing to witness, yet, every four years, minority groups are looped into this side show filled with either fried chicken or attempts at Spanglish (depending on which ethnicity they’re trying to pander) and always with empty promises.
Take candidate Elizabeth Warren, who when asked who she would pick if given the choice between Snoop Dogg and Da Baby, she answered Da Baby. May I point out this woman is 70 gaht damn years old. She ain’t been about babies since the 80’s chile. This is 2-for-1 pandering though, I gotta say, because she wasn’t just going for the Black vote, she was also going for the youth vote with that one, so I mean, respect? Eh, no. Moving on. How about Cory Booker with his whole Kool-Aid comeback? He literally responded to an opponent in a debate with the line “…there’s a saying in my community, you’re dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don’t even know the flavor”. Now which community he is referring to, I don’t know, but it damn sure is not within an 85 mile radius of the hood if that’s what he was trying to get at.
So now that we’ve got an idea on what pandering is, where else in America do we see this? Well, for some people, pandering is apart of everyday life. Yeah. Everyday they have someone trying to prove that they are “down for the culture” and “down with the people”. You see it when a white person tries to say the N word. Or when a white-passing Hispanic tries to prove they’re black because their great great great great grand uncle was half African. Or when people self-proclaim themselves Black after reaching a certain number of Black friends (I have witnessed this happen with my own eyes). Pandering affects the lives of millions of minorities. For me personally, as a Latinx woman, pandering almost always comes in the form of a white girl (although everything has its exceptions). It’s usually a white girl trying to say something in Spanish (in the worst accent you could possibly imagine) when no one asked for it, or trying to dance our dances and then try and say they are “more Spanish” than me. I’ve even had someone tell me that because they could tan faster than me, their skin was “more Puerto Rican” than mine (the bitch was Russian, but I digress). It’s things like this that are tried and true microaggressions for any minority community. But why does pandering exist? Why is it even a thing?
Well, here are my theories. The first being that I truly don’t think White people understand boundaries. And before this gets taken as a prejudiced statement, let me get my reasoning out there, for my White brothers and sisters that read. I think that historically, White people have never had to learn boundaries. Whether it was with land, whether it was with owning people, really with anything, White people have had no bounds. That’s a fair argument to make, I think. And now that we are in this weird time where White people actually have to share the world with others, that boundless-ness has yet to shed itself. There is still an innate belief that everything that is, is there for white people. There for them to see, there for them to touch, and there for them, period. And so I think that is one reason why White people feel free to just stick their fingers in Black people’s hair. That is why they think it is okay to mimic somebody’s native language. Because it has always been at their disposal, so why would there ever be an instance in which they couldn’t own, or try, or say something? Boundaries have never existed for them. And if they did exist, they merely crossed them like they didn’t (shout out to my Native American readers, that one was for you, babies).
The second part of this theory, is that White people are so used to owning other things, that the very thought of exclusion from them breeds immediate insecurity. To not understand a language brings forth a huge paranoia that they are being talked about (I am sorry, but yes, this is only a White thing). Not being able to say the N word is thought by White people to be a breach of their First Amendment right. They can’t stand to feel excluded in anything, because historically, they were always the exclusives. They are the ones used to excluding others! So to experience anything other than that is foreign, it is alien and unfamiliar. It is insecure. And so pandering is simply another face of this insecurity. It is White people trying to force themselves into being included, by acting like they know enough about something to be considered a member of the group. They got the whole culture figured out. You can’t take them out, they’re already in way deep, even deeper than you are. To highlight this, I’d like to share a brief and (unfortunately) true story.
I once was at a party with a large group of White people. The only people of color in attendance were myself and one other Black male. Naturally, we eventually started to talk, as I also have a theory that people of color always gravitate towards each other in times of great whiteness. As we’re having this normal ass conversation, a White girl runs up to him and yells excitedly, “Let me show you how Black I am!” and commenced to doing some sort of motion that I think was supposed to be twerking. My mouth hung open. Literally. It was the most outlandish display of Caucasity I had ever seen in my life.
And so I asked him, “Bro, are you even okay with this? What the fuck was that?” to which he responded, with a tired look on his face, “I’m a patient man. Don’t even worry about it, because it’s not worth it”. Now, this example alone would be enough to prove that pandering is real, but the fact is that in my 30 minutes with this gentleman, I counted 6 huge cultural boundaries crossed that very nearly made me throw up for him. The last one being a racially ambiguous girl just walking up and sticking her entire dirty ass hand in this man’s hair and shaking it around without a word. She literally just walked away after. I had to restrain myself from whooping her entire ass.
I talked with this guy afterwards about how he dealt with this all the time, numerous times a day. And he simply said, “I mean, look at you, I know you know this is how it is”. And I never in my life wanted to cry so badly in front of a stranger. Because I don’t think anyone should have to “know how it is”. I don’t think that this should be a normal thing, for anyone. So what do we do? Where do we go from here?
I think the answer lies in letting our White brothers and sisters know where the boundaries are. And yes, it’s awkward AF. Because it will literally feel like you are coaxing a child when you are actually talking to an adult. It will be hard, it will suck ass, and people might even get upset. But it won’t be you anymore. It’s time we stop taking on these burdens from White people all because “that’s how it is”. It’s time that we have a say in how it is. And we say no to pandering, no to crossing our boundaries, NO to anything that is going to negatively impact our lives. We are the exclusives now. We will never use it the way White people have, in that we just exclude whoever doesn’t fit in our perfect boxes; however, we will use that power to shape how we are meant to be treated, going forward. Peace be with you, my loves.