As part of identities week, author and comedian Damali Ayo performed a segment of “I Can Fix it: A guide to Racism”, a performance piece where she used humor, anecdotes and slide shows to provide a blueprint for how to better prevent racism and promote social justice.
She is the creator of rent-a-negro.com, a website that examines black/white race relations through the satirical premise that someone could rent a black person for their own entertainment or to advance their social standing.
Ayo opened with an anecdote about her blind dog and how people, especially men, tend to think her dog isn’t blind.
The point she makes is that people aren’t quite as adept to something they can’t see, you can’t see that the dog is blind because she walks around using her hearing.
After a brief disclaimer about her presentation, Ayo jumps right into her theories on racism, using what she calls “the third grade model”.
The third grade model of racism revolves around the acronym most third graders use to remember all the colors in the rainbow, ROY G. BIV.
The problem is most third graders don’t know what indigo is, it is different and inexplicable.
“Indigo is the bi-racial child of the rainbow,” explains Ayo, “because by the time you get to indigo you say ‘what are you? Are you blue or violet?’”
The idea here is to realize that there is nuance.
This doesn’t sit right with everyone, according to Ayo, because they want the idea of race relations to be quick, simple and easy.
But it isn’t.
Next she pulled up a bit from rent-a-negro.com, a sound bite compiling all the oddball questions black people are asked by white people.
Things like “can you tan?” “How do get your hair to do that?” and “Can we compare skin tones?”
This skit and the related website is Ayo’s answer to the question, “how do I deal with being treated as a professional black person?”
She says she gets bombarded with these kinds of questions all the time, and, on the advice of her mother who told her, “you can’t just be everyone’s ‘rent-a-negro’”, decided to do just that as a sort of professional, facilitated way of answering these questions.
“There is no excuse of ignorance,” said Ayo, “and the fact that we now have a black president doesn’t change that.”
With all the racial tension that came along in the time prior to the election, she believes little of it has melted away, but luckily the fact that Barack Obama is President has now opened a window to talk about race relations in a cultural context.
Ayo closed with a series of steps that people can use to combat and solve racism.
She developed them because she feels white people, and black people to a certain extent, have no idea how to go about dealing with racism.
“White people just think they have to get a black friend and they’re good…no.”
There are, according to Ayo, different steps for white and black people.
These steps are available on www.fixracism.com, and are highly valued and proven tool in attaining something we all want, equality.