There’s plenty of research to suggest that emotional facial expressions in humans are pretty universal. Angry people in Yemen have the same expressions as angry people in Egypt. But what isn’t universal, is the perception of aggression or disrespect among different cultures. Or so observed one Saturday night by yours truly at the club.
Sometimes your friends want to do something “different”. Different sometimes means “party with white people”. Partying with White people has its inherent dangers. First of all, their are different kinds of White people. Secondly, there are different kinds of Black people. Take the wrong brotha to the wrong White club, and you’ve yourself a catastrophe.
When you party with White folk, no fucks can be given. There may be people jovially yelling in your face, there may be people challenging you to a dance off or beer pong match, beer may be spilled on shoes… I’ve seen this situation go awry. At a frat party, a White guy thought it’d be funny to try on one of my friends’ fitted caps. It was the first time I had ever seen someone else’s life flash before my eyes.
Anyway, these are all behaviors that could be misinterpreted as overly aggressive or disrespectful. Yet, an analogy can be derived from this social situation’s antithesis: the office environment.
The ironic fact of the matter is that other social behaviors that many Black people commonly exhibit can be perceived as equally aggressive and disrespectful. Have you ever seen Black people play spades? It’s crazy. People are slapping down cards, talking shit, yelling, clapping and erratically pointing at one another. This is totally acceptable in a spades game; we are a very passionate people. When we explain things, sometimes we punch the inside of our palms on every consonant we speak to emphasize how much we care about the subject (try it with that sentence). I’ve worked in offices that were all black. Budget adjustments were reported with the same zeal used to recount a playoff game.
The point is that, no matter what your cultural norms are, you always have to factor in the culture of the outgroup when partaking in inter-racial communication. This can reduce the likelihood of encountering awkward situations, hurt feelings, misunderstandings and ass woopins.