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Old 06-02-2008, 10:06 AM   #1 (permalink)
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“Meet a Black Guy”

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View: ‘Black Guy’ booth livens up Corvallis Saturday market
Source: Corvallis Gazette-Times
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‘Black Guy’ booth livens up Corvallis Saturday market
‘Black Guy’ booth livens up Corvallis Saturday market
By KYLE ODEGARD
Corvallis Gazette-Times
The booths at the Saturday Corvallis Farmers’ Market have a wild mix of fresh produce, tasty food, plants and flowers.

But this week, a table just outside the bazaar offered something more bizarre — “Meet a Black Guy.”

Those who participated in the free service could chat with 21-year-old Corvallis resident Jeff Oliver, and get pictures taken with him.

“It’s a statement about diversity in Corvallis. It’s not a very diverse place,” said Oliver, a lifelong Oregonian. He hoped to promote understanding, break stereotypes and perhaps even provide a comedic moment for hundreds of people strolling along the riverfront.

The booth drew a mixed reaction, however.

“I think this is hysterical. The entire market’s great,” said Jeremy Stand of the Bronx, who was in Corvallis to visit family. Oregon, in general, is a pretty Caucasian place, he said.

“It’s a clever way of engaging people with dialogue about the need for more diversity in the community. It kind of caught me by surprise,” said Annette Mills, who moved to Corvallis more than a year ago.

Sherry Littlefield of Corvallis said the booth was unnecessary. She and friend Ron Naasko said they have black friends, and would be voting for Barack Obama for president.

“I guess I don’t care what color people are. Either you’re a jerk or you’re not,” Littlefield said.

“I think it’s degrading. It’s a little bit low class,” Naasko said. He added that he wouldn’t set up a booth saying for people to meet someone in a wheelchair, like him.

The idea for “Meet a Black Guy” came from Sean Brown, a Linn-Benton Community College student and a co-worker of Oliver’s at the Darkside Cinema.

About 50 people signed up to receive e-mail from Oliver and Brown, including their free photos, and several others stopped by the booth, some asking pointed questions of the duo.

Brown didn’t know if he and Oliver would be back next week. But if they are, a sign also will say, “Meet a Jewish white guy,” Brown said.

“There’s a lot of churches here. Not a lot of temples.”
I am not offended at all by this, but I'm more or less curious about it than anything else. A friend of mine who moved from NYC to OR a year or so ago was flabbergasted when I sent this to him, he lives about 1 hour from Corvallis and his heritage is from the Caribbean and relates to being mixed Spanish/Black.

Personally, when asked questions about being Filipino, I demure answering them. Mostly because I'm not really Filipino at all. Sometimes I get annoyed because I don't feel like I represent it well at all. I was born and raised as an American with some exposure to the Filipino culture.

As far as religion is concerned. I have no issue with that, I'm well versed in the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church having been raised and taught in parochial schools. I even at one point in time thought of joining the Seminary and joining the preisthood. I can answer numerous questions about the Church, doctrines, past and present, and back in the day could even still remember particular scripture and passages. I don't think that I would misrepresent them since I was well indoctrinated from a young child.

I also don't mind being asked questions, and have run booths, and tables before. I currently do volunteering with LifeBeat, The Music Industry Fights Aids tables, so I'm not shy.

Would you sit in a < insert your heritage here > booth and field questions about your heritage and/or religion/belief system? Why or why not?
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Old 06-02-2008, 10:18 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Somehow I don't think I'd have much to do at the "Meet An Asshole" booth.
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Old 06-02-2008, 10:25 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I would not.

It seems like pointing out the obvious. The guy is black, but that is not who he is. His colour does not define him.

I am not in favour of cataloguing people by race or colour. Or most stereotyping really.

The human race generally likes things to fit in boxes. If we name things, we will understand then better, they will make more sense, is the idea of it. I disagree with this view. It's much better to go into something with an open mind and just let yourself experience the moment. You may be surprised.

Also, perversely, this can be interpreted as something akin to circus freaks- there he is, the black guy on display, a novelty or an object in a zoo to be stared at, poked at, asked to "perform tricks".

If the booth said "Make a friend" then that would be of greater interest to me. People are people, and we are all so diverse that the referred label on the booth makes no sense to me. It's like a sociological experiment designed to provoke a reaction...but I'm not entirely sure of its value.
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Old 06-02-2008, 10:38 AM   #4 (permalink)
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My instinct is to feel angry at the idea. It seems, at first glance, to give the feel of a media freakshow. It almost feels like a way of making this black man into an alien being.

But once I work past that, depending where this town is, it could be a good thing. There are many ignorant people and perhaps someone who's been brought up in a racist environment just might see things differently if he stops by this booth and chats for a while.

We're in an interesting time of growth in diversity. We have the chance to bring the gaps closer. The difficulty is in deciding if perpetuating these labels makes it worse, or if celebrating and learning from our differences helps us embrace and appreciate other cultures. It ain't gonna be easy.
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Old 06-02-2008, 10:50 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I like the idea, but anytime you "demonstrate" the culture of another, whether it is their culture by skin, sexual orientation or geographic location, I really think you should present 5 or more of them. While "Meet a Black Guy" is somewhat in effective in showing the life of one black man in their community, "Meet 5 Black Guys" would give a better view into the culture. No singular entity can represent the mélange that is a given culture. "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", for example, isn't nearly as offensive and is much more effective because many of the types of homosexual men are represented, not just one man as THE word of homosexuality.
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Old 06-02-2008, 10:54 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Sure, I'd give it a shot. If it's about stimulating conversation about something which can help people to be more comfortable and informed, I'm all for it.

If it were "Meet the Atheist" in a very religious place, I might ask for a ballistic vest. Still, I'd be more than open to it.
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Old 06-02-2008, 10:56 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by little_tippler
Also, perversely, this can be interpreted as something akin to circus freaks- there he is, the black guy on display, a novelty or an object in a zoo to be stared at, poked at, asked to "perform tricks".
I think that's the point. Mr. Oliver intentionally put himself on display, very much as a sideshow oddity, to illustrate the need for diversity in Corvallis.

Quote:
Originally Posted by little_tippler
It's like a sociological experiment designed to provoke a reaction...but I'm not entirely sure of its value.
I think that's exactly right, LT. It's very much a sociological experiment designed to provoke a reaction. The value? That waits to be seen. At the very least it drew attention.
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Old 06-02-2008, 11:36 AM   #8 (permalink)
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While diversity is a wonderful thing.. to me this just seems like the opposite. Instead of just being a person.. he's officially just a "black man".

oh yeah, and the way I see it, if you have to say "I have black friends" then you're probably not very diverse or have some racial tendencies.
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Old 06-02-2008, 11:54 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Shouldn't it be "Meet an African-American Male"?

Are other black people allowed to participate?

Oliver's implied definition of "diversity" is the need for more non-caucasian people (which in itself is racist implying that all caucasians are the same), so meeting him does nothing to increase his definition of diversity because if merely meeting a black guy makes one more diverse, the article stated there was plenty of diversity already there.
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Old 06-02-2008, 01:34 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I actually saw this at the market this last Saturday (I live in Corvallis, the city in question) and was extremely puzzled by it. To be honest, I found the implication that I'd never met a black person before a bit offensive. Just because I live in supposed small town white America does not mean that this is actually small town white America--we are also a college town, and have a higher level of diversity than most of the surrounding communities.

However, people in Corvallis love, love, LOVE to talk about stuff like this, so I wasn't surprised to see something like this. It's a college town, and has attracted a large number of former hippies and other not-so-crunchy-granola types. This booth was right down the sidewalk from the "Free Speech Zone" of the Corvallis Open Forum.
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Old 06-02-2008, 02:19 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I think it's pretty hilarious, although I can understand why some people would feel irritated at the implication that it makes. If you feel somewhat irritated by it, then you're either a. not the person whom it is intended to provoke, or b. you are exactly the person it is intended to provoke.

either way, i think it's a funny statement - and the notions that it puts a black man into the role of a sideshow/freak position are exactly what i imagine it is intended to do. if it gets some people to enter into an internal reflection on their views of "black" people, or gets some people to engage in dialogue about the idea, then it's a fine fine thing.

regardless, this is the first thing i thought of:

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Old 06-02-2008, 02:34 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onesnowyowl
I actually saw this at the market this last Saturday (I live in Corvallis, the city in question) and was extremely puzzled by it. To be honest, I found the implication that I'd never met a black person before a bit offensive. Just because I live in supposed small town white America does not mean that this is actually small town white America--we are also a college town, and have a higher level of diversity than most of the surrounding communities.

However, people in Corvallis love, love, LOVE to talk about stuff like this, so I wasn't surprised to see something like this. It's a college town, and has attracted a large number of former hippies and other not-so-crunchy-granola types. This booth was right down the sidewalk from the "Free Speech Zone" of the Corvallis Open Forum.
That's what I was thinking. If you wanted to find a town in Oregon without a black person you'd likely have to head east of Bend. Portland, Eugene, Salem and Corvallis are pretty diverse cities.

Overall, meh. Though I guess it has people talking about race, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
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Old 06-02-2008, 03:51 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Tully Mars
Overall, meh. Though I guess it has people talking about race, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Uh, yeah it is. The ideal situation is one where people don't talk about race because it's a non-issue. Things like this ultimately highlight racial issues, which may be a positive or negative step depending on context.

Being vocal about race automatically implies a middle ground. It's not as bad as it could be, but it's not even close to good.

Personally, I've never understood the appeal of diversity purely for it's own sake. It seems like a knee-jerk opposition reaction to segregation that never actually stops to consider it's own merits. If we assume all races are, in fact, equal then what inherent advantage could a racially diverse group possibly have over a racially homogeneous one?

What I really get from this article is that it's a slow news day in Oregon.
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Old 06-02-2008, 04:07 PM   #14 (permalink)
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It's nice that someone can take a light-hearted approach to a serious issue and raise awareness. The ones who are likely to be offended are most likely the ones who will quickly declare that racism in America is dead and not want to talk about it. If this guy gets people talking and thinking about it, he's doing a good thing.
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Old 06-02-2008, 04:20 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Martian
Uh, yeah it is. The ideal situation is one where people don't talk about race because it's a non-issue. Things like this ultimately highlight racial issues, which may be a positive or negative step depending on context.

Being vocal about race automatically implies a middle ground. It's not as bad as it could be, but it's not even close to good.

Personally, I've never understood the appeal of diversity purely for it's own sake. It seems like a knee-jerk opposition reaction to segregation that never actually stops to consider it's own merits. If we assume all races are, in fact, equal then what inherent advantage could a racially diverse group possibly have over a racially homogeneous one?

What I really get from this article is that it's a slow news day in Oregon.

I guess I see race and culture more interchangeable then that. To me when people discuss their cultural, or racial, differences it leads to a greater understanding of diversity. Which I don't see as a negative.
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Old 06-02-2008, 04:26 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martian
Uh, yeah it is. The ideal situation is one where people don't talk about race because it's a non-issue. Things like this ultimately highlight racial issues, which may be a positive or negative step depending on context.

Being vocal about race automatically implies a middle ground. It's not as bad as it could be, but it's not even close to good.

Personally, I've never understood the appeal of diversity purely for it's own sake. It seems like a knee-jerk opposition reaction to segregation that never actually stops to consider it's own merits. If we assume all races are, in fact, equal then what inherent advantage could a racially diverse group possibly have over a racially homogeneous one?

What I really get from this article is that it's a slow news day in Oregon.
The problem is that you're looking at this from a different perspective than most Americans; Canada does not have the history with slavery that the United States has. It's a particular unsavory part of our heritage that we haven't fully acknowledged or dealt with; it goes largely unaddressed from a critical perspective in education here in the United States (at least until tertiary education, which some people in the U.S. never get to). We started having the conversation about race in the 1960s with the civil rights movement, but the fact is that we haven't finished it, and it's far from done (proven by the current presidential nomination contest).
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Old 06-02-2008, 04:36 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by onesnowyowl
I actually saw this at the market this last Saturday (I live in Corvallis, the city in question) and was extremely puzzled by it. To be honest, I found the implication that I'd never met a black person before a bit offensive.
Actually, I think you were supposed to be a bit offended by it.

I was in Aspen (free lift passes) and saw a guy doing the avant garde comedy "Meet a black guy!" in a booth there a couple years ago. It fit really well with Aspen. He was literally the only black guy around. His buddy was selling snowcones out of a pile of scraped up snow from the road. I did not want one.

It was during some film festival and I got them to confide in me the fact that they had been hired to do this street comedy.
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Old 06-02-2008, 05:21 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by little_tippler
It seems like pointing out the obvious. The guy is black, but that is not who he is. His colour does not define him.

I am not in favour of cataloguing people by race or colour. Or most stereotyping really.
I think that is exactly the point of this, though. Not everyone is as forward thinking as you - there is a huge amount of prejudice in this world, and maybe getting people to talk to someone who is different, they can come to realise that what you said is true (that skin colour does not 'make the man').

On the original question - I'm not sure there is a big call for 'meet the white Aussie'
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Old 06-02-2008, 05:46 PM   #19 (permalink)
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where is the "Meet the Electronic Music Junkie?" booth?
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Old 06-02-2008, 05:46 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Actually, I think you were supposed to be a bit offended by it.
I was in Aspen (free lift passes) and saw a guy doing the avant garde comedy "Meet a black guy!" in a booth there a couple years ago. It fit really well with Aspen. He was literally the only black guy around. His buddy was selling snowcones out of a pile of scraped up snow from the road. I did not want one. It was during some film festival and I got them to confide in me the fact that they had been hired to do this street comedy.________smoore
Do you know who hired them?
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Old 06-02-2008, 05:52 PM   #21 (permalink)
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He seems safe.
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Old 06-02-2008, 09:55 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onesnowyowl
To be honest, I found the implication that I'd never met a black person before a bit offensive.
That implication is so ridiculous that I don't see how anyone could take it as anything but a joke. I think it's funny, and a good way to broach the subject of diversity.

As for the OP's question, I wouldn't shy away from discussing my heritage with others, but a booth at the farmers' market wouldn't be the most comfortable venue.
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Old 06-02-2008, 10:37 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Do you know who hired them?

Not for sure but it seemed like the film festival did. That jibed, as nothing like that would happen in Aspen without that festival.
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Old 06-02-2008, 10:50 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by girldetective
Do you know who hired them?
He was part of the group famous for taking their pants off on the subway.

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