IN REPLY: Dare to ask; dare to listen
By René Hicks
My success of interweaving my comedy, with my convictions, has resulted in
being categorized as "a comedian with a social conscience."
I believe in using laughter to initiate positive change in people's lives.
With my unique background: daughter of a Pentecostal preacher, accountant,
award-winning comedian, cancer survivor, social advocate, humor healer, I now
lecture across the country, addressing societal ills through humor, by
delivering a message that something as simple as laughter, can assist in
crossing social and cultural barriers that contribute to intolerance and
Creating a cultural nexus was the sincere desire that led me to agree to
comment on the "White Hair Flipping" situation for the Dare to Ask column (Sept.
After reading the column, containing comments attributed to me, I was shocked
at how the information I conveyed to Assistant Metro Editor Phil Milano was
Many of my comments were taken out of context, without the accompanying
explanations, and observations, then connected to something out of sequence. The
editing gave a totally different picture of what I said and meant.
I'm certainly aware of the need for editing; however, not when my words are
reshaped by someone else's interpretation. If my comments are being accurately
represented and deemed to be controversial, I'm comfortable with that
My main point of contention: implying I said the black women, in this
situation, would react negatively, because they were "dark-skinned,"
"nappy-headed" and felt "inferior".
That was solely Milano's misinterpretation. What I related to him was if
there was indeed a "hair" conflict, it might be the result of the beauty
standards projecting dark skin and "kinky" hair, as not as desirable, as white
(or light) skin and long, straight hair.
Even as a child, my mother had referred to me as being "nappy-headed." I said
perhaps these women had similar experiences.
I explained this had to do with fostering a feeling of inferiority in blacks,
especially women, perpetuated by slavery and post-slavery separation of black
folks, based on the presence of the white slavemaster's physical traits.
This being exemplified and quantified by the "paper bag" and "ruler" test,
with its intent and effect upon the black community - viscerally felt today.
I was strictly going by historical perspective and my personal
conversations/observations about the degree of some black women's reactions to
unfair beauty stereotypes.
Also, because these women were living in the South, this type of reaction
would understandably be more intense where slavery was established and
flourished, with remnants still symbolically on display; different from where I
I stated succinctly - emphatically, this was a very complicated issue, with
many twists - historically and presently. However, I never dreamed that adding
to the complication, would be twisting of my words.
The greatness and complexity of America is diversity. We the people,
inhabiting the "land of the free," like to convince ourselves, we possess and
exercise the ability to communicate with and understand others of all cultures,
because we're all just people - Americans.
However, we experience and contribute to the negative effects of cultural
division - consciously, unconsciously, in many areas of our society on a daily
basis, anguishing only when a Jena Six happens. Wondering why?
We have different cultural experiences and perceptions - that's why. We must
always be very careful when addressing other's differences through our own prism
of inherent cultural bias. Being arrogant in the belief we truly know or
thoroughly understand the effects of another group's history is very dangerous.
Lending more ignorance to what might be a sincere attempt at resolution.
If we truly understood each other, across cultural chasms, there would be no
Dare to Ask column.
We must be ever vigilant against interpolation in transcription or
projection, with regards to the thoughts, feelings or words of those of another
If not, the dialogue doesn't lessen the divide, it only creates an invisible
abatis to open, honest communication, leading to mistaking the echo of our own
voices, as an affirmative to our beliefs. The daring isn't in asking, it's in
Listening, until you stop hearing the bias of your own cultural voice,
reverberating in your consciousness and start hearing the faint, unrecognizable
voice of true understanding. Listen, please.