Attended my daughter’s 8th grade graduation last night. Finally, the school district got something right, and kept it under an hour. But I find the behavior of some of the attendees is bumping around at the back of my mind
We live in a largely white, upper middle class burb west of Chicago. Out of approximately 300 grads, only maybe 20 were black. They read every kid’s name as they handed out diplomas. They repeatedly asked in no unclear terms that people not applaud and cheer when their kid’s name was read, as that would slow things down and perhaps interfere with the next kid’s name being heard.
For the most part, people complied with this request. I’d estimate that audience members clapped and cheered for about 20 students. What surprised me was that it seemed a disproportionate number of the folk cheering were black. Maybe 10 out of the 20.
Why do you think in this setting black members of our community would be less willing to comply with such instructions than the whites, asians, hispanics, etc.?
Should the non-black audience members be criticized for stifling their enthusiasm in an unquestioning submission to authority?
Hmmm, well, if you’re looking for a culture-based theory on why most of the cheering folk were Black, I have a couple of theories, but one of them is that in my experience (as a person who grew up in a largely White community, and went to a Black college), Black people believe in Audience Participation. They don’t separate themselves (the People In The Seats) from the performers/speakers or what have you (the People On The Stage). It’s a big communal experience. Everyone gets involved.
Have you ever seen Showtime at the Apollo?
Or, to put it another way (and yes, I’ll be generalizing for just a second), think about White people in church (sitting sedately, listening quietly to the sermon, maybe nodding occasionally) vs. Black people in church (shouting, clapping, responding to the preacher).
Can I get an AMEN? (AMEN! Preach it!)
It’s the Call and Response tradition.
So I don’t think that the people cheering at the graduation were thinking, “Fuck the rules! Fuck the kid whose name gets drowned out!” I think it was more of a natural, “There’s my baby on the stage! Way to go, Honey! Daddy loves you!” reaction.
I wasn’t really bothered by the calling out. Mainly curious. And some of the loudest hoots and hollers were from white audience members.
But I found the racial distinction I perceived interesting in light of the fact that ALL of the kids lived in a relatively small economically nondiverse community.
Your theories are interesting, auntie em. But I manage to find a way to adapt my preferences to various situations.
My approach was going to be when they called the name of a kid/family I didn’t like, I’d carry on loudly so everyone would think THAT family was a bunch of jerks. Ms. D. would have none of it, tho! She’s no fun anymore!
Sure you do. We all do. But if we’re going with my theory, I’m not talking so much about a preference as a… a… well, instinct is not exactly the right word, but it’s the best I can do at 4:30 pm on a work day. Habit, maybe? Reflex? I dunno.
And I’m not saying that the cheering wasn’t somewhat rude, in light of the reasonable prohibition. I’m just saying that perhaps the people yelling were not being intentionally rude.
Sort of like if you were to have dinner in a home where it was customary to say grace before taking a bite (this may be the custom in your home, but work with me, here), and you (coming from a home in which everybody just digs right in before the mac and cheese gets cold) took a bite of mashed potato before the bowinig of heads.
Did you mean to be rude? Heck, no! Might someone think you were rude? Maybe. But you were just doing what you knew.
Yeah, it’s a bad analogy, but like I said–4:30.
How about if you’d simply stood up and quietly done The Snake when those kids’ names were called? I think that would have been a good compromise.
Graduations are a big deal in black families (yeah, I know, it’s a generalization). So from the point-of-view of a black family, hell yeah we’re going to clap when our little girl/boy crosses the stage. As auntie em said, it’s a cultural thing, not a let’s-piss-off-the-whiteys thing.
I never got the “don’t applaud till we’re finished” rule. How boring graduations would be if no one applauded/hooted/hollered between the names. When I graduated from high school, they gave the perfunctory “please don’t applaud” line before they called us down but that’s all it was–perfunctory. Everyone in the audience–black and white–clapped for their babies, as they should have. It’s a happy celebration, not a funeral!
While there are certainly ethnic cultural/manners differences, I think that you’ve got too small a sample size to be drawing any broad conclusions.
A more likely explanation is that many of the black families are close friends. If your good friends cheers for their child, you are more likely to cheer for your child.
The people who run these affairs know damn well that, despite their pleas, there will be cheering for some children. They should just include that in their programming and allow an extra two or three hours in the schedule. [ ducking ]