“The New Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times” by Karen Grigsby Bates and Karen Elyse Hudson

Subtitle: A guide for gracious living that covers the essentials of black American traditions with updates for the new millennium

Recommended to me by: jesse-the-k on DreamWidth

This is a compendium of traditional etiquette advice (which fork to put where, how to put wedding invitations in the envelope), common sense advice for all (be on time for your restaurant reservations), and advice specifically for African-Americans (what to do when your restaurant reservation isn’t honored, or is dishonored with a poor table, when they see the color of your skin).

The tone is warm, inclusive, direct, and calm.

The feeling may be so subtle it’s hard for you to put a finger on – or so blatant you’re tempted to leave and call the NAACP – but a nagging sense of deja vu tells you you’re not just being paranoid.

If you feel you’ve been given a poor table, or are receiving poor service because you look different from the other diners, speak up. When you’re offered the offensive table, tell the maitre d’ firmly, “I’m sorry; this isn’t acceptable. We’d rather sit somewhere over there, please.” … If the matter isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, you may choose to leave and take your business elsewhere.

As a white daughter of an immigrant family, I noticed differences from my own “home training” with interest. More emphasis on “proper” clothing, and responsibility to extended family. A heartbreaking focus on how to behave at funerals for both elders and youth.

I also noticed where my unconscious stereotypes crept in. A small voice in the back of my mind was surprised at the section on how to treat household help, but of course busy African-Americans hire help!

There were parts of the book I skipped or skimmed (how to behave at church, how to dress for a formal wedding).

Recommended for people of any race who want to learn more about being a considerate, respected, respectful member of society. I think of etiquette in terms of keeping other people comfortable, but this book includes advice about expressing clear boundaries as well.

Available at Powell’s Books.

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