By now you may have seen the image that spawned a thousand hashtags. A white bridal party, a group of young black men in baggy pants, one crowd showing up uninvited to the other’s event.
But the uninvited group may not be who you’d expect.
The story making the rounds on the internet involves a text message sent to a stranger by a bride-to-be. When she tries to rescind her invitation, these unwanted strangers drop the hashtag-ready line “We still coming,” and what follows seems to be an image of a couple and their loved ones making the best of an awkward situation.
The only thing is that in truth, the bridal party were the ones who had crashed a rap video. In an interview, the wedding photographer observes that such cultural diversity is a matter of location as much as anything else.
“Detroit is an eclectic, diverse place, and a scene where a group of hip-hop kids and a mostly white bridal party yucking it up isn't that surprising to me at all. I think that when the cellphone photo from the scene flew up to page one on Reddit Funny, it was because people found the scene out of place.”
That got us thinking about the racialized elements in the initial screenshot of the text message: the non-standard English, the choice to include barbeque as the reception food. Viral posts like this sweep campuses, offices, and our online spaces like wildfire, whether it’s a remix of Charles Ramsey or the autotuned version of Sweet Brown’s infamous interview.
They make people laugh, but rarely do we check the unconscious bias that goes into our ideas about who belongs in certain places, or who is more likely to show up where we didn’t expect or want them to be. And in situations like this, that bias can obscure the more interesting narrative of diversity and inclusion offered by the truth.
It's worth remembering that the truth is often stranger - and better - than fiction. And as with much of life, checking our assumptions can leave us open to an even wilder story: one of tolerance, inclusion, racial equity and peace.
Cracking the Codes is a World Trust resource for diversity events that encourage learning and dialogue about unconscious bias, and the role it plays in perpetuating systemic inequity.