My, how I love my people and all of the idiosyncrasies of our Blackness. I do. But that doesn’t mean that every once in a while, something or someone will crop up and make me want to issue a press release on behalf of Black America in general. Any time I see Flavor Flav or Herman Cain respectively—Lord help me, never let them show up anywhere together—I get nervous about the impending and inevitable shenanigans about to befall our people. Celebrity coonin’ aside, there are other things that Black folks do that make me want to hang my head in shame.
We dry hump TV game show hosts. Bob Barker must be somewhere heaving a huge sigh of relief that this girl didn’t come charging down the aisle at him when her number was called to come on down. Black folks have been known to cut up on game shows—the potion of competition and the possibility of free money makes us giddy—but there seems to be a special place reserved on The Price Is Right for our tomfoolery. And although I can certainly appreciate this particular contestant’s jubilance, all the big money spins in a hour-long show can’t justify wrapping her legs around Drew Carey like she’s an extra in Dirty Dancing. Yeesh. Calm down.
We browbeat each other for overpriced sneakers. If I don’t ever hear the word “Jordans” and the number “11” in conjunction again, it’ll be too soon, particularly as it relates to top news stories that involve watching grown men mollywhop women, children, and the maimed and disabled to score a pair of sneakers that cost all of 25 cents to make in some faraway sweat shop. Every single time the news covered a story about some simple-minded crime involving those doggone sneakers, I held my breath waiting for the name of the assailant. And every single time, it was something like Derquan Jackson or Otis Jenkins and I knew, without a doubt, that another one of us had drunk the Kool-Aid and paid dearly for it.
We refer to all Asian people as “Chinese.” My apologies to the entire Asian community for the continuous oversights of some of my brethren and sistren, who seem to think that the whole big continent is comprised only of China. I once heard a frustrated woman in a beauty supply store declare that she could. not. stand. Chinese people, which would’ve probably stung more if the owners of the establishment weren’t Korean.
We don’t code switch enough. Not every Black person speaks Ebonics, but those of us who are fluent in that tongue should know when to turn it on and when to shut it down. I want to pull the lever that opens up the floor and swallows me up when I hear a brother or sister all loud and proud in a corporate setting talking about some “ain’t got no’s” or “I be doing’s.” I’m as improper as they come—English major and all—but my mama taught me early to talk one way around us and another around them.
We beat our kids mercilessly in public. Let it be known that I believe in corporal punishment. My daughter has sprouted up about an inch and a half taller than me now but that chick knows if and when the situation ever calls for it, I’ll climb a step ladder and Macho Man Randy Savage her tail to get her behavior in check. However, however, that type of punishment is reserved for home. Outside, she gets The Look, maybe a scold, but never the full-out hand combat some of our parents are laying on their children in public.
We’re mesmerized by white folks. They ooh and ahh over their hair. They hang on their words. They’re hot on their heels. They throw around terms like “ghetto” in mixed company and crack jokes at our people’s expense. They make me want to tap them on the shoulder and remind them that they are in fact Black, despite their best efforts to be the opposite. They don’t have enough sense to be humiliated by their own shucking and jiving, so I am on their behalf.
We mispronounce all kinds of words. Where oh where do reporters come up with some of the folks they find to interview? Last night on TV, a woman in a headscarf with about three good teeth and maybe four or five bad ones covered up her exposed collar bone after the journalist asked her about the cold snap we’re experiencing here on the east coast. As she was bundling up for effect, the local celebrity shook her head, looked straight into the camera, leaned into the mic and announced that she hoped she didn’t catch ammonia. Now, I’m not a snob, but dammit. Get it together.
Get it off your chest: what do some Black folks do to embarrass you?