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5 Things White People Will Never Understand

By Michael Harriot

I believe that before this country can get past the racial animus, not only must we embrace all the things we have in common in this diverse melting pot of culture we call America. Our humanity is what ties us together and 99.9% of the stuff we are made of is identical. Along with this, we must also accept the fact there thee are real, cultural differences between groups of people. Until we acknowledge that, we can never unite.

It is not incumbent upon us to understand these differences, because I believe there are a few things that we can never understand, like why are we here, what is the purpose of life or why the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles feel the need to wear masks. Similarly, there are a few things about Black people I believe white people are incapable of understanding, no matter how open-minded and non-racist they are. It is not because of a lack of willingness to try to understand, it is just that the cultural chasm is too deep. So here are a few things that White People will never understand about Black people

1. Black Hair Whenever I see pictures or video of African orphans being adopted by White Americans it brings tears to my eyes. Not because of the heart-wrenching beauty of humanity. It’s because I know that child has been sentenced to a lifetime of fucked up hair. I’m serious. I can tell how much time any Black man spends around Black people by looking at their hair. Have you ever seen a dude who only hangs around white people, wears dockers, running shoes and short-sleeve button downs? Now ask yourself this: Have you ever seen him with a brand new edge-up? A bald fade? Even a low Ceaser? Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

In caucasian culture, from your earlier days you are raised to believe one of the easiest ways to show love and affection is to muss someone’s hair. Please don’t try that shit with Black people unless you want to get chopped in the throat. White people will never understand Black hair. If you don’t believe me, tell a white person how often you shampoo your hair and watch them guffaw. Or simply peep how fascinated they are with dreadlocks and cornrows. When we refer to #BlackGirlMagic, that’s what they think we are talking about. They always want to know how you get your hair to do that. And they always want to touch it.

Always.

There is a baseball player named Adrian Beltre who will fight his teammates if they touch his hair. Whenever he hits a home run, his teammates rub his head just to mess with him. All of the Sportscenter anchors always pointed his quirk out until one Black ESPN guy said “It’s not a quirk. All Black guys hate when you touch their hair. Adrian Beltre’ is just willing to fight.” In fact, when people ask me how racism feels, I say, “it feels like white hands on my bald scalp.”

Every Black person reading this got the heebie jeebies just thinking about that.

2. Racism White people will forever think that racism mean they hate Black people. No, you can do racist acts without hating Blacks. Black people don’t care whether the producers at the Philly radio station who created a stereotypical Black character for over a year had malice in their hearts. When Ellen posted a picture of her riding Usain Bolt’s black and commented, “this is how I’m running my errands from now on” it was a little bit racist. If I posted a picture Photoshopped picture of me having sex with Ellen doggy style, it would be a little bit sexist. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Ellen is a racist–It just means she committed a racist act. I have done the cabbage patch in front of a room filled with people, but that doesn’t make me a dancer. 

Here’s the thing a lot of white people don’t understand: You don’t get to say whether what you did was racist or not. I know society sometimes muddies the fact that you are not the purveyor of all things, but you can’t kick someone in the stomach–whether intentionally or by accident–and then tell them, “that doesn’t hurt.”

3. Shouting Music I know white people shout, but either there are two Holy Ghosts–a Black one whose feet are as nimble as Gregory Hines tap dancing after drinking a Red Bull, and a rhythmless, flailing about White one– or that song is right, God ain’t through with WHite people yet. Is it that White people can’t keep up with the beat, do they just not hear it, or do they have so much White privilege that they say “fuck what the music says, I’mma do what I want?”

Nothing illustrates this more than shouting music. Shouting music is Black people’s heavy metal (because we can’t feel, and don’t understand that either). I still don’t know if they play shouting music because they know everyone feels like shouting, or if shouting music makes everyone want to shout. All I know is one thing: This is the funniest instance of White shouting and shouting music ever recorded.

4. The word “nigger” Dear White people,

I know there are few things in the Universe that you cannot do, and you are always pushing the boundaries of everything from social mores to gravity, but get this in your head:

YOU CAN’T SAY NIGGER

Not even if you put the “a” at the end of it. Not even if one of your best friends is Black. Not even if you’re half Puerto Rican. Not even if you’re rapping along to a Tupac song.

AND…

Stop saying ” ____ is like the n-word for ____.” “Midget” is not like the short people’s version of “nigger. “Cunt” is not the women’s version of “nigger.” There is no other version of “nigger.” And yes, we can say it if we want to. That entire discusion has nothing to do with you, so stay out of me and my niggas’ business.

5. Seasoning Of all the things I’ve ever written, perhaps the thing that made White people the angriest was when–in an article about why people who put sugar on grits should be on the terrorist watch list, I briefly mentioned that I do not include white people on any discussion about seasoning.

They went ballistic.

To be fair, I could have expounded that Black taste buds have evolved differently because traditionally we didn’t have access to basil, oregano and thyme so salt and sugar made out taste more binary. I could have pointed out that there are cultural differences in the way people season food, but…

Have you ever drank white people’s Kool-Aid? Have you ever tasted  white people’s potato salad? White people treat their taste buds the same way they treat Black people: They barely let us have just enough, but not too much.

One time, at a white friend’s house, I asked him for some hot sauce. He said he didn’t have any.

Me: Oh, you ran out?

Him: No.

Me: You broke the bottle?

Him: No.

Me: Did somebody break in here and steal your hot sauce, because I’ll go get some niggas I know and we’ll…

Him: No Mike. I don’t eat hot sauce.

Me: What? How do you live in a house with no hot sauce? That’s like living in a house with no windows, or no toilet! You don’t have to even like hot sauce. Everybody doesn’t eat hot sauce, but everyone has to have hot sauce! It says that in the Bible! In Thessalonians somewhere! No, I will not calm down! You must be a terrorist. I should report your ass to homeland security! They say if you see something say something.

Sigh…

White people.

About the author

Michael Harriot is a renowned spoken word poet, the host of The Black One podcast and the editor-in-chief of NegusWhoRead. He is perpetually just getting warmed up because he has no chill. He is on Instagram and twitter as @michaelharriot

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