By Michael Harriot
I’m blackety Black.
I have all the black symptoms: If I don’t put lotion all over my body within minutes of exiting the shower I look like a felt eraser that was just wiped across a chalkboard. I can make sweet potato pie without a measuring cup or a cookbook. I clap on the downbeat. Let there be no mistake, I am Black.
But I have been hiding a secret.
For years I have been in the closet because I have a few personality quirks that could possibly get my Black card revoked. In fact, when I applied to the sanctioning body of Blackness I must admit that I lied on the application. Since then I have quietly swept a few details about myself under the rug (which actually brings up another point that could be subtracted from my Black quotient–I hate rugs. All rugs. Area rugs. Welcome mats. The fuzzy ones that you place outside the shower. Even the clear plastic runners that lead from the door to the living room at every Black grandmother’s house).
But today, I want to come clean. I want to unburden myself with this heavy load I have been toting (which is one of the blackest words ever–see, I still got it) around since I was a young boy. While I know revealing these things could get me kicked out of the Black clubhouse, I offer my resume of 4 decades of Negrocity to counterbalance the things I am about to share:
I have never seen the movie “The Color Purple.” And I probably never will. To be fair, I did read the book. I just hate watching any movie for which I’ve already read the book. I haven’t seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies either, because I love the books, and I have never seen any of the Star Wars movies. I know those don’t count against my Blackness like having never seen The Color Purple, but I bet I could still quote as many lines from it as someone who has seen the movie. I don’t even consider it a Black movie. It was directed by Steven Speilberg, for Chrissakes! Plus, if you read the book, you know that the reason the novel was so incredible was because it tells an entire story that lasts decades through the device of a series of letters. Watching it just acted out on a movie screen has no appeal to me. Plus, every time I see Whoopi Goldberg–whether it’s in Ghost or on a clip from “The View” there is something about her that makes my neck itch. And the movie is too long. And dusty. With my severe attention deficit disorder, there is no way I can sit through two-plus hours of itching with virtual dust in my eyes for a story I already know.
So fight me.
Or tell Harpo to beat me.
I don’t care.
I feel “meh” about Tupac I didn’t take sides in the East Coast/West Coast feud, and although I was a fan of Biggie, I also loved Snoop and still feel like Ice Cube is the greatest storyteller in the history of rap (If you say it was Slick Rick, you’re wrong. Now sit down). Still, Tupac has, like three or four songs I like (Ambitionz az a Ridah and… umm… I’m sure there’s two more). I recognize him as a hip hop giant and might even place him on the Mount Rushmore of rap. There was a passion that emanated from him that you could feel. That you could see. I think he was a fearless, charismatic, uncompromising, intelligent leader who could have changed the world. I just didn’t like his music that much. And if that isn’t enough to get my Black card revoked, here is an objective critical statement that I will stand by forever:
“Dear Mama” was a horrible song.
I’ve never eaten macaroni and cheese I recognize its importance in the Black community as both a source of nourishment and a family tradition, but I’m lactose intolerant. Very lactose intolerant. My stomach erupts into a furious volcano of puke and dookie whenever a dairy product crosses my lips, so I feel I should get a pass on this one. Did you know that lactose intolerance is not a mutation? Actually, all humans are supposed to be lactose intolerant. Your body is supposed to stop producing the enzyme that dissolves lactose after you stop breastfeeding, but evolution has made most people (especially Europeans) lactose persistent because we have drank non-human milk for so long. Well, not me. It’s you lactose persistent, ice cream sandwich-eating babies. I’m normal.
Anyhoo, the funny thing about my having never eaten mac and cheese is that I grew up in a family that owned a series of small soul-food restaurants, so I make some of the best macaroni and cheese on the planet.
I almost voted for a Republican I was woke on Hilary and Bill Clinton before “superpredator” became a trending topic. In 2008, I had my mind made up that I was going to vote for John McCain, because before he had his soul broken by the American political system, he was actually a pretty decent politician who mostly did the honorable thing. It was shaping up to be a match between Hillary and McCain and I had seen what Hillary would do. I still believe the biggest threat to myself, Black people and America as a whole is money in politics, and the corporatization of democracy. The Clintons were the personification of allowing corporate interests to influence politics, and John McCain had been fighting it for years (which is why George Bush squashed him by making Robocalls saying he had a Black baby no one had known about). I was going to hold my nose and vote for a Republican, and then Barack Obama entered the race.
Whew! Thank God!
But none of that compares tho this. And here is the big revelation that I have never revealed publicly:
I am not a believer Yep. Most people who know me know that I am not religious, but I don’t like to categorize myself as “agnostic” or “atheist” because once you put those labels on yourself, there is a perception from others that accompanies it. I have studied religions in-depth. My mother is a biblical scholar and I was raised in a fundamentalist, almost cult-like religion that mixed traditional Judaism with Christianity. I have studied Islam under a Imam who taught me Arabic so I could properly study the Koran. I have lived with a Buddhist priest. I don’t try to convert anyone away from religion, and am not averse to talking about any religion. I’m not one of those people who object when people tell me they will pray for me. I visit churches when people ask me, and I absolutely love going to my old church when I visit home. I love Gospel music. I close my eyes when people pray. I don’t think people who believe are dumb or not “woke.” In fact, if you ask me to pray for you, I’d say yes, and I hope they pray for me.
The only scary thing about it is Black people’s reaction when they hear it. It is a mixture of pity (as if I told them I have stage four cancer), disgust and fear (as if they have seen a ghost, and I am the ghost).
None of these things alone would serve as just cause for the revocation of my Black card, but the combination of all five might get me called before the executive board to explain myself. In my defense, I will tell them that I sometimes smoke Black & Milds. I’ll fight anyone about my mama. I make great Kool Aid. I’d show them this video. I’d bake some macaroni and cheese for the committee, and I’d tell them that I once got a beating with a switch for starting a fire in my grandaddy’s barbecue pit so I could fry some bologna on the grill…
And ain’t nothing Blacker than that.
I know I’m not alone. Go down to the comment section and admit one of your quirks that might get your Black card revoked…
And pray for me.