I can’t be Racist Because I’m Black
I recently wrote a piece entitled “The Caucasian’s Guide to Black Barbecues” that went so viral I began to receive links to the article from friends and family members who hadn’t paid attention who wrote it, and thought it was “exactly the type of humor that I would like.”
The vast majority of the people who responded thought it was funny and rang with truth. There were some people who didn’t connect with it, because they said it was vastly different from their individual experiences and didn’t get some of the references. My biggest mistake was referencing pound cake as the standard Black Thanksgiving day desert. (I actually considered sweet potato pie when I was writing it, but thought it would be too convenent and hacky, which is also why I did not mention anything about potato salad or Kool Aid. For that I apologize.)
There was a tiny minority who accused the article—and by extension, me—of being either racist, dumb or white. As someone who has been writing for public consumption for over twenty years, it was the first time this accusation had ever been leveled at me. Probably because anyone who knows me or has read any of my work could never come to that conclusion, unless they were somehow unfamiliar with me or what I write about. Typical of the responses was this one:
“Some topics are just conversations that should stay between black people. I think you’re an ignorant Uncle Tom author trying to gain comedic response from white people by selling out your own race, so you sir, are a dumb n** in my book.”
A few months ago I went to see a production of Richard Wright’s “Native Son.” The audience was about half Black, half white (I always take a perfunctory, unscientific census of any crowd I find myself in), and many of the Black playgoers would laugh loudly at the jokes, and gasp audibly at the shocking parts. As I was leaving I could hear a very well-dressed Black woman complain to her companion about the audible exultations by the darker members of the audience.
That moment stuck with me until this day.
We are sometimes ashamed of the infinitesimal differences our people display which differentiate us from the larger population. We can’t help but dance when the rhythm moves us or “harrumph” when we are displeased. That is blackness and the beauty therein. Since then, I made a personal promise to embrace, celebrate and never disavow what I call my “negro-ness.” I will eat watermelon in front of the Queen of England while some of us feel it necessary to take a knife and fork to fried chicken in front of white folks.
I am black, and I love every nauseating, jolly, uncomfortable-to-bougie-black-folks bit of it.
Those who think my description of a typical black cookout is an Amos-n-Andy, Step-n-Fetchit tomfooler-ish pejorative are probably the same people who get that icky feeling when their co-workers put on “I Get It From My Mama” at the company Christmas party.
I am hesitant to even respond and give voice to the far-fewer-than-one-percent of people who are offended by my writing. Many others would dismiss those opposing voices as haters, but I don’t believe in “hating.” I know some people will never like me or my work, but I think that a reasonably intelligent person has the ability to examine the validity of the arguments by those who disagree with them, and use that criticism to better themselves or their art.
Many of you familiar with my rantings know that I am not a fan of Tyler Perry or Kevin Hart (except for his Real Husbands of Hollywood show, which is hilarious). When discussing it, there are some who try to sidle up to my position by branding them as “shuckers and jivers.” I try to explain to those people that I don’t think their brand of comedy as disrespectful or degrading—it’s just not my taste. Dudes in fat suits waving rolling pins just don’t touch my funny bone. I know some of you might not find some of my stuff equally digestible. I’d love to say I am not a Ralph Tresvant sensitive type and that criticism rolls off my back, but I know I am not.
I have been contemplating a follow-up to the Barbecue article with a piece called “The Caucasian’s Guide to Visiting a Black Church” but after the almost imperceptibly noticeable cries of racism, I began to second-guess it. Then I was awakened by the antagonizing, artistic instinct that lives in the back of my brain and gnaws at me every day. It gave me a very nuanced answer to wondering if I truly am dumb, or racist or a cracker in blackface. It is simply: