The Caucasian Guides To...
Notes on a Barbecue

I can’t be Racist Because I’m Black
Black Sensitivity

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 dance.

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:

Fuck That.

Michael Harriot is a journalist, poet and host of the popular podcast The Black One as well as the cohost of The StayWoke Show web series. Find out more about Michael at


Instagram: michaelharriot

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

  • Great retort to the “naysayers” and those who disagree with your musings at the BBQ! LOL! I am one of the 99% that thought “The Guide” was HILARIOUS, spot on, and in no way offensive or “shucking and jiving”!!! I say, continue to agree to disagree, and PLEEZ LAWD, write the follow-up! I’m thoroughly looking forward to it!

    I love K-Hart, but dislike (most of) Tyler Perry’s work! But, like you said, to each their own! We can’t all be the same! Or this world would be pretty boring!

  • Damn Right! Fuck that and fuck them!

    • Nancy, I couldn’t have said better! I agree with you 100%!!!

  • Just read your cookout piece. Brilliant writing, sir. Can’t please them all, so cherish those you appreciate your craft and the rest can eat a buffet of dicks. At least, that’s what I tell myself. Anywho, you’ve earned a new fan.

  • Dana

    Loved story! The humor is in the reality. Look forward to Church Guide

  • nice story

    Thank you

  • Yep Fuck the haters! (Wait why don’t you like Kevin Hart? lol) Looking forward to the black church piece

  • Love it!!! Looking forward to your next piece.
    Write on. Write on.

  • Cliff DeVore

    I like your writing style, I get your humor. With that being said, keep it coming! BTW. The comedian, Gary Owen did a video about a Black church . It’s on YouTube. I thought it was funny.

  • Becky

    I would absolutely love to read an article on Visiting a Black Church While Caucasian. Please!

  • Uglore The Magnificent

    That’s right….Fuck em. Keep writing!!

  • Stella

    I loved it! Sent it to a Caucasian friend and he thought it was funny, wanted to know when was the next “cookout”! LOL!

  • Very funny, thank you, and educational as well, so many references I had to Google. Please do write the church article, I’d love to read it. Can I ask a real white-ass cracker type question? Do folks worshipping in a black church feel resentful when a white person attends, like I’ve invaded their privacy? I remember Dr. King saying the most segregated hour in America is on Sunday morning.

    • Bitca

      Yes; the church piece, please! Because, a) humor, & b) the smear that came closest to wrecking Obama’s 1st presidential campaign wasn’t the “birther” nonsense – it was White America’s frothing-at-the-mouth outrage over a 6-year-old sermon in which his pastor referenced Malcolm X* & was like, way too ~thought-provoking~ & Gospelly & stuff.

      *Depressing Pro-Tip: the only thing most white ppl know about Malcolm X is that Denzel played him in that Spike Jones movie we didn’t see.

  • I loved your writing! I’m a white girl that grew up in Newark N J. I also went to a black babtist church all day on Saturday. Ii also have more black friends than white. I thought your article was very funny and on point! I can’t wait to read more from you. By the way I love Tyler and Kevin also! Peace

  • Sowilo

    I shared your blog with several of my white friends, who thought it was HILARIOUS. Looking forward to the follow up.

  • Know who doesn’t want you to “talk outside the family?” People who are ashamed of their family!
    Keep it coming. The cookout article was great.

  • I loved the article – especially the spades part. Write what you feel. Not everyone is going to like or understand everything. I thought you were very respectful. We need to laugh at ourselves and share more about each other. Write the church article – and please many more after that.

  • Aliya

    No author or producer can please them all. Tyler Perry and Kevin Hart have the same racial retorts by critics. The retorts do not make them pause at all. You write for you and what comes from your heart, for others to see, NOT to please them. You’re learning to let it roll off your back. Fuck it. And no more notes in response to criticism. It gives them power over you.
    Yes, I almost fell out from choking on the Boston part. #Memories

  • As a white girl who has been to a cookout, I had tears (of laughter) the ENTIRE time I read your piece. As a white girl who has been to a black church, I’m so looking forward the laughing some more (possibly even snorting). You impart good wisdom and clear instruction 🙂 As a human living in this country of ours right now, I sincerely applaud you for adding some levity to tense times and for celebrating differences while bridging them – brilliant.

  • Jef

    I grew up in an area where almost everyone within at least a fifty-mile radius was the same color as me, but I’ve also lived in a country where my appearance marked me as an obvious foreigner. I learned the language and often listened patiently while people speculated about me (sometimes pejoratively), assuming I could not understand them. When they finished, I politely greeted them, wished them well, etc. as their custom dictated. The look on their faces was invariably worth the wait.

    My career afforded me many wonderful opportunities to teach, study, and sometimes immerse myself in other cultures. A second career allowed me to work among people from many different countries on a daily basis. Trading little bits of language and other information was great fun. While we routinely say it is human nature to notice our differences, I contend it’s human habit. The more I traveled, the more I realized how much we all have in common.

    Nonetheless, what anyone else thinks about you matters not a bit compared to what you see in the mirror. I trust you like what you see. Typically, self-worth—which is developed through experiences and choices—shows itself to other people and they embrace it. Of course, they are also quick to detect the absence of it regardless of language and/or other barriers. If we cannot laugh at ourselves and even our own heritage, what right do we have to laugh at/with others?

  • Kristen

    Excellent writing style and hysterically funny. Sometimes being funny offends certain people and those people are uptight assholes. Keep up the writing! I will be reading!!

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