Perfectly Normal Things Black Men Just Know Not To Do Because America Is Racist As Fuck » VSB

Lists, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

Perfectly Normal Things Black Men Just Know Not To Do Because America Is Racist As Fuck



We’re all aware of the potential criminality if caught driving while Black. And shopping while Black. And walking while Black. And walking with your hands in your pockets while Black. And waiting for a bus while Black. And sitting while Black. And eating while Black. And tipping while Black. And…well, you get the point.

But, while the prospect of getting stopped, questioned, and even arrested for literally doing nothing illegal is a reality for Black people, it’s also rare. It happens, but it doesn’t happen to every single one of us everyday. What’s considerably more common, though, are the behavior modifications many of us make because we’re aware of us being walking suspects; things we might want to do but either hesitate doing or just don’t do at all because we’re aware of what might happen if we do.

For instance…

1. Assist random White women in public

Raise your hand if you ever saw a White woman struggling with her groceries, thought “She looks like she needs a hand. Maybe I should help“…and then thought “Shit. If I do help she might think I’m trying to steal her bags.

2. Jog at night

Shit, most of the Black joggers I know won’t even chance jogging at dusk.

3. Actually, jog/run anywhere except for places like gyms and basketball courts that are explicitly reserved for jogging and running

You know the cliche romantic comedy scene, where the guy runs through the airport or the train station to connect with his love? Let’s just say there’s a reason why you’ll never see Anthony Mackie in those roles.

4. Go to dressing rooms unassisted

No, I don’t really need your help. I just called you over here because I want you to see that I’m taking exactly three shirts into the dressing room.

5. Ask non-Black people for directions

Because if you’re Black and driving around lost and you slow down to ask someone on the street for directions, they just might think you’re doing a drive-by.

6. Buy things without receipts

Because you never know when you might be forced to prove where you got that doughnut from.

7. Get angry at work

There’s a reason why every Black man in a position of authority in a predominately White organization — from CEOs and NFL coaches to school principals and Presidents — is known for being “mild-mannered” and “level-headed.”

8. Eat chicken and/or watermelon at office potlucks and/or BBQs

Which sucks because everyone loves watermelon. And there’s nothing worse than loving watermelon but feeling a certain way about showing your love of watermelon because you know everyone assumes you love watermelon. Which sucks because EVERYONE LOVES WATERMELON!!!

9. Go hiking

Because hiking usually involves traveling to places not located in actual cities. And by “not located in actual cities” I mean “we’ve spent a couple hundred years escaping from.”

10. Dress down

Because “casual Friday” is a another way of saying “that day of the week where I wear jeans and sneakers and everyone thinks I’m the pizzaman.”


Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • Val

    #6 is the truth for Black men and women.

    • NRB

      Or without a bag. Yes, I need a bag for this pack of gum that I just bought.

      • Or with at least a “PAID” sticker on my item.

      • Heavens2Murgatroid

        That used to get on my nerves when my mom would make me go back c k in the store to get either the bag or receipt. As I got older and watched the news, made total F’in sense

    • So is # 4

    • Shaunywho

      So true! The cashiers look at me crazy all the time when I say yes I need a receipt for my drink. I don’t need anyone asking me anything… this is so sad!

    • Natalie Degraffinried

      I’d say most of these are.

    • miss t-lee

      Indeed. I always get a receipt. Ain’t gonna be tryna tackle me mayne.

  • cakes_and_pies

    You cannot tell me all this self-policing we must do doesn’t lead to shortened life expectancies and increased morbidities.

    • Val

      Yeah, there’s a price to pay. That’s part of the plan. Those that benefit from White Supremacy experience the opposite effect.

    • Meridian

      Pretty much. White supremacy and racism does affect us to a large degree but a lot of things are a result of self induced fear. People won’t even have an opinion for themselves at work or any kind of backbone in common instances of perceived slight because of the inherent need to police ourselves. A lot of sh*t happens because we spook ourselves out of things.

      • cakes_and_pies


  • 1. Hell, I treat white women I know like they have an angle if they are too friendly sometimes.
    7. I have a dream that I can flip out with impunity at work one day.
    8. I live in the south and I’m a grown tax paying American–NO ONE is taking chicken from me!
    9. I like the woods but then again I grew up rural.

  • miss t-lee

    everybody loves watermelon?

    Keep that trash fruit far away from me.

    • I used to eat watermelon but one of my pop’s boys used to grow them and would bring ten of them to us a time so I got tired of them. The same thing happened to me with peaches and plums due to the trees in our yard.

      • miss t-lee

        We had a plum and pear tree growing up. I still like them both.
        I never quite saw it for watermelon. Ever.

  • MzzPeaches

    Have my hands visible at all times while shopping, especially if I’m wearing a big purse/bag. And I’ll limit the number of times I stick my hands in and out of said bag I’m carrying.

    • I double-check the contents of my purse in my car before entering a store and I always make it a big production if I have to go in my purse for any reason.

    • Amazonian Midget

      If I need to reach into my purse or pocket for any reason at all, I go somewhere I will be in perfect view and switch an item (if I’m holding one) to the other hand.

    • miss t-lee


    • cakes_and_pies

      I will only put my hands in my purse when I’m in clear view of everyone.

    • Jen Yvonne Perry

      Going shopping at a place where they don’t have hand baskets/I didn’t realize I was going to get so much and I want to use my reusable shopping bag but I’m worried they will think I’m trying to steal so I end up trying to carry ten different things with stuff falling all over the place as I try to get a basket.

    • CrankUpThe_AC

      If i’m walking into a new store with a bag from a previous store, I tie up the bag just so no one thinks i’m trying to put anything in it.

    • uniquebeauty79

      a lot of the times if I have a big purse I ask the person at the counter “Do I need to leave this with you?” then I get this weird look like “whaaaa?” And I say well just asking…in my mind I’m thinking I don’t like being stalked while I shop.

    • Willemaq

      Forget all that, I always make sure to let those who are following/watching me know that I know that they’re following/watching me. I do my absolute best to make them feel as uncomfortable as possible, I’ll ask “Is there something I can help you find today?” or simply “Really?”

      The looks I get?


    • jolie laide

      Oh, I don’t even bother b/c I just assume that security has honed in on me (via cameras) the moment I walk in

  • LEE007

    I do most of these things except for hiking and helping white women with groceries. I don’t give a rat’s tale and I dare anyone to look at me funny. There is no greater insult yo your own life than not being your true self. Plus watermelon is freaking delicious.

  • LEE007

    I do most of these things except for hiking and helping white women with groceries. I don’t give a rat’s tale and I dare anyone to look at me funny. There is no greater insult to your own life than not being your true self. Plus watermelon is freaking delicious.

  • h.h.h.

    11. talk to women anyone in the street

  • BreezyX2

    #2 and 3 is the gospel for men and women. If you saw the trails where I jog you would understand why. In fact at most of the spots where you enter the trail there are signs that read “Don’t come in here after dust…my n uccka”. Well not the last two words but it might as well say it.

  • BeautifullyHuman

    8. Eat chicken and/or watermelon at office potlucks and/or BBQs

    Same reason why I refuse to dance at company parties. I feel like they waiting for it.

    • BreezyX2

      Did I tell you about the time I was cornered at my cubicle and asked to “twerk like Rhianna” know because I have a butt and I am from the Caribbean? There wasn’t even a party…or music…or watermelon. Why they hate us BH?!?

      • BeautifullyHuman

        “Why they hate us BH?!?”

        I SINCERELY wish I knew.

      • LEE007

        I think sometimes it’s ignorance and other times straight tomfoolery. I’m from the islands and I dare any one of them to ask me to whine or bogle at the Christmas party.

        • BreezyX2

          Lee. Lissen. This same group of chicks once has a full conversation in my presence about the facts as it relates to black and white cheerleaders….cause you know black cheerleaders are able to split much WIDER than white cheerleaders because of our hip bone placement.

          • LEE007

            That is so ridiculous. What did you say? I know your side eye was incredible that

            • BreezyX2

              I just excused myself and went to the break room where I cussed in my native dialect to the other black guy in my department *shrugs*

              • LEE007

                SMH…I hear you.

          • Rachmo

            …what kind of shoddy science?

            • BreezyX2

              Rach, we should be killing the cheerleading game.

        • blogdiz

          Bogle?? dead are your Christmas parties all kept in the 90’s LOL

          • LEE007

            Unfortunately my job never want us to really turn up so that 80’s mix is always heavy…lol

      • donfons

        sometimes hate… other times curiosity. Like LEE007 mentioned, other times it’s tomfoolery. I couldn’t count the amount of times I’ve gotten stared at by child and adult alike who just don’t seem to understand the definition of awkward.

        reminds me of a time where one of my friend’s says to one of these kids in a whisper:
        “Yes my little friend, I am made of chocolate”… broke the kid’s spell so I’d say it worked

        • Anonymouse

          I wish someone would say that to my white kid if they were staring. Lmao That is hilarious and probably taught that kid that staring for any reason, even curiousity, is rude.

        • juslovemusic

          That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard.

      • Freebird


    • StillSuga

      I dance. I’m a good dancer, and the music moves me. Bask in my glory rhythmless co-workers!!

    • estevan

      Yeah, this one always irritates me.

    • Alex

      And what’s the problem with that? Black people from what I’ve seen have more rhythm and improvisation skills than white people. We usually just embarrass ourselves, so why don’t those with actual talent do what they want?

More Like This