10 Reasons Why I’m Blacker Than You

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I’m Black.

I know, I know, I know. It’s quite a surprise. I carry an oversized beige murse attache. If you look inside this oversized beige murse attache right now, you will find a book. (Which you know is some White shit cause niggas can’t read.) I live in Pittsburgh. I prefer mayo to Miracle Whip. I’ve never really been a huge fan of chicken. (I like it, but I think it’s slightly overrated.) Shit, I even know my dad. But, lo and behold, aside from that translucent stage I went through for the first two weeks of my life when I vaguely resembled the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth, I’ve been Black for the majority of my time on Earth.

Lest I forget, I receive occasional conspicuous reminders of this Blackness. One occurred a few weeks ago, after I completed a half hour stretch that would definitely at least make honorable mention in a nationwide competition for the “Unnecessarily Blackest Half-Hour Stretch.”

To wit, I ate a couple pieces of fried chicken (I know) and washed it down with a couple red Little Hugs I took from the fellowship hall of a Baptist church the day before. When finished, I walked the Gay Reindeer’s pitbull, and when I got back inside, I called my parents and we spoke for 15 minutes about watermelon. Adding Blackness to injury, I had on a wifebeater, basketball shorts, and Tims (Didn’t feel like going upstairs to get some sneakers), and the couches in my living room—including the couch I happened to be sitting on while eating fried chicken and drinking Little Hugs—are black leather.

Basically, not only am I Black, I’m actually one of the Blackest people you’ll ever meet.

This Blackness was reiterated this week with my glee over the BlackBuzzFeed hashtag—where Black Twitter users parodied Buzz Feed by “repurposing it for a Black audience.” I usually don’t take part in Black Twitter’s daily hashtag orgies, but this time I couldn’t resist the urge to show off my shiny old Blackness, tweeting about any and everything from dating practices…

“Come Through” And 8 More Lazy Date Suggestions You’ll Accept If You Like Him Enough #BlackBuzzfeed

…to Morgan Freeman…

1997, And 24 More Years That Morgan Freeman Has Been Exactly 76 Years Old #BlackBuzzfeed

Still don’t believe I’m Blacker than you? Ok. Here’s why you should.

1. I came thisclose to just making “Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Niggaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!” an entire post after the Heat won the championship. (I seriously had to talk myself out of it.)

2. I’ve had the exact same hair cut for 18 years. Why? Because I’m Black, and Blackness makes you lazy.

3. I still refuse to do anything other than well-done. Basically, you need to char my meatThe only pink things I trust are Pepto Bismol and Lil Kim.

4. I’m a grown-ass man, and I still occasionally go grocery shopping in my parent’s fridge. (This will also be used on next week’s list: “10 Reasons Why I’m Broker Than You”)

5. I always recycle my cup at Panera Bread. And, by “recycle” I mean “I walk out with the cup, save it in my car, and use it again the next three or four times I go so I won’t have to buy a new drink.” (This will also be used on next week’s list: “10 Reasons Why I’m Broker Than You”)

6. I still own a pair of Karl Kani jeans. And Iceberg. And Wu-Wear fatigues. I don’t actually wear any of this stuff anymore. But, the high top fade came back, so who knows when I might need to start rocking my Clarks again.

7. I put salt on apples, watermelon, and cantaloupe. (If you think this is bad, I have an uncle who puts salt on bacon)

8. In college, I maxed out a credit card to buy an Avirex. Three weeks later, I traded the Avirex for a gold chain. I am not making any of this up.

9. I’ve been to Youngstown, Ohio. Multiple times. And (obviously) survived each time! (This really could have been the only thing on the list)

10. Last week, the Gay Reindeer jokingly suggested to me that if we had four kids, we should name them Ebony, Essence, Jet, and Black Enterprise.

I don’t think it’s a bad idea.

Ok. I might be willing to concede I’m not the Blackest person reading this, but I need to be convinced. If you’re up to it, explain exactly why you’re Blacker than me. 

(Non-Black people can play, too. Just explain why you’re the Whitest, or the Hispanic-est, or the Asianest person alive. We’re all family here.)

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Black, White, Man, Or Woman?

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All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men is a phrase you often hear by womanists (Black feminists) to help explain why many Black women may have felt left out by both the civil rights movement and the feminist movement. Basically, Black men and White women took priority in those respective movements, practically leaving Black women sociopolitically invisible.

That quote has always resonated with me for another reason, though. It perfectly encapsulates how a person could be physically Black or White or a Man or a Woman, but considered by most to be something else politically. Basically, while they’ll always maintain their physical attributes, they’ll be treated and regarded as something else. For instance, from a physical perspective, Clarence Thomas is undeniably and unambiguously Black. But, because of his political history, his conservatism, his treatment of Anita Hill, and his White wife, he’s considered by many to be “White.”

I thought of this yesterday while trying to grasp the way some people felt about Chris Dorner, and how he’s a perfect example of how arbitrary these definitions tend to be.

Here was a man who, like Thomas, was undeniably Black. I see a Chris Dorner doppleganger every week. He sells oils and bootleg pornos outside of my barbershop. Joining the police force, though, meant—for many of us—that he’d no longer be a Black man, but Blue. And, if you’re Blue, you’re actually White.

But, when he got fired and retaliated against the (White) establishment, he became Black again.

Anyway, Thomas and Dormer are just two prominent examples of this phenomenon  Here’s a few more.

(Note, no categories are named for Latinos, Asians, and Indians because, well, it’s America and only Black and White matter)

Black man: Black

Black woman: Black

Black man with White wife: White

Black woman with White husband: Still Black to everyone but Black men

White man with Black wife: Kinda Black, actually

White man with White Wife but very Black-friendly politics and opinions: First Black president

White woman with Black husband: White woman!

Single White woman with very Black-friendly politics and opinions: Still White woman

White woman genuinely down for the cause: Good try, but always and forever a White woman

White woman who’s not even technically a White woman: I see your White ass. You can’t hide

Black male politician: Hmm. Depends.

Liberal Black male politician: Black

Liberal Black male politician with White wife: Still Black, but barely

Conservative Black male politician: Is he Colin Powell? No. White, then.

Gay Black man: Woman

Gay White man: White

Bisexual Black man: Woman

Straight Black man who did one (slightly) homosexual act 15 years ago: WOMAN! Stop playin!

Black lesbian: Is she cute? Kinda, but not really. Man

White lesbian: I have no clue

Poor White people: Where are they from? Actually, nevermind. That doesn’t matter. Still White

Poor Black people: Blacker than the back of Forest Whitaker’s neck

Poor Black woman: Black Man

Wealthy Black people: Need more info

Wealthy Black people from Atlanta or the DMV: Black

Wealthy Black people from anywhere else: Still Black, but barely

Black male cop: White Man

Black female cop: White Man

Black male or Black female cop on The Wire: Well, although those were completely fictional characters that didn’t actually exist and not real people, they were nuanced portrayals of real people. Therefore, while all Black cops in real life are White devils, Black male or Black female cop on The Wire: Black man and Black woman

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

The Wackness Of The “Acting White” Myth

***This was originally published a few years ago, but a recent conversation with a very “convinced” Black conservative urged me to refresh and repost***

We’ve all heard the story before:

Black boy meets and falls in love with books, but anti-book Black classmates beat, berate, and ban him from all future block bbq’s for properly conjugating verbs, eating fat-free mayonnaise, and generally acting “White”.

Author Stuart Buck examined this phenomenon in Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegragration, an earnest attempt to understand the (worsening) academic progress of African-Americans in the years after schools were integrated. While I agree with many of the points made—especially the reference to the “soft prejudice of low expectations from racist teachers who assumed blacks weren’t capable and from liberals who coddled them“—this book ultimately disappoints for one simple reason: The title.

Let me explain.

Whether we’re accepting the “truth” that Black men marry out almost three times as much as Black women (despite the fact that the actual numbers—according to census stats, 3.7% of married Black American women and 8.4% of married Black American men had a non-Black spouse—show that there’s really not much of a discrepancy), or passing the news that 50 percent of all black women in Washington, D.C. have active herpes (even though the oft-cited study actually claimed that 48 percent of the Black women tested had just been exposed to the herpes virus—big, big difference), we have an annoying tendency to believe, recite, repeat, and spread chicken little statistical half-truths and scary campfire stories about ourselves regardless of how half-assed the “facts” happen to be, so, it doesn’t surprise me when others start to believe, recite, repeat, and spread these facts as well.

Perhaps the most dangerous of these bullshit memes is “The Danger of Acting White” idea, which basically states that high achieving Black children are routinely picked on by other Black children just because they’re high achievers…something that just doesn’t f*cking happen.

Yup, you read that correctly. It (high achieving Black children getting routinely picked on by other Black children just because they’re high achievers) doesn’t f*cking happen…at least not in the way it’s usually thought to, and here’s three reasons why.

***Before I continue, I just want to say that I do realize that there have been Black kids picked on and beat up (and worse) by other Black kids just because they happened to be good students. I’m also not attempting to minimize the very real fact that a disturbing sense of intellectual and academic apathy exists among far too many of us. All I’m saying is that this (Black kids getting picked on by other Blacks just because they’re smart) doesn’t happen as often as we’re lead to believe***

1. “Akeelah and the Bee”

One of the most ridiculously realistic movie scenes I’ve ever seen happens an hour or so into this movie. Burgeoning spelling bee champ Akeelah gets clowned and dismissed by her brother, Namond Brice, who also assumes that the neighborhood dopeboy he hopes to work for would find Akeelah’s spelling bee competition as simple and stupid as he does. Instead, the dopeboy gives Akeelah encouragement, tells Akeelah about the poems he used to write, and even orders Namond to help his little sister study.

This scene is ridiculous because the neighborhood dopeboy is played by The Rubberband Man, a guy who screams “thug” about as loudly as Donnie McClurkin screams “straight.” But, it’s realistic because this actually does happen. As anyone who’s actually lived in or taught at an inner-city school district will tell you, the school and neighborhood thugs are usually either indifferent towards or encouraging of kids that seem to have a bit of “talent,” whether it’s academic or athletic (as long as they don’t snitch, of course).

2. Smart kids don’t get picked on just because they’re smart, but…

…nerdy kids do, and, this happens everywhere, not just in the inner-city. Regardless of their socioeconomic or racial background, nerds get teased because, well, they’re nerds, and socially awkward kids are easy targets.

I know this seems obvious, but it just annoys me when people act as if nerdy kids are “allowed” to be nerds everywhere else except the hood. I’m amazed at how easily we’ve allowed this context-less meme to spread, especially since it basically calls us a nation full of crabs. Shit, there’s a reason “Revenge of the Nerdsis such a cult-classic. It’s a vicarious revenge fantasy for nerds, their opportunity to reverse the sh*t that happens to nerds everywhere, and it’s filled with gratuitous boob shots.

That’s actually two reasons, but you get my point.

3. Some Black people actually do act “White”…and they do deserve to be picked on

By acting “White” I’m not referring to using proper English, listening to Weezer instead of Weezy, or even dating outside of your race. But, there are people who do their absolute best to rid themselves of any apparent trace of Black culture, and those people deserve to be admonished.

I won’t go into too much detail about how exactly “doing your absolute best to rid yourself of any trace of black culture” is defined, but I will say that its definition is somewhat similar to porn’s: You know it when you see it.

Basically, just think of any character Rashida Jones has ever played in any movie.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Why There Could Never Be A Black “Girls”

While visiting a friend a few weeks ago, I happened to come over when she was right in the middle of a back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back “Girls” marathon. Assuming I wouldn’t be interested in it, she offered to put something else on. But, since I was genuinely curious to see if the big fuss about this show was warranted (and since it’s probably a good idea to actually watch something if you’ve written articles about it), I sat on the couch and watched it with her, an act that made three separate thoughts form in my head

1. I used to attempt to justify my interest in shows like “Basketball Wives” by using the “I just watch it with my girl” excuse.

I don’t think anyone actually bought it, but it’s just one of those bullshit phrases like “You know, I don’t usually swallow on the first date” that people just feel the need to say to make themselves feel better.

Since I’m no longer in a relationship, I have to change my perfunctory excuse. Not set on one yet, but “I write about this stuff for a living, so watching it is just me doing homework” seems like it could be a winner.

2. “Girls” is…good

Without giving any spoilers, it took maybe 20 minutes of watching for me to understand what the fuss was about. I don’t think I’ve seen another show capture that Kafkaesque feeling of “what the f*ck is going with my life”-ness that hits many of us in our early 20s. And, I definitely know that I’ve never seen a show be as frank (and funny) about the weirdness of some of our sexual relationships and the ambivalent motivations leading us to make some of the decisions we make.

It’s not a great show — I won’t be comparing “Girls” to season four of “The Wire” or even season two of “Louie” any time soon — but it is very good.

3. There is no way in hell that a Black version of “Girls” could or would get made today

During the “Girls” marathon,  I saw each of the following happen in a 50 minute span (I’ll try not to spoil the show too much)

—A naked male character masturbated while one of the female characters watched. During this masturbation session, the dialogue between the two got progressively weirder and more vulgar.

—The middle-aged parents of one of the characters had one of the most realistically intense sex scenes I’ve ever seen on cable tv.

—While sleeping with a guy she’d just gone on a first (and only) date with, one of the characters repeatedly tried to up the ante by engaging in completely (and hilariously) awkward dirty talk and followed that by offering to put her finger in the man’s anus (he declined)

These are just three of the dozens of times sex is shown, discussed, alluded to, made light of, seen, and overheard on “Girls.” Don’t get me wrong. The show isn’t just about sex, but it would be near impossible to have a (somewhat) realistic depiction of contemporary young people — even the ones not having sex — without sex just, well, being there.

None of this could happen with a Black show. Sure, young Black people find themselves in the same type of situations, but if Black people were shown having the same type of sex (and having the same type of sex-related discussions) the characters on “Girls” regularly do, it goes from being thought of as “real” and “gritty” and “truly naked” to “nasty” and “pornographic.”

We — and “we” in this case is “Americans” — have a strange relationship with Black sex and sexuality, too strange for me to even begin to expound on today. Interestingly enough, this is true for both White and Black America. As much as we complain about the lack of real Black shows on TV, we’d be just as weirded out by real Black sex. Can you imagine how many petitions would be made if a popular Black show had a Black female character asking to put her finger in a Black male character’s butt during sex?

And, even if a Black “Girls” made it past the FCC whichever organization governs cable censorship — it wouldn’t, but let’s just say it would — it wouldn’t survive the gauntlet of Black outrage that would soon follow. Seriously, if Debra Lee created this show, the Black community would hire Keyser Soze to firebomb her house, bankrupt her family’s businesses, poison her pets, and break the heels off of each of her Louboutins.

But, you know what? Let’s say that a hypothetical Black “Girls” — complete with the same type of humor and explicitly adult themes — made it past the FCC, and survived the gauntlet of Black outrage. It still wouldn’t stay on the air.

Why? Well, if this Black “Girls” is a mirror of the White “Girls,” the main character would be an average looking woman. Not “Hollywood average,” but average average. Aggressively average. “Looks exactly like the woman handing out chicken sausage at Trader Joe’s” average.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being average looking. Average has a low standard deviation as most people —myself included — fall somewhere within the mean. But, while there are a ton of average-looking working White actresses, I challenge you to name ONE relevant Black actress under 40 who’d be considered average. Not Hollywood average, but “she looks like this chick who works at the DMV” average.

My point? As talented as (“Girls” creator and star) Lena Dunham is, there’s no way in hell her Black equivalent would be able to be the lead character on a show. Not just an HBO show, either. Any show and any movie. A Black actress basically has to be (at least) a “7″ — a real life “7,” not a Hollywood “7″ — to even get 30 seconds on screen,¹ and even the 7′s get relentlessly picked apart by us.

Unless your teeth are perfectly straight and white, your ends are perfectly trimmed, your lacefront is perfectly sown, and your body is perfectly tight, you better not be a Black actress and have the audacity to think you belong in front of the camera.

Perhaps there will be a day when we’re allowed (and allow ourselves) the same type of creative freedom Dunham has to create a show like “Girls” and cast her average-looking self as the main character. Until then, I’ll continue to sneak viewings of the current “Girls” while at the houses of female friends. A man gotta do his homework, yanno?

¹I guess you could say that Gabby Sidibe eschews this rule, but “Precious” wasn’t exactly an, um, “normal” movie. 

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Is It Ever “Ok” For Whites To Criticize Blacks?

Last weekend, one of my homegirls invited me to go see “The Dutchman” — a 45 minute long one act play that’s intended to serve as an allegory for Black/White relations in America. Since Saturday was the last day it would be playing at the Bricolage Theater — and since my particular form of bougie Blackness calls for me to witness or partake in at least one “serious” conversation about race per month to offset my affinity for bottomless mimosas — I couldn’t pass it up.

Intense, disturbing, (occasionally) melodramatic, and intentionally provocative, the play itself was pretty much what I expected it to be. The most interesting part of the evening, though, was the “talk back” — the planned, hour-long discussion about race that took place right afterwards; a conversation involving cast members, the theater production people, and the audience. The theater only holds maybe 60 seats, and it’s structured so that the audience surrounds the stage on all sides. A quick jaunt to Goggle shows that this is called “theatre-in-the-round” — the perfect format to have a group discussion.

As you may have guessed, the audience was (mostly) comprised of Black people and the type of ultra-liberal, well-intentioned Whites who wear t-shirts with things like “White Privilege Sucks” written on them — basically, the exact type of audience that’s always present in any “serious” and open discussion about race that most of us have been a part of. And, usually these discussions are nothing but us (Black people) sharing our stories and airing our grievances while the Whites in the crowd nod solemnly and occasionally share their own self-depreciating stories about when they first realized that all White people are evil racists.

There was one person, though, who didn’t stick to the usual script. She was biracial (White and Native American), and she shared some not-so-positive experiences and feelings involving Black people. Her statements went over about as well as a fart in a crowded elevator; you could hear people groaning and sighing while she was talking, and everyone there — myself included — couldn’t wait to respond to and rebut some of the things she was saying.

Now, part of the reaction to her definitely had to do with her delivery. There was a certain tone-deaf antagonism attached to what she was saying. Basically, her body language and tone screamed “I’m fed up with y’all niggas, and you’re about to hear why, dammit!” But, on Sunday, as I reflected on the discussion, I realized that she actually didn’t complain about anything we don’t regularly complain about to each other.

She’s a stage manager, and the story she shared had to do with how Black actors are pretty much never on time. Once, when she asked a group of habitually late actors to be more respectful of her time, they felt disrespected and starting showing up even later just to spite her. (I actually laughed aloud when hearing that)

Again, she had the type of tone and assistant principal-esque demeanor that made it pretty easy to see why someone would respond to her the way the actors did. But, I do wonder if we just have a legitimate problem with getting “called out” by White people.

Actually, that’s a lie. I don’t wonder about this. I know we generally do not take kindly to White people criticizing anything that has to do with Black people and Black culture. As stated earlier, the criticism could even be the exact same thing we criticize about ourselves, but a White voice seems to make that criticism invalid.

For instance, in the last couple of months, there have been at least two high-profile instances of a non-liberal White person publicly criticizing something related to Black people and facing serious repercussions because of it.

John Derbyshire’s “The Talk: Nonblack version” — a “letter” to his son teaching him the best way to avoid violent confrontations with Black people — got him fired from his job at The National Review. While Derbyshire deserved to be fired for using shitty science to back his race-based racist assertions, much of what he said in his piece has come out of our own mouths many times.

In fact, three of his pieces of advice — “(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally, (10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods, and (10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date” — are things that can be found in our freakin book.

In one of our chapters, Panama jokes that any guy trying to avoid having to fight anyone while on a date should stay away from places that young Black people congregate, like Applebee’s, night clubs, and Detroit.

You could make the same point about Naomi Schaefer Riley, who was recently fired from The Chronicle of Higher Education for writing a piece criticizing the value of Black Studies courses at universities. Was she wrong for flippantly dismissing an entire field of study? Yes. But, raise your hand if you’ve ever joked among other Black people that a Black Studies degree is about as useless as thumbs on a roach.

Granted, Riley and Derbyshire aren’t the best examples to use when making this point. Both were being intentionally sensationalistic, and they both basically got what they were asking for. But, it’s not only the non-liberal Whites who get this type of push back. I’ve read 1000 word long criticisms of Roger Ebert — a man who’s about as liberal, articulate, reasonable, and well-read as a person can possibly be — just because he gave a Tyler Perry movie a (deservedly) bad review, and I can’t count how many times I’ve heard White sports pundits called racist because they had something bad to say about a Black athlete. In these instances, the tone didn’t even matter. It just came down to “You’re White and he’s Black and that means you can’t say shit”

Anyway, that’s it for me today. I’m curious though: Do you think we have a problem with hearing criticism from Whites? If so, do you think it has more to do with the content of the criticism, or the tone/manner used to criticize?

Lastly, can you think of a time/situation where it was ever “Ok” for a White to call out a Black person/Black people in regards to something race-related?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)