Lists, Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

The “I’m Lucky I’m Black” Passes: Things Black People “Get Away With” That Others Can’t

There’s an episode of “Louie” — the hilariously awkward and awkwardly hilarious FX series starring comedian Louie C.K. — where a older male police officer asks Louie for a kiss. The cop had just gotten Louie out of a tight jam, and the kiss would be the reward for that service. Since the cop was rather cool about the request (and since the cop seemed rather desperate), Louie obliges, planting a kiss on his lips. The cop thanks him, and they go about their ways.

Now, in real life Louie C.K. is by all accounts a heterosexual family man. In fact, much of his act (and much of the show) is based on him being a father and husband. But, even if this wasn’t true, even if we knew absolutely nothing about his personal life, most (reading) adults realize that actors occasionally have to, well, act, and that cop kissing scene alone wouldn’t be enough to convince anyone that he was homosexual.

Louie C.K. is also white¹, and his whiteness allows him a certain peculiar privilege, a privilege my girl (who was watching the show with me) quickly observed.

“It’s weird. That scene didn’t make me think twice about whether he was straight. But, if a black male comedian did the exact same thing, I can’t lie; I’d question whether he was completely straight. I know it’s a ridiculous double standard, but it’s true”

Although that statement wasn’t exactly politically correct, she was completely correct. Men like Jake Gyllenhaal and Matt Damon can star in movies like “Brokeback Mountain” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and still be considered 100%  hetero, but black male actors aren’t afforded that same luxury. Sh*t, there are still bisexual rumors floating around about Will Smith, rumors stemming from a movie he did two decades ago.

This double standard goes beyond the silver screen. For instance, if I were to post some Facebook pics of a few white frat boys jokingly and drunkenly wrestling and hugging each other a bit too closely, your first thought would probably be “Eh. Typical crazy college white boys.” If these frat boys were black, however, the thought changes from “typical frat boys” to “typical Mean Girls of Morehouse.”

This, this pretend gay” pass, is one of the myriad passes unique to white people, not as game-changing as the get an easy bank loan” pass but definitely much more useful than the ultra annoying if college aged, allowed to end every single sentence with an interrogative inflection” pass

But, since we’re already aware of the hundreds of thousands of “white” passes, I’m actually more curious about the “black” passes — things black people can get away with that whites (and other races) just can’t — and I thought of a few.

The “say somewhat insensitive things about other races and still feel no real repercussions” pass

Let’s just say that if I founded a website called VSR (Very Smart Rednecks) and allowed black people to be referred to as “1613’s” (Why 1613? Because the 16th letter in the alphabet is “P” and the 13th is “M,” and the PM stands for “Porch Monkeys”) in the comment’s section of said site, I most likely wouldn’t have made business cards advertising the VSR, I probably wouldn’t be so quick to put my real name on the cover of the VSR relationship book, and I definitely wouldn’t have rocked a Very Smart Rednecks t-shirt yesterday evening while taking some black people on a tour of my apartment.

The “beat our kids in public” pass

At the extra snooty Whole Foods two blocks down the street from my place, I once saw an entire checkout line full of people stare down and ice grill a woman just because she forcefully grabbed the arm of her out of control child.

At the much more hood Giant Eagle a mile or so away, I once saw an entire checkout line nod their heads in appreciation and admiration as a woman forcefully choke slammed her not really all that out of control child.

The “I’m a grown ass man/woman who still needs some “time” before I’m ready to get married, and it’s perfectly ok” pass

Um, moving on…

The “wait, did you call me a n*gger???” pass

Donald Glover actually joked about this in one of his stand-ups, but once a black person has been the real (or perceived) victim of any type of racial injustice, we basically have carte blanche to do whatever the hell we want. Seriously, you can go to an Apple store and take a piss and full dump on every iPad, but not only would you get off if you tell the judge you thought Steve Jobs called you a n*gger, you’d probably be able to sue (and win!)

Anyway, people of VSB: did I forget anything? Can you think of any more “black” passes? Also, are there any “white” passes you’d trade one of your most valued black passes for?

¹He’s actually part Mexican, but since he looks white, that’s all that matters.
²Is this just a Pittsburgh-area thing, or do 18-25 year old white woman across the country all end each of their sentences with the same inflection they’d use if they were asking a question?

—The Champ


Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. 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.

  • Liz

    The “I’m still writing and editing this post even though I published it already” pass.

    Okay, maybe not.

  • AG
  • DQ

    #3 The Victim pass? When did black people get that and why didn’t I get the memo?

    Someone let Rodney King know also, dude stays getting arrested on a regular. He should have plenty of Victim Equity left in his account.

  • Be On It

    hehehehehe, most of these are very true. Except if you say the letters as if they are a word, then 2520 isn’t the same as 1613. It’s only when you say them as separate letters that you get into being offensive, and frankly, it’s no where near the level of offensive as slurs for colored VSP.

    What was I talking about?

    Oh yes, the black people passes. I think black people have a “get out of a fight by talking big” pass with people of other races. I cannot tell you how many times the mere intimation that I can go Shmalaquieshenia on a fool has calmed the heck out of a reckless white/non-black woman. I don’t even have to go full ghetto, just throw out a line that it’s coming, and mess gets shut down quick.

    Just don’t try it on some crazy behind non-black chick raised in the hood, or the buckwild 2520 chick who is ready to prove her bonafides to faciliate her fudgepop appreciation activites.

  • Thereluctantsocialite

    “Let’s just say that if I founded a website called VSR (Very Smart Rednecks) and allowed black people to be referred to as “1613?s” (Why 1613? Because the 16th letter in the alphabet is “P” and the 13th is “M,” and the PM stands for “Porch Monkeys”)”

    This just killed me…

  • I know my immigrant behind uses the “I wasn’t born in this country” pass whenever I can.

    I.e. “oh that’s not how you pronounce that word?” or when I was trying to figure out the whole groundhog day thing and WTF that had to do with spring time coming or when people look at me all crazy when I don’t know some song or music group from the early 90s or earlier, etc etc.

    “whatever man I wasnt even born here!”

  • lawgirl

    hHow about the “angry” pass. Just blame the anger on years of oppression and enequalities.

  • Tina

    Just a thought…but Louis c.k. is actually the randomest kind of white person bc he’s a ginger guy who by all acounts is white but in fact retains his mexican citizenship bc his dad is half mexican and in fact! spanish was his first language…Louie stays winning.

  • Tori

    I have a friend who told me about this site and made me post…..

    I would trade my ability to do whatever I felt necessary if someone called me a n%$#&r, if I could be a medicore white person and still be extremely successful. It’s easy to find exceptional black people that get rewarded for their talent, but its hard to find average black people with the same success as average whites…

  • CurlyTop

    The “wear outrageous hairstyles” pass. I don’t mean rocking dreadlocks, natural hair, or a weave (which is fine) but ish like this:


    [Some]Black people get away with it for some reason. Back in the early 2000’s Christina Aguliera wore this messed up weave during the time Lady Marmalade came out and everyone was like O_O. But we let Rihanna get away with looking like Ronald McDonald and Carrot Top.

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