Shit Bougie Black People Love: 13. Being Racist

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Do not be fooled by their blazers. Or their support of gentrification. Or even their love of Phish. Bougie Black People love being Black. Collectively, they are Blackness mavens, preternaturally obsessed with the concept of Blackness and all it entails.

Naturally, they’re also aware of the rules governing Blackness’ placement in America. Especially the one where, as an extended apology for 400 or so years of systematic oppression, America has given Black people a guilt-free pass to say whatever the hell they want about White people.

If you happen to have a Black parent, a Black uncle, or even a Black high school principal, you’ve surely seen this practice in practice. You likely have fond memories about the first time Uncle Derek told you not to hug any of your White classmates because “White people don’t use washclothes.” (The fact that Uncle Derek had a White wife made this even more confusing.)

Bougie Black People have found loopholes in this rule, realizing that maintaining legitimate friendships with a member of each non-Black group (Whites, Asians, Latinos, etc) gives them a pass to say racist things when they’re not around.

Of course, it’s all just jokes. They don’t really believe that all Indian women are “built like snowmen.” They don’t really think all Mexicans have lice. They don’t really think all White women sound the way they do when they do impersonations of them. And they don’t really want to deport every Chinese man back to “whichever country Chinese people come from.”

Read more at Shit Bougie Black People Love

On Kobe Bryant And Collective Black Thought

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The idea of better and opportunity-filled lives for ourselves and our loved ones is something we all aspire to. The means we take to get to that point will differ — and perhaps some of us want it a bit more than others — but we all want the increased access that opportunity provides us. We all want to enrich our lives. And we all want to leave a legacy.

This is why half the people reading this have six-figure student loan debts. And why so many of us are so determined to see – and eat food from – every corner of the globe. And why we make sure to send our children to the best schools we can afford. And why we make pains to surround ourselves with people who’ll add something to our lives. Because education gives you more opportunity. And opportunity can give you more access. And access can give you more freedom.

And that’s it. We want to be free. We want to accomplish enough that we’re able to do the things we want to do. And, if we’re not able to ourselves, we want that for our children.

This freedom isn’t just about action, though. What we’re really aspiring for is freedom of thought. The ability to just think and imagine and dream without any limitations or constraints.

Or maybe not.

The reactions to Kobe Bryant’s statements about Trayvon Martin suggest otherwise.

Kobe comes from wealth. His dad was a professional basketball player, he grew up in Italy, and before he was a teen he’d already seen parts of the world many of us will never see. He did not have to deal with the complexities, contexts, and constructs of race most of us have had to. At least not on the same level. Basically, he was able to just be. Which, again, is what we’re all aiming for. If not for us specifically, our children. Those expanded horizons. That freedom.

But, when Kobe said something that wasn’t aligned with how Black people are supposed to think — something that really wasn’t all that controversial — this privilege became a problem because it cultivated a disconnect to Black people and Black thought. And, while Kobe is the most recent example, this same idea is brought up whenever Jaden or Willow Smith or any other high-profile person of privilege says or does something outside of the realm of generally accepted Black behavior.

Thing is, this is something we all know. We know that the person who grows up with more privilege and more freedom probably just isn’t going to see and process things the same way as the person who wasn’t afforded those things. The rich Black kid from Italy just aint gonna see the world the same way the poor Black kid from Baltimore will. And we criticize the mindset that often comes with that privilege and freedom.

But we still want that privilege and freedom. It’s still an aspiration. It’s still something we work for and pray about.

I’m not a fan of Kobe Bryant. And I do think his statements about Trayvon Martin suggest a certain race-based naivety. I do plan to have children one day, though. And I’d love to be able to provide them with the same experiences and opportunities Kobe’s parents were able to give him. But how will I feel when those experiences and opportunities lead to them thinking and feeling…differently about what it means to be Black?

I wish I could say “What’s the point of all the education, experience, and opportunity if you feel the exact same way about shit that I do?

But, honestly, I don’t know. Cause right now, I think it would bother me too.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

No Church In The Wild

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My mornings usually begin the same way. I’ll wake up at 7:30, immediately pick up my laptop, and spend a half hour reading emails, checking VSB, and doing EBONY-related work. I’ll also pray. By this time, my fiancee is usually awake too, so I’ll lay back down with her for a couple minutes. By 8:15-8:20, I’ll get out of bed again and make my way the bedroom upstairs, my de facto office. Sometimes I’ll stop in the kitchen and grab some orange juice or a granola bar before heading up. From then until approximately 9:15, I’ll work exclusively on EBONY stuff.

While upstairs, I’ll hear my fiancee get up. This usually happens around 8:45. Within five minutes, the shower will begin to run. 15 to 20 minutes later, I’ll hear her:

“Morning babe. I need to be at work at 9:30. I’ll be ready in 15.”  

Sometimes it’ll be this instead:

“Morning babe. I need to be at work at 10. What do you want for breakfast?”

(These are my favorite mornings)

If it’s one of those “9:30″ mornings, I’ll stop working, put on whatever sweats and sneakers are near, and come down stairs. The dog — who usually sleeps upstairs — will follow me. I’ll put food and water in his bowl. He’ll ignore it — for now — and I’ll take him to the backyard to pee and shit. If it’s cold, I’ll throw on my parka.

If you looked out our front window then, you’d see a collection of well-manicured brownstones. You’d also see (mostly Black) families and various young professionals doing their morning routines (Taking the kids to school, going to work, walking dogs, jogging, etc).

The back of our house is a different story. Behind our backyard is an alley. Behind that alley is a group of three dilapidated row houses. And behind those houses is where the “hood” part of our neighborhood begins.

One of these houses is boarded up. One houses an interracial couple (Black man, White woman) who used to argue so loudly that it would wake us up. (They haven’t argued in months. Maybe they went on Marriage Boot Camp or something.) And one houses a drug dealer who sees light traffic throughout the day.

The drug dealer guy and I are usually cordial. If our eyes happen to meet, we’ll nod at each other. Sometimes you might even get a “Hey. What’s good?” out of both of us. His friends and customers, on the other hand, aren’t as friendly. They’re usually not out there. But when they are…let’s just say I pay very close attention to my surroundings then.

I’ll go back inside. If it’s a “10:00″ morning, we’ll sit down and eat breakfast together. Usually some combination of eggs, bacon, and fruit. If it’s a “9:30″ morning, she’ll be in the kitchen making and packing her lunch, getting ready to go.

We’ll leave five minutes later. She only works five minutes away, but in that short time we’ll use our shorthand to share a half hour’s worth of information with each other. I’ll drop her off, we’ll kiss, and I’ll head back home.

My route back home takes me through the hood part of the neighborhood. Sometimes there will be cops circling around. I do not consider the police to be an antagonistic entity. But I do not feel safe around them. I don’t necessarily feel unsafe either. I guess the best word to describe how I feel is aware.

They’re just doing their jobs, I’ll say to myself. Don’t pay them any mind, and get back home so you can finish your work.

But there are also times when I notice them paying me more attention than I’m comfortable with. I might even get followed for a block. And then, at that point, I realize nothing matters. I’m a popular published author and professional writer with a fiancee. A fiancee with multiple degrees. We’re renting a brownstone with hardwood floors throughout and 12 foot ceilings. We’re getting married in July. We go to gallery crawls and board meetings. I own t-shirts proclaiming my love for Bougie Black People. We have four corkscrews, collected over time from the parties we throw and attend. I have a morning routine. And a dog.

But, in that moment, I’m a Black man in a sketchy neighborhood wearing a parka, sweats, and sneakers, and driving a Charger. To them, I am a potential suspect. Or, even worse, a potential threat. One awkward move or one overzealous officer could end everything for me.

I’ll eventually make it home and I’ll finish working. Maybe I’ll moderate comments on VSB. Or, maybe I’ll make some edits to something I’m writing for Complex. I’ll forget about the morning. And I’ll forget that, between the people across the alley and the cops on my way home, I’ve had to be on guard every moment I was out the house. Because I’m Black in America. And when you’re Black in America, there really are no safe spaces, no recluse from potential danger, no time when you can be certain that what you do and who you are will not cease to matter because someone considers you to be a threat. Nowhere I can relax without reservation. Nowhere where I can be me and not worry.

But I will forget about all of this. Because it’s everyday. And when something happens everyday, it becomes forgettable. Mundane, even. I’ll relax in my chair, play with our dog, and moderate comments on my blog. It’s just another day.

  —Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

I Have No White Friends (And I Think I Know Why)

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As our wedding date approaches and the planning becomes more and more likely to drive us insane — not insane in a Hannibal or Huck sense, but more of a Will Graham or Radiohead “I’ll be waiting. With a gun and a pack of sandwiches” sense — we made a concerted effort last weekend to detect the main source of stress so we could at least attempt to rectify it.

The verdict? The invite list.

Along with making you the worst person ever, the list is directly involved with the three biggest stress inducers.

1. How many people are we inviting?

2. Who will we invite?

3. How much will all this shit cost?

After debating just saying “Fuck it” and eloping and inviting everyone to a Waffle House in Washington County for the reception, we considered trimming the list. As I glanced through it to see which of her, er, our family and friends could be expendable, I noticed something:

Out of the 200 or so people we have coming, only one is White.

Actually, that’s not completely true. Six are White. But two are married to my cousins, one is one of my dad’s old co-workers, and two are that hybrid Persian/Kardashian off-White that doesn’t really count as White. But, between the two of us, only one of our closest friends is White.

It’s not like we’ve lived segregated lives. We’re both from the Whitest major metropolitan area in the country, we both went to racially diverse high schools and predominately White colleges, and we both interact with many White people on a personal and professional level. We also both have White friends. And we both like hummus. But, the wedding list suggests those friendships are limited.

Although the discovery surprised me a bit, this dynamic isn’t particularly unique. While light beer commercials and The New Girl might suggest otherwise, most of us are very exclusive — reclusive, even — when it comes to the racial make-up of the people closest to us. When it comes to close friends, we all tend to stick to our own kind.

Salon’s Brittany Cooper wrote on this last year, and suggested that our country’s complex racial politics often make it too difficult to maintain close friendships with people who don’t share a racial and/or cultural tie. I don’t disagree with her. But, after considering both personal experience and anecdotal evidence, there’s something I want to add.

When thinking about the White guys I’ve known who were comfortable hanging with a group of brothas and the Black guys I’ve known who’ve had no problem being the perfunctory token Black guy, they each had something in common with those friends: Women. More specifically, an attraction to and/or willingness to date a certain type of woman.

Basically, the White guys legitimately close with multiple Black guys were also interested in Black women, and the Black guys cool with frequenting all the “White” bars, clubs, and parties were also interested in dating White women.

I’m not suggesting they sought out these friendships just because of their dating interests. (Although, I’d totally watch a movie about a Black guy who pretended to be friends with White guys just so he could get closer to White women.) I think that who we’re romantically/sexually interested in has a substantial role in determining our adult friendships. This seems impractical, but it’s actually organic. Pragmatic, even.

Adult friendships are usually cultivated through shared activities. You like each other and you like doing many of the same things, so you spend time with each other. When you’re single, the potential of potential romantic opportunities present often determines these activities. This is one of the reasons why you might be more likely to hit one of the “Black” happy hour spots after work instead of one of the “White” ones, or why the weekend gallery crawl might interest you more than the beerfest. You just know that the type of person you’re attracted to is more likely to be there.

Even thinking of the types of activities and events I’d usually attend when I was single, a single White guy looking for a sorority girl-type was not going to find her at any of those spots. And, when I had White co-workers, as much as I appreciated them inviting me out with them, the perpetual lack of sistas — and the lack of sistas interested in Black men — there limited my enjoyment.

Also, this phenomenon is deeper than race. The White guys into sorority-girl types and the White guys into the ironic hipster types probably wont be spending that much time with each other either. And I doubt the sistas into Donald Glover are going to be frequenting the same spots as the ones interested in someone more Weebay Brice-ish.  

There is a definite benefit to both expanding our horizons and not crafting our fun around the idea of romantic potential. No one would deny that. Unfortunately, by adulthood most of us lose the type of stamina and curiosity that requires.

We still haven’t decided who we’re going to cut from the invite list yet. But, we do know one thing: We’re keeping all six of the White people. It’s the least we could do, right?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) 

Defining “Bougie”

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Our I Love Bougie Black Girls Teespring campaign seems to be going pretty well. We’re ahead of schedule with our goal, and the idea behind the shirt seems to be pretty well-received.

(There are only eight days left, btw, so go to Teespring and cop an $11 men’s t-shirt, a $13 women’s tee, or a hoodie.)

But, there has been some confusion about what exactly “Bougie” means in this context. For many Black Americans — especially those from the South — Bougie doesn’t have the most positive connotation. So, to clear things up, here’s a bit of background and detail about my definition.

In Dec of 2011, comedians Kyle Humphrey and Graydon Sheppard joined with actress Juliette Lewis to create “Shit Girls Say”, a short YouTube webseries based off a Twitter account with the same name. The video went viral. By the next month, dozens of imitation videos had been created, including one (“Shit Bougie Black Girls Say”) written and produced by me — and starring a friend of mine — based off of a blog post with the same name.

The video was pretty well-received with over 750,000 views. Through the dozens of emails, calls, and texts I received about it, one theme was continually repeated:

“You were in my head. How did you know what to say?”

My answer was simple. To create “Shit Bougie Black Girls Say” I used my “cheat sheets” — the urban and highly educated Black women I personally knew. Despite the fact that these women hailed everywhere from D.C. to San Diego, so many of them shared enough of the same patterns, idiosyncrasies, and inclinations that they formed their own distinct subculture. It just hadn’t been given a name.

Hello, Bougie.

(Interestingly enough, the Bougie moniker was an accident. I meant to use the most common spelling of that word (“Bourgie”) when creating the video, and mistakenly left the “r” out. This mistake proved to be advantageous. While the difference in spelling is minor, the R-inclusive “Bourgie” are a completely different type of Black people than the ones I’m talking about. “Bourgie” describes a certain upper-middle to lower-upper class lifestyle more dependent on and defined by activities, ancestry, and legacy than actual income. These are the brothas and sistas whose great-grandparents were Alphas and Deltas, whose Jack and Jill cotillion was their prom, and who “summer” places where people who use “summer” as a verb “summer.” Basically, think of Whitley Gilbert.)

While women were the initial focus of this designation, I soon realized that most of the “urban and highly educated” young Black men I knew—myself included—also shared many of the same characteristics, despite a reluctance to actually own up to it. We’d endlessly chide our girlfriends, wives, and homegirls about their irrational love for Thai food, their tendency to intentionally over tip, and even their deification of Olivia Pope. But we scour Groupon for the restaurant with the best Thai chicken satay with the same intensity they would—making certain to leave a 30% tip after dining—and, although most of us won’t admit it, we’re fans of Scandal too.

To an outsider, many of these shared traits may seem superficial. And, considering the fact that most Bougie Black People (BBP) don’t exactly come from legacies of wealth, socially irresponsible. But, closer inspection reveals that they’re largely rooted in a race-conscious pragmatism that allows them to be upwardly mobile while still staying connected to “regular” Black folks.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)