Why I’m Willing to Represent the Entire Black Community to the Not Black Community » VSB

blackest thing, Featured, Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

Why I’m Willing to Represent the Entire Black Community to the Not Black Community

(Photo Credit: White House/Handout via Getty Images)

You know what I don’t mind? Aside from not minding if you stroke me up, (I don’t mind) I do not mind being the voice of Black America. Not on radio or television, I mean in the office and to white people anywhere. If I work at a company and there aren’t a lot of Black people around (likely) and white folks have questions (more likely), well, I’m the guy to send them to. If HR and Legal wouldn’t frown upon it, I’d have placed an “Ask This Black Guy” sign on my door years ago.

Not for nothing, I did check; HR and Legal did, in fact, frown upon that shit.

I know lots of Black people who hate it when white people come to them and ask them questions about Blackness, pop culture, urbanism, hair styles, or any assorted cool thing that’s happening in the world right now, with the assumption being that “you’re Black, you might know this.” I can understand how that might be annoying, especially when issa google and shit. So it might seem like fite wolks are outchea trolling. Especially assuming that just because I’m Black, I know this and that and this and uh.

And maybe they are. But the truth is, of course I know whatever it is. Is it because I’m Black?, asks Syl Johnson. Not always. But mostly it’s because typically I’m the coolest person in the professional room, being Black is just the icing on the cake. Since I probably do know the answer to the lecture at hand, I’d rather they ask me than go off into the world with bad information, making some shit uncool on the wrong merits. They’re already going to ruin it, I’d prefer they knew what they were actually ruining. Context, unlike everything, is everything.

[Sidenote: I’m fully aware that all Black people don’t know everything about Black culture. But we all look alike to white people so just enjoy being Lebron James or Michelle Obama and pretend you know the answers to everything. Make it up, who’s going to tell you that you’re wrong?]

A white person wants to know if something’s racist? Fuck it, let’s talk about it. (But yes, it’s racist.) I’ll tell you exactly why it’s racist and why you might be a racist for that line of thinking. In fact, I HAVE done just that at the day job. Numerous times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a co-worker come into my office, close the door – its how I always know that fuckery is afoot – and say, “I have a question…tell me if I’m wrong.”

I usually start out with, “if you have to ask, 9 times out of 10, you are wrong. If it’s racial in nature, you are absolutely wrong.” But I’m willing to take that convo because I think it’s important that somebody is doing it. Also, I  learn a whole lot about my coworkers this way.

Real talk, I view it as community service. I’m just out here doing my part to foster understanding and common ground. Mmhmm, that’s right.

Now, I ENTIRELY understand why you, the Black people, might hate this shit. I get it. We are not a monolith. We all have different opinions on lots of things and some of our homes have leatherbound books, some don’t. Hell, sometimes I rhyme slow and sometimes I rhyme quick, ya know? It is annoying that white people think that there’s a single solitary Black answer to whatever ails them. Except, let’s be real..when white folks ask socially-centered questions there really IS one answer. White people are never looking for a nuanced conversation about why Rosewood sets Black folks off…

…white folks ain’t seen Rosewood (lately). They’re not looking to discuss the maturation of Nia Long and how it is proof positive that Black indeed, does not crack.

White people want to know what the fuck is happening in the world today that cool people – the Black people – are doing and what game we’re up on and want to make sure they’re not racists. Almost every single conversation I’ve ever had with my white coworkers where they felt a need to bring it to me centered around understanding something that they saw that they assume their teenage children might not understand even though we know their kids know all of it; guess whose coming to dinner, ma! OR some examination of racism in various form or fashion.

In a rare third category sits, “I saw something that made me think about what you told me about the Black struggle and I want you to know that I understand.”

Almost every question white people ask has some sort of common sense, textbook answer.

“How does your hair do that?” (#boybye #girlbye #sorrynotsorry)

“Am I racist?” (Yes. Yes you are.)

“Are Ice T and Ice Cube the same person?” (real question I was asked, no, they’re not.)

“Why do Black people hate Trump?” (Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh.)

White people are seeking out general information, not nuance and deep dives, but if they come ask me, I answer the question then hit them with the hee of nuance, complexity, history and white guilt. But I ain’t one to gossip so you ain’t heard that from me.

So if you are tired of talking to white people about what it’s like to be Black, I understand. Me and Kevin Gates, we got six jobs, we don’t get tired. So you can send them my way because I will have the same conversation over and over again until the cows come home.

Somebody has to do it.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • KMN

    I’m here for all of THIS:

    “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a co-worker come into my office, close the door – its how I always know that fuckery is afoot – and say, “I have a question…tell me if I’m wrong.””
    Fuckery Is afoot is going to be my new tagline in life

  • Val

    You know how little kids go through a phase where they like to ask questions they already know the answer to? Well, that’s how a lot of White people are when it comes to Black folks. I think they think feigning ignorance gives them and air of innocence. Like a kid pretending to be confused about when curfew was when they are late to get home.

    It also, in their minds, gives them plausible deniability. How can they be racist if they don’t know any better?

    We have been living in this country for 500 years with them. They know what’s up, they just like to pretend they don’t.

    • miss t-lee

      Thing is…I can deal with this from children, because you know they’re little people and they’re new to everything. Overgrown adults? Yawn.

    • Brown Rose

      I think this is a good point. feigning ignorance just to watch your reaction or to confirm something they already believe. Its a game to a lot of them.

      • Wild Cougar

        Keep dancing and justifying your humanity to me. Keep dancing…..

      • Val

        Lol Good morning, NWT!

    • MaiB

      This right here. This is why I drop the PayPal link when they are asking “innocent” questions because they don’t really want to learn. I’m not doing this for free anymore. Especially when folks like to derail the conversation with “If You Won’t Educate Me How Can I Learn”.

      • Janelle Doe

        drop the link – they would pay one of them way more than whatever you are asking because of some experience in a ‘foreign’ land so – get your $$!

      • Jennifer

        “If you won’t educate me how will I learn” would be the surest way to a beat down if I didn’t care about going to jail.

        It’s not like they would read any critical race theory writing if we suggested it. And, Google is free. They would search high and low on Yelp for a chance to eat the best taco in Brooklyn, but they are too lazy to actually learn about important ish.

        Tired just thinking about it.

        • siante

          exactly! So many ways to educate yourself- read a book, research on Youtube, I even saw this thing on Youtube about how White people were going to HBCU so that they could see what it’s like to be a minority. There are so many ways to not be ignorant.

      • Glo

        “If You Won’t Educate Me How Can I Learn”

        My response is “You have access to the same Google that I do.”

      • Gibbous

        I don’t know, I seemed to have learned without asking YOU fifty bazillion questions. And because the way White Patriarchy is set up, I’ve learned about other races, other cultures, other ethnicities, (Russians & Polish in Chicago, Somali in Maine) LGBTQ folks, and everything else I can get my mind on so I can operate in these here streets.

        I already did my homework. The fact that you’ve arrived this far without doing yours is the very definition of privilege.

        • Mary Burrell

          That was excellent like when Kathy Perry was getting called out on her mess and she talked about how she asked her black angels why it was offensive for her to appropriate black culture in her music videos. She needs to put the work in and get a clue.

        • Mary

          Word!

    • Kat

      And do, which is why I ain’t bothering answering no more. Google if it really interests you. I’m not supplying you with a story to share with your friends over coffee.

    • Wild Cougar

      THIS.RIGHT.HERE

    • Mary Burrell

      Amen

  • Glo

    Real question I was asked once: “Why do black people think the world is out to get them?”

    Me: “Because it is.”

    Then I gave like 5 examples (all of which were consigned by the other black person in the room) and went back to work.

    • miss t-lee

      Welp!

    • Darkchloe144

      It’s the way that question is phrased that’s just asking for my shade.

      • miss em

        the way that question is phrased is asking for mes mains. all got-dang day.

    • Cleojonz

      That person asked for all the shade you gave lol.

    • Girl!

    • siante

      That’s such an aggressive question- like they were really tryna start something smh- I bet they wouldn’t go to the hood & ask a question like that.

    • Mary Burrell

      2520s always trying it.

  • Seymore Cases

    I don’t mind being the Arch-Meister of Negritude. When 2520’s ask those kinds of questions, I’ll give them my insight but then show them how different kinds of black people can perceive a particular issue. Essentially signaling to them that we are far from monolithic; probably the least monolithic of all groups in the U.S.

  • JulianWithTheRedCorvette

    I admit that I take some enjoyment in answering white people questions. You can tell the some of them dang near anything and they’ll believe you.

    • Cleojonz

      This reminds me, and I don’t know if you are an Insecure watcher, but they took the kids on a beach trip and one of the white guys asked why they won’t get in the water. Issa looked at him and answered with a straight face “Because, slavery.” I hollered.

      • MsSula

        That made me die of laughter. White boy was straight up red as a tomato. That will teach his crazy question asking a$$.

      • Jennifer

        When she told them she didn’t know what “on fleek” was (even though she did), I cackled. I’ve done that before.

        • Cleojonz

          I have too. No, I’m sorry I don’t know what that is either. LOL.

  • miss t-lee

    Well…aren’t you a saint?
    I ain’t got it. It’s not my portion. We can have a discussion, put I don’t have the patience to be the Black person tour guide. I might answer one question, anything past that, I’m not your girl. Although, exceptions have been made they’re kinda few and far between.

    • StillSuga

      I have to know you and feel like I’ve discerned your real heart for those exceptions. Every one else has to get the heck on.

      • miss t-lee

        Exactly this.
        Like my cool coworker who is Indian saw some videos of my country fam riding horses in a parade. He proceeded to ask questions, because he’d never seen Black folks as cowboys. So that lead to me educating him on who the original cowboys really were.
        I only went the extra mile because him and I are cool.

        • orchid921

          I had a similar experience with a white friend at work. I had just started wearing my hair natural there — and they all loved it, all was cool, thank goodness — and she had just seen “Good Hair” and had all sorts of questions. I answered them, she learned something and we’re still cool to this day.

      • LadySiriboe

        No exception made. I don’t care if all your friends are black your toe is black or whatever.

        • Exactly.. “Progressive” whites are problematic af too… they just start speaking FOR you because they think they know..FOH.

      • Rewind4ThatBehind

        Exactly and even then, I’m not hitting you with the Powerpoint presentation.

        You’re getting SparkNotes at best before I start cursing.

    • LadySiriboe

      Yo. I am NOT even up for a discussion. I did it a month ago and somebody HAD to intervene.

      • MsSula

        Now you need to share that story. Loll.

        • LadySiriboe

          It’s a very very long and exhausting story.

          • Tam

            So… we’re waiting. We got time

            • LadySiriboe

              Keep waiting.

              • Tam

                Lol

        • Cleojonz

          Yeah I need an elaboration.

      • miss t-lee

        Oh dear.

      • aND DUMB AF IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT! LMAO

        • LadySiriboe

          Lissen.

    • MsSula

      Like my Naija friends say: As in!!!

    • Brown Rose

      Stop looking friendly T. That’s your problem.

      • miss t-lee

        I have that face seriously…lol
        No matter where I am folks can’t help but to talk to me.

        • Rewind4ThatBehind

          But there’s no 5-star preparation class for the b*tch slap that is your shade.

          So have them keep coming.

          • miss t-lee

            LOL My favorite thing is to say something sh*tty sweet that they don’t quite catch for like 10 seconds. Then it’s like this as I walk off.
            https://m.popkey.co/40626f/e94eo.gif

            • MsSula

              My aunt was studying in Paris, back in the 70’s. One day she had her hair threaded and styled it to stand on her head. Why wouldn’t her white classmate ask “how do manage to sleep with that?” My aunt said she replied very seriously: “I unscrew my head at night, put it on the side table and screw it back on the next day”. And kept on with her business. 1 minute later the classmate started blushing furiously and saying she didn’t mean to be offensive and that my aunt didn’t have to be so rude in her answer.
              Knowing my aunt she was probably going about her day unbothered. Loll

              • Your aunt is alright with me!!

              • miss t-lee

                I LOVE IT.

              • NonyaB?

                Auntie is the shade MVP.

                • MsSula

                  To this day!! Shade Throwing Extraordinaire!

              • Mary Burrell

                I love that???

            • Cleojonz

              I like that, “Sh*tty Sweet”.

              • miss t-lee

                It’s where “bless your heart” and a lot of the other sweet shade was born from.
                Southern folks not wanting to offend, but also letting you know at the same time they ain’t with the sh*ts…lol

            • Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!

        • Brown Rose

          Smiling gives them inches T. You got a look sour, mad, and pissed off like you just drank vinegar.

          • miss t-lee

            Nah. Even if I don’t smile, folks still wanna talk. I’ve tried it all.

            • Brown Rose

              hmmm. You have a charisma load. Well I guess you are kind of screwed. I’ll be mean and ugly for you.

              • miss t-lee

                Please do!!!

            • kingpinenut

              fart on em

              • miss t-lee

                Hi King…lol

          • Val

            Gotta give them the NY face.

            • Brown Rose

              I was born with one. I am amazed that it happens so often to other Black people. And the fact that White people just don’t have any boundaries when it comes to Blacks.

              • Val

                It’s because many of them see us as inanimate objects.

                • Brown Rose

                  *nods*. True or like pets.

              • Gibbous

                None at all!!!

        • Cleojonz

          I and my husband both have this experience as well. I have the most random folk that want to unload on me almost immediately. It’s really strange.

          • miss t-lee

            Ain’t it?
            Like why do I know you life story and we’re just here waiting on our coffee to be ready?

            • Cleojonz

              And for my husband its always women telling him their lady business right off the bat. It’s a good thing I am not jealous and he is not squemish lol.

          • NonyaB?

            Yasss! You and T-Lee are my people! Like why do bishes just feel they can tell me anything?? My name ain’t Agony Aunt!

            • Cleojonz

              It must be that magical negro thing because it’s usually folks of the Caucasian persuasion.

    • Glo

      It’s not everyone’s portion, that’s for sure. I try to tell people this all the time. Not every black person is going to want to explain being black to you, AND THAT IS 100% OKAY.

      • miss t-lee

        Completely ok.

  • PDL….HE still working on me

    Speaking of white people, my “down” white coworker (who btw is UBER white) asked me how I was doing as he walked in today. As I sipped coffee, looked up and said “chilling.” He said “woosah” ANNND did some sort of hand motion. I flatly said NO. So he asks, “aren’t they the same?” A resounding NO this time. LOL I go on to ask if he’d seen Bad Boys II, he said no. I said we’ll never mind because you blush easily, which in turn caused his blush factor to turn up a few notches and rendered more questions. LOL.

    Long story short, he was disappointed today. Primarily because his black radar was off a bit, as he sees himself down and up to speed on the vernacular, he thought his demeanor exude “tough”, which it does not, and he didn’t realize he blushes really easily. BUT he left on a good note, heading to Tennessee while singing Sister Sledge’s favorite oldie We Are Family.

    Yeah, no…..too much work to rep. He’s about the only one I’ll take time for.

  • Giantstepp

    Driving for Lyft on weekends in DC – I love to point out to “Non natives” how 7th and T NW (Howard Theater) use to be the biggest heroin open air drug market in the City. They never ask, but I tell em anyway.

    This article made me think of that for some reason.

    • Brown Rose

      You must be one of those friendly, expansive Lyft drivers Giant. I can dig it. That is a cool fact though.

    • JulianWithTheRedCorvette

      You got to do your part to make the white folk uncomfortable.

      • Giantstepp

        If YOU say so. haha

    • Rewind4ThatBehind

      While you’re at it, just tell them to look up Wayne Perry.

      Because they won’t, and will instead ask the wrong Black person.

      Which…..boy….that will be an interesting day.

      • Giantstepp

        Seriously, I’ve actually gave out a few history assignments from that era as it related to the area we were traveling in. I doubt they did it, but I tried to school em.

        • Rewind4ThatBehind

          I do the same for some in my neighborhood.

          Try to let them know what kind of legendary drug stories come from Bed-Stuy & the history of oppression that still exists.

          But half the time, I might as well have been talking to a wall.

          • Giantstepp

            I can totally relate.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      Probably wondering if they can still score.

      • Giantstepp

        Ha! I do recall there a problem nowadays in that community.

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          Dysfunctional culture is why they turn to drugs to escape it. A pathology if you will.

          “Seems like you folks are always trying to medicate your problems away. Like as a whole there is something wrong with you guys as a people…Like being sober is a torture…”

          So Bruin why hasn’t your career advanced any further than it has….

  • cysinblack

    You wrote about your natural mother possibly voting for 45. And the thing that stays with me that I never asked you, why would she Americanize herself if she’s a French person? To clarify, why would anyone renounce their stateside snob privilege to be like the rest of the grunts stateside? Americans see people from Western Europe as sophisticated and above the usual crap. If I were Isabelle Huppert I would not want to become Ann Coulter.

  • Brown Rose

    I don’t have it in me anymore. This election and just getting older, I don’t have time to explain to people their Black questions. I get asked about my hair etc, but I also don’t read as friendly so I am less likely to get other intrusive questions. *shrugs*

More Like This