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

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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.

  • Wendy

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

    This is why I honestly do not understand why white people do this.

    • miss t-lee

      *Clap, Clap, Bravo*

    • Karen Brooks

      It’s disingenuous, most of the time. There is some level of understanding that these questions can be hurtful but they do it anyway.

      • Wendy

        Exactly! Why tf do people think that’s ok? I just don’t get it.

    • King Beauregard

      Ask A White Person time! How about: a lot of the time they’re primarily looking for affirmation that they’re “one of the good ones”. A lot of white people think racial injustice is terrible but would mostly like it to just go away, and the simplest way to make it go away would be for someone to tell them, “this isn’t about you, you’re exempt from fretting about this”.

      • Deeds

        This statement reminded me of something really random. I was reading Stephen King’s IT, and he had a passage of with the one black boy of the crew talking with his father. His father was telling him about a good white person and to remember that not all white people racist. Now, I’m reading this and I’m thinking if a black father is talking to his black son about racism, that definitely isn’t the talk that will be had, especially since the childhood portion of that book took place in the 1960’s. But I guess to your point, Stephen King wanted to be seen as one of the good ones, and imagined that a black family would definitely talk about the good white person.

        • King Beauregard

          Being told that we’re “one of the good ones” really is like heroin to us white people (a lot of us anyway). Which makes it important to remember that the only measure we should go by is if we’re actively working to make things more fair. Anything short of that, and the best that can be said of a white person is that he or she is a passive agent in things who is benefiting from ambient racism.

      • Wendy

        I think you’re right about this, and it frustrates me to no end. Being one of the “good guys” is NOT ENOUGH, especially over here in Whitebread City (i.e. Western NY).

        But asking a Black person, “is this racist?” is just dumb, IMO. If you’re unsure, it’s probably racist. And asking if Ice T and Ice Cube are two different people? I barely know where to start with that ridiculous question…

        • King Beauregard

          Full disclosure, I fail the test of doing nearly enough. Beginning of this year I had aspirations of getting actively involved in groups, then Too Much Life got in the way, and now my efforts can honestly be described as little more than looking for opportunities to yell at overt racists. Got into a pretty good fight with Queen King Beauregard’s racist mom on Sunday, though.

          But no, I can’t claim to be doing nearly enough.

  • Rewind4ThatBehind

    I applaud you being the person who wants that responsibility.

    But I graduated Summa C u m Laude from Don’t Ask Me Sh*t University and I plan on doing my diploma proud.

    I don’t have the patience, time, or regard to be the shining light in every White person’s personal book of Darkness. It’s not fair. Especially because at times, putting them on to game almost feels like the reverse effect is in play, and they’re actually stacking up how to antagonize us.

    So while I’m aware a great # of white folks mean no harm, just choose carefully who you actually help. As with any other group of people on planet Earth.

  • MsSula

    Better you than me then.

    I was saying to my husband this morning that I think I am prejudiced and biased towards white people. And I am perfectly ok with that. I will be over here, they can be over there. I have enough things to worry about than them.

    • Rewind4ThatBehind

      Makes perfect sense to me.

    • cysinblack

      I believe prejudice is a byproduct of humanity. Human history shows we cannot trust other humans not to harm us unless otherwise given a reason to.

      • MsSula

        I believe so too.

        Thank God I am in a country where I don’t have to socialize with them if I don’t want to. One of my husband’s best friend is white. I mean, I like the kid alright but I keep our interactions to a healthy minimum (this is what brought the convo up this morning). Also, my husband has never lived in a country with a majority of white people so I sorta understand why he wouldn’t get my “I’m cool with white people” after I have lived 12 years in Texas.

    • Val

      Is that prejudice or self-preservation?

      • cysinblack

        Prejudice does not have to be motivated by hatred. Some things and people do not need to be entertained by you.

      • MsSula

        Certainly both. Because I live in a place where I don’t need to see them if I don’t want to? I will say it’s prejudice.

        But surviving in a mostly white country? Definitely self-preservation.

    • Brown Rose

      I remember when I had no prejudice. None. I was open to anybody. The racism I experienced with white people changed all that. I honestly wonder what its like to live in a majority Black country.

      • MsSula

        That’s exactly how I was. But living in America I admit exhausted all my non-prejudice reserves.

        Living in a majority Black country, even when it’s your own, especially one where colonization effects are still very visible, has its own set of challenges. But the most beautiful thing is you can choose to just not interact with them period.

        • Brown Rose

          This sounds freeing in a way. In America you have to interact, you have to engage. Even on your down time. I have been rethinking of eventually retiring or relocating to West Africa.

          • MsSula

            There are great spots where your money can go a long way. And your American-ness will open PLENTY of doors.

            • Brown Rose

              That’s really good to know. I have never considered it because I always thoughts Africans loathed Black Americans, but I’ve heard some good things about countries like Ghana as a stable and good place for opportunities. Thanks.

          • Love Heals

            Brown Rose, It IS freeing in a certain way. I think it can be wonderful to experience if one has only lived in a mostly White world. MsSula’s third sentence is very important to understand, so I recommend visiting for extended periods of time before moving to Africa, the Caribbean. Otherwise, after the honeymoon period, a painful disillusionment can set in. That said, Randall Robinson, (The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks) moved to his wife’s home country of St. Kitts and loves it. I understand it’s explored in his boo, Quitting America. I definitely want to have a home in Africa and the Caribbean, living there at least in part.

            • Brown Rose

              Thank you. I have seen that book by Robinson but I should check it out again. My mother was Jamaican/Cuban and I have family that live in Jamaica but I feel American. You are right about visiting first. Its a long term goal–maybe retirement or a second career. All in all I just want to be free. That has always been my goal–to be truly free.

              • Love Heals

                I pray you freedom, love, peace and contentment wherever you choose as another home. I’m Ghanaian-American. Born here, mostly raised here. I definitely am and feel American w/ emphasis on the Black/Africana racial version of that experience. However, I definitely am (and feel) continental African in some of my views and lived experience as well.

                • Brown Rose

                  Thank you. This is a cool expansive way to be. And you have a touchstone to fall back–an actual tribe and country in Africa. Do you ever feel like going back to Ghana at all. Do you feel different when you are there.

                  • Love Heals

                    Thanks. And yes, both parents were born and raised there. I haven’t been back as often as I’d’ve liked. I enjoy speaking and hearing others speak our languages. And despite ethnic drama, it good to able to feel a connection. Folks I know who’ve visited Ghana enjoyed it. Words of caution that I bear in mind myself: 1) it’s important to be vigilant against attitudes and behavior that reflect neo-colonial and classist mindsets against those there. Liberia and Sierra Leone have had tragic experiences with this. 2) Likewise, have an appreciation of one’s own valuable to guard against complexes of “inferiority” or “inauthenticity” relative to the cultural riches indigens grew up experiencing. 3) As with all places, some will become family and sincere friends while others are opportunists. 4) Whether Ghana or elsewhere, the place that you claim and claims you hold a sacred connection that no-one has the right to interfere with.

        • Love Heals

          MsSula, Your third line captures the reason for my ambivalence. I so deeply cherish some of the beautifully social ways of being, connectedness, love,etc. However, the wounds of colonization AND the waves of at times rabid, myopic religiosity make me wonder if I could live there happily. Yet I’m overcome with gratitude each time I land in a Black country and often sob my heartbreak each time I return to the airport for my departure.

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        We all go through it.

        The thing that gets me are the non black minorities that aren’t aware of the issues.

        • cysinblack

          They are too busy assimilating and conforming. And everyone gets to participate in Anti-Blackness to feel better about their standing in the world.

        • Brown Rose

          Many of them are. AS Cy says below–Assimilation or integrating requires being anti Black and contemptuous.

      • Ms.Moon

        It’s lovely. I’m West Indian and we have our issues but I loved growing up the way I did my Prime Ministers were black Dr. Eric Williams is spoken of in reverent tones by the people of my country. White folks do not live where I do and culturally I feel closer to my West Indian roots than anything. I live in the United States but I’m West Indian American. I think I feel differently about too many things because I did not grow up with that confrontation of race especially since the Indian/Negro conflicts of my country weren’t as much of an issue when I was younger.

        • Brown Rose

          Your experience is similar to Caribbeans and Africans I have known. they’ve never had to contend with the crushing burden of being seen as less than. As a majority you see yourself in various forms everyday and you can choose to interact with whites. They don’t control your country or culture in the most obvious way.

          You are so fortunate. As I sadi to LoveHeals, I just want to be free. truly free from all of this.

          • Ms.Moon

            I met a West Indian American woman who had her children here in the United States then went back home to raise them back home because she wanted them to live “free” it’s a real mental challenge for so many reasons being black in America. She eventually moved back so they could attend college but there is such a difference in those kids. Much of it is the mother of course but there is such a difference mentally for black people of Caribbean origin because West Indians after independence had to make it without our colonial masters. Our blackness was no hindrance because our colonial masters did not live with us the regular people and after independence they left or if they stayed they lived in expat communities. African Americans after slavery still had to contend with angry white people and could not make more progress and it’s terrible what was systematic and deliberately done to keep black people back in this country.

            • Brown Rose

              This is all trye. My mom came to America when she was 10 and she was way ahead of the other kids. She skipped a couple of grades because of it. When you talk about Blackness was no hindrance that is what I want. To be that free from that. Its terrible what has happened to Black people and we still survive. its a miracle and its maddening because if there was no white hatred, how far would Black people have gone.

              • Ms.Moon

                It is terrible the way segregation after slavery left African Americans in the dirt. There was very little ways for people to get out of circumstances that were not their own making. America needed to be built and since bulldozers weren’t invented yet black hands/backs/bodies were brought to do the work. When finally “freed” from the chains of slavery the chains of law were brought to hinder the progress of the people. For African Americans there really was no “home,” to go back to after slavery. I guess mentally I can take a break when I go “home,” I really do feel different. African Americans need more all black spaces, there is such mental change there is no “trying to be white” in academic success, there is the comfort of looking out and seeing the many skin tones of our people, for people coming out of places like that there is a difference in the way that you move and live amongst ourselves. Trinidad is not perfect and if we could get the drugs out of our country it would be so much better but I still miss it so much.

  • Michelle is my First Lady

    I won’t do it anymore. I just don’t have it in me to constantly answer their 50 million questions. I feel like the more they ask, the more you tell them, and the more they’ll forget what you told them. The cycle continues. I used to hate the buzzards at my old job who used to ALWAYS ask how did I always get those “braids thingies” in my hair… “Did it hurt?” “How long did it take?” “Can I touch them” “Are they clip ons?” And then as soon as I take my braids out they’ll say ‘Oh we see you cut your hair!’

    https://media.tenor.com/images/49e925534444b58e1bb077566827875c/tenor.gif

    • Rewind4ThatBehind

      Ever realized your most violent tendencies pop up when they start asking questions?

      • Michelle is my First Lady

        Especially the questions they really don’t want to know the answers to.

        • Gibbous

          Or that you’re sure they’d be able to find out if they just took a second, but no, they want you to do their homework for them and then laud them for a job well done.

    • Brown Rose

      Be ugly/and or unapproachable. I get less intrusive questions that way.

      • LadySiriboe

        Loool!

      • Michelle is my First Lady

        LOL….. I have RBF. That usually does the trick.

        • Brown Rose

          Yup the ugly works and looking like the stereotypical angry black woman. Works like a charm.

    • miss t-lee

      Give an inch…
      I loathe questions about my hair.

      • Michelle is my First Lady

        F*ck a mile, they take the whole damn universe.

        • miss t-lee

          *cackling*

    • Jae Starz

      My favorite when I wash and go “OMG! I love your hair. How did you get it that way?” Which wouldn’t be terrible if they didn’t ask every.single.summer!

      • Michelle is my First Lady

        I curled my hair yesterday using the bantu knot method. So as soon as I walk into the office with my curls my coworker said, “OMG your hair looks different!” I’m like it is curly bish, sit down and shut up.

        • Sigma_Since 93

          One day I didn’t sponge brush my hair, they were looking but afraid to ask the question on what was different. lol

          • Michelle is my First Lady

            I’ve seen that look plenty of times lol. YT folks are so scared of black folks hair.

          • What’s a “sponge brush”?

            • miss t-lee

              You haven’t seen em Wu?

              • Not that I’m aware of. I’ve been bald since ’07. I own a pick, brush, and comb for my beard and that’s it.

                • miss t-lee

                  HA! I forget that you’re bald…lol

            • Sigma_Since 93
              • I would have never guessed that’s something you would use on your hair.

              • Gibbous

                Can you show an image of the acquired look?

                Never mind, I see down thread.

            • Cleojonz

              It’s a sponge that has holes in it and coils your hair without you having to do individual coils or twists. Its gives nice definition.

              • MsSula

                I tried to bootleg one down here, and tell me why my hair was full of sponge bits. Lol.

                • Cleojonz

                  Why can I picture this?!!!

                • Michelle is my First Lady

                  Oh no! lol

              • BrothasKeeper

                I only know that because I have male students who primp 5 times per hour trying to achieve that perfect Odell Beckham texture.

                • Cleojonz

                  I amazed that people actually carry these out in public. They are not small! I use mine in the morning and don’t touch my hair again until the next morning.

        • Jae Starz

          I’ve even gotten “Ugh! I wish my hair was like yours.”

          https://media.giphy.com/media/l4FGwx3MJMfkZP75S/giphy.gif

          • Michelle is my First Lady

            “Your hair is so kink—–I mean curly”!

          • miss t-lee
            • Jae Starz

              Sis, listen, you hit me up the next time you get that one. I will personally bail you out! LOL

              • miss t-lee

                Sh*t’s goofy as the f*ck.

            • LilMissSideEye

              In high school, any time I hit the beach/pool I’d make sure to tell my white friends I was “working on my tan” solely to annoy them. Watching them try to find the delicate balance between tanning and burning while I rubbed on some SPF 30 and called it a day was the closest I could get to reparations at the time.

              • miss t-lee

                *hollering*
                This is gold!

        • Janelle Doe

          buahahahaha
          (also) one time one of them says to me – in the middle of a very official meeting out loud in front of errybody – “wow your hair changes all the time I can’t keep up. How do you do that isn’t it exhausting?” I turned and looked at the BM in the room and said nothing.
          One of them laughed, another rolled their eyes and a third asked the lady why she thought it was appropriate to comment on another person’s appearance out loud like that in public and would she appreciate it if someone pointed out her weight problems…
          *radio silence the rest of the meeting.

          • grownandsexy2

            Noooooo he didn’t lol

            • Janelle Doe

              when we (BM and BW) support each other; it is a beautiful thing ;-)

              • grownandsexy2

                It is. lol still howling at him pointing out her weight issues. They are sooo fascinated by our hair.

          • Michelle is my First Lady

            bwahahahaha @ weight problems!!!! Damn they went STRAIGHT for the jugular! That’s harsh, but hey, she got what she deserved.

            • orchid921

              Fatality!! Flawless victory!!!

    • KeciB

      This happens to my daughter at school. White girls are always amazed how her hair changes between when she had braids and when she is wearing her natural hair. Of course she has had to let many of them know, “no, you cannot touch my hair”.

  • Reminds me of an improv skit, “Meet the Black Guy…”
    https://youtu.be/VyRwrrggxok

  • I get it. Both ways. If a Black person doesn’t feel like being a spokesperson for The Blacks, that’s fine. If someone does want to be that person, that’s fine as well. So long as no one is feeling pressured to help someone, IDGAF. Life is too short to be worried about what other people are trying to do.

  • Sigma_Since 93

    As one of the three chocolate chips at my new gig, the few times I’ve run into this I frame the discussion in terms of history and economics……and then the boomerang comes when I apply race. I get their buy in so they can’t squirm out by using the tired, head in the sand rebuttals.

    • Deige

      I chuckled at “chocolate chips” – the accuracy

    • Zil Nabu

      Amongst my work friends myself the box of chocolates.

  • I play Negro whisperer often. I get annoyed at enlightening folks but my enlightenment usually comes out bluntly, cold, and layered with sh***y truths that white folks have never thought about or wanted to think about. Questions like “Why do Black people hate Trump?” or “What Black Lives Matter about?” or anything dealing with cops or black on black crime can get interesting and uncomfortable…

    but hey don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.

    • Gibbous

      I think this is part of this whole ‘white people generally have only one black friend, classmate, coworker, etc.’ where they think that because they know you and maybe even like you, you’re somehow a special Black person, unlike the black criminals, druggies, and whatnot that see on the TV, who are of course, exactly how white people perceive black people to be, in general.

      There is this disconnect, but sine they want to believe you’re special (because they like you) they think you’ll dish on other Black people because you too should see them as inferior. When I say something like “of course they’d say that or act like that or do that thing, because – institutional racism” they get all bent out of shape as if I’ve somehow betrayed them by telling them that there is a point. (especially re-protests, etc.)

      I don’t want to play that game anymore, but I’m torn between busting their stereotypes, and living my life letting them think that shyt is true. It’s exhausting.

    • Mary Burrell

      Cackling at “Negro Whisperer

  • Not only am I “the go-to Negro”, I’m probably the “Safe Black Guy” too, since my darker toned friends tease me when they squeeze past them to ask me a question.

  • Zil Nabu

    I sound like them so they see me as a safe space. It’s a gift and a curse.

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