How you were raised largely dictates how you will turn out as an adult. I have zero science to back this up; nor do I have a link to a white paper from the Atlanta Conference of Negro Problems’ (that was a real thing, by the way) early writings that proves this axiom dating back to the 1870s. Truth is, some shit is just true.
Which is why I’m glad I was raised in a black household. There were things I grew up with and learned that I likely wouldn’t have gotten had I grown up in any other circumstance. Also, you like how I properly used the term axiom?
Anyway, here are 10 reasons I’m glad I was raised in a black household.
1. I grew up listening to Luther Vandross.
I can’t imagine living in a world where I had to discover the greatness of Luther as an adult and then actively think about all the years I missed out on having that music in my life. As a youth, while I was living with my white mother, we listened to a veritable cornucopia of music, including black music. But in white households, that means Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix. My mother also has an affinity for Peaches & Herb—“Reunited,” to be specific.
But once I moved to live with my pops, I got nonstop Motown, Stax, Luther, Aretha and all the great music that spoke more directly to my soul than ZZ Top and AC/DC—both groups I enjoy, but it’s just ... different. To be fair, my father also had a penchant for Kenny G, and Rod Stewart was never too far. Nobody’s perfect.
2. I learned that when you see other people start running, you start running.
I don’t know what “Get the fuck out of Dodge” procedures are taught in other cultures or if any are taught at all. I do know that somewhere along the way, the words “And boy, if you see a group of people running, you run in the same direction and you don’t stop to ask no questions or find out what’s going on until you see 75 to 96 percent of everybody else stop” were passed to me.
3. I grew up on a significant number of black movies.
IF there was a movie with mostly black people in it, we were watching it. From The Last Dragon to The Wiz. Of course, we watched anything with Eddie Murphy—as did everybody, apparently. Did you know that Coming to America did nearly $300 million in 1988?! But I know who Sho’nuff is, and even though I think the movie is trash, the soundtrack to The Wiz is amazeballs.
4. Seasoning, seasoning everywhere.
This is one of those stereotypical things that I’ve accepted as fact even though my proof is akin to the proof white folks needed to convict black men in the ’50s. The only time I’ve eaten white cooking has largely been when I was with my white mother during the summers, and she loved her some seasoning. Other than that, I can’t actually say that I spent much time in any white people’s households long enough to eat their cooking. Now that I think about this, I’m not sure if this is sad or God’s grace. Maybe it’s both. Clearly, I don’t know enough white people. Or any outside of family, really. In terms of other cultures, I know they be seasoning.
5. I grew up with a healthy fear of my parents.
I’m not saying other folks didn’t, but I have children, which means I’ve been to children’s birthday parties and outings where other adults interacted with their children. Or even better: Last month, I had to fly to Detroit for a family situation. When I flew back to Washington, D.C., as I was walking through the TSA Precheck line (FTMFW!), a family of four was in front of me.
There was a bowl of peppermints available to folks in the line, and the mom made some remark about her maybe-12-year-old son and eating peppermints. This little white child yelled out, “Mom, you’re SUCH A JERK SOMETIMES!” Do you know the mom looked at me as if to see if anybody noticed, and I just shook my head?
Now, my black mother is a super-friendly, very nice, God-fearing woman who embarrasses easy when her very loud children (me and one of my sisters) get to the shenanigans. But do you know what I would NEVER fathom doing for fear of this woman who hasn’t put a foreign object on me since fifth grade? Calling her a jerk or anything outside of her name ever—but especially publicly.
For one, what if that sent her over the edge? For b, what if she said, “I’m gonna tell your father”? That man listens to Kenny G. He’s capable of anything. That little white boy yelled this IN FRONT of both his parents AT his mother. I’m just saying. I’ve got fear in my heart ... of my parents. It might not be a UNIVERSAL black trait, but I got it from my black-hand side.
6. Life was one big-ass black history lesson.
Sure, we watched fun stuff, but my parents also made us watch movies about historical atrocities committed against black people. I remember watching a documentary on the Scottsboro Boys over and over again. Black books were around, and we had a black encyclopedia set and black-Jesus-centric Bible (still do).
I’m sure in some homes, the talk about being a black man in America went something like, “Aight Ja’Rome, get your black ass killed tonight by some cracka-ass-cracka white cop because YOU think it’s a good idea to act like you ain’t go’ no damn sense hanging out there with DonQ’uestajuan, Black and Lil Jimmy from 41st.” In others, it wasn’t so succinct and required a lot more subtlety and nuance.
Also, I grew up reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and staring at the book version of Roots (seriously, that shit looks like it has all the pages) but watching the movie. Just saying, are white families making their kids read about Malcolm? I’m better off for it.
7. I went to typical long-service black churches as a youth.
I currently attend a church—when I’m there—that lasts about an hour, hour and a half tops. I appreciate this with all of the appreciation I can muster because I grew up going to church services that could last two-and-a-half hours, easy. And don’t get me started on Easter. New suits are awesome, but sitting in there for a week waiting to get to another sermon about Jesus rising was not the business.
Going to that solidly Southern, super-long black-church service has me looking at come-as-you-are, hourlong services like a smaller version of the lottery. I went to a white service once in Alabama, and aside from the music being trash (not sure we can call it that, actually), the service was so short that I thought maybe we were cheating God by leaving after only an hour. I also recognize not all nonblack churches believe in brevity.
8. I learned the significance of NOT giving left-hand dap.
Disrespect is the leading cause of death for black males between the age of birth and death. I’ve said this for the past 20 years and I cannot be convinced this isn’t true. One thing white dudes don’t seem to mind doing is extending that left hand. I’ve actually seen with my own two eyes a fight nearly break out because one dude refused to accept a left-handed dap and the other fellow took offense at the implication that he was being disrespectful by offering it. Again, disrespect is a thing.
9. When somebody says “It’s a black thing” or “That’s some white shit,” I immediately understand what’s happening.
No question is more annoying than “What do you mean, it’s a black thing? I don’t understand.” Especially coming from black people. You’re just being contrarian or your parents REALLY tried to hide some shit from you. Mine didn’t. I get it. And I always get it. And well, “That’s some white shit” is just one of those things that I believe growing up in a black household helped to crystallize, and largely covers the world of parenting, dancing, living, outdoor survival, near-death experiences for hobby or sport, and all other forms of noncolored active activities.
10. I think being black is awesome and not some pathological condition that is full of negativity.
I was raised to enjoy my blackness and believe that it didn’t define me in any negative way. In fact, I believe that being black has only helped me out in life, whether through hard lessons and soft behinds or just by enjoying and appreciating seeing others succeed who know my life. Point is, growing up in my household helped me see pride, power and a bad-ass mudda who don’t take no crap offa nobody.