10. The 1992-to-2011 Ford Crown Victoria
Is it a cop? Is it a cab? Is it just some bamas from Suitland, Md.? We don’t know. We just know they’re in the rearview and we’re just gonna do the speed limit and obey all the traffic laws until they pass us.
Even scarier: when you see a Crown Vic like that driving, slow circling the block, and you can’t figure out if it’s fitna be a warrant served, a drive-by or your Uber to the airport.
9. Unlisted Phone Numbers on Caller ID
Because no one has ever gotten good news from an “Unavailable Number” on their phone. (Editor’s note: EXCEPT that time Panama Jackson didn’t answer an unknown number and missed a phone call from Oprah Winfrey—P.J.). Here’s a quick rundown of who’s probably on the other end of an unlisted number:
- The feds
- The county
- Them people
- Bill collectors
- Student loans
If there’s one group of white people that black folks don’t fuck with out of sheer fear, it’s Russians. Why? Because Russians keep it unequivocally real. They come from a country that’s basically a constitutional criminal enterprise, and they give minimal fucks about American propriety or manners because they’ve had to hustle around everything from toilet-paper shortage to shitty weather to massive corruption to bears to meteors (above), just to get through a Tuesday.
I used to work at a nightclub that may have been run by the Russian mob. One night, a guy got mouthy with the bouncers (also Russians), to which they responded by putting him in a trash can and tossing said trash can Uncle Phil-style onto the street. They decided that the best means for addressing a disagreement with a patron was to place him in the nearest wastebasket in his good club clothes and then throw said refuse container onto the street (mind you, throwing actual trash on the curb in Chicago is a ticketworthy offense) because Russians. After they finished, they went up on the roof, smoked some unfiltered cigarettes and asked me where I bought my shoes. It was like it never happened.
Russians operate with a vodka-fueled fearlessness that gives them a level of compunction comparable to a sleepy toddler laying claim to someone else’s toy. They. Give. No. Fucks. Be afraid.
7. Being Ashy
You probably just read that line and checked to see if you are, in fact, ashy.
The ash is always there, lurking in the shadows (or between your index finger and your thumb or behind your ankle) to strike.
6. Unescorted Dogs
Black people have a fraught and complicated relationship when it comes to canines. From the bloodhounds that chased escaped slaves through the swamps to Bull Connor’s German shepherds loosed on civil rights marchers to Mr. Cook’s Doberman that always got loose, dogs are just kinda iffy. Let’s be clear: It’s not that black folks don’t like dogs specifically; it’s just that black folks don’t like dogs they don’t know.
So if we see a dog and it’s leashed and walking comfortably and confidently beside its owner, we good. But it’s them random-ass dogs that we don’t know where you gotta say, “Who dog is that?” where we have a problem.
Don’t nobody like fucking with no random-ass strays or packs of disenfranchised pooches roaming the streets.
5. White People Looking at the House Across the Street
Oh shit. Here comes the neighborhood.
There’s nothing as unsettling as knowing that the pioneers and homesteaders are coming and that all the things that make your neighborhood up-and-coming are about to be good as gone. That bodega that makes the sandwiches just right? It’s about to be a Panera. Those drummers in the park on Saturday afternoons? That’s about to be a public nuisance and noise complaint call. That cheap-ass rent? Jacked up 40 percent. And they might even come through and give your old neighborhood a new name to market it to their friends like they discovered some shit.
The good news is that someone’s gonna finally take care of (ahem, rescue) them unescorted dogs. So there’s that.
4. Undercooked Meat
Black folks will burn a steak into saddle leather to make sure you cooked all the germs out of it, for real. I don’t have the stats in front of me, but I’m gonna assume that it’s true that African Americans suffer from the lowest rates of salmonella and trichinosis simply owing to the fact that we insist that our meats be burnt.
This is probably also why there aren’t any sushi spots in the hood.
3. Large Crowds of Other Black People
Don’t get me wrong—black people love other black people. It’s just that when it’s too many black people in one place at one time for no apparent reason, that can cause some concern. Especially if they’re all running in one direction.
I know—it’s uncomfortable—but find the lie.
2. Carol in Human Resources
Because she’s high-key racist and doesn’t realize it, which means one misstep or misunderstanding at the gig could bring your gravy train to a halt. You might think the cops are watching you, but bruh, it’s Carol’s actual job to watch you. You might be worried the feds have a file on you, but yo, Carol actually has a file on you. You might be paranoid that someone is reading your emails; say, chief, Carol can read your emails. Cue the Rockwell, ’cause it’s going down.
Carol can fuck you up seven ways to Sunday and it’s totally legal (even if not legit), and no one’s coming to march for yo’ broke ass. Carol sees a name on a résumé she can’t pronounce? Carol ain’t calling that person for an interview. Carol overheard some people talking about a disagreement y’all had? Carol’s fitna talk with you about your attitude. You thought Carol was your friend because of how nice she was to you when they were recruiting you? Wrong. It’s her job to protect the company from getting sued, and you popping off at the lip about vacation policy on a Margarita Friday is a surefire way to get labeled as a problem and buy you a ticket on the slow boat to unemployment.
Every black person is afraid of Carol. Carol is our “It.” If she moved across the street from us and adopted a local shelter dog, that’s basically the setup for a black horror movie.
Because it’s common black wisdom that it isn’t the one roach you see, but the hundreds you don’t. Roaches are a harbinger of all kinds of ills within the black community: poverty, food insecurity, social neglect and general nastiness.
Seeing a roach doesn’t evoke the kind of simple scare that might be startling or momentarily jarring. Nah. Roaches elicit a type of ghetto PTSD that serves as an unwelcome reminder to even the bougiest of black folks of their relatively close proximity to real and systemic poverty. They’re a six-legged reminder crawling up a wall that there but by the grace of God go any of us.
I’m seriously waiting on the black superhero franchise whose origin story somehow leverages roaches like Bruce Wayne with bats. Not that I’m specifically asking for a Roachman comic or movie, but I’m also not gonna deny that I might have a few bucks stashed away to buy a Roachman comic or movie tickets if the need ever arises. Jussayin’.