2016 has been a rough year for black men. We’re about to say goodbye to our first black president, Muhammad Ali died, Jay Electronica still ain’t dropped an album, and there’s a new Madea movie about to hit theaters. Plus, cops keep shooting dudes that look like us like every week.
It’s with that in mind that we need to take a minute and appreciate the small moments of negritude that make being a black man worth it. Let’s take a minute and remember why, sometimes, us being us is the shit.
10.) Code Switching with strangers in front of “company”
You know what I mean. You’re in a meeting with like forty people and it’s you and one other black dude from Accounting and y’all catch each other in line for lunch. You give the nod, he gives the nod, you ask him how it’s going and he says, “Bruh, I can’t eeeeven call it,” and you know what’s up.
You know what he just said. He knows what he just said. But nosey ass Karen from Logistics and thinks-he’s-down Tim from Sales have no idea that now you know there’s layoffs coming in two weeks and the boss is fitna be indicted.
Then, at the end of the meeting you end with the same, “Aiight, stay up” salutation which means, “Hey, don’t get shot by the cops.”
9.) When the weirdo on the bus/train decides not to harass you
You know how it is, you’re on the Blue Line headed north in a car full of Dave Mathews Band fans when the train stops, the doors swing open and Crazy James with the invisible tiger hops on smelling like Wild Irish Rose and hard times poised to panhandle the shit outta e’rybody. You sink back against the wall, hoping he overlooks you or doesn’t see you because of a combination of bougie black guilt and a lack of cash.
But then for a second, a fleeting second you lock eyes, he peers into your soul and then, almost as if through telepathy, he lets you know, “Not you, bruh. Not today. There’s too many Kate Spade bags up in here, so you gonna get a pass. Don’t get shot by the cops.”
8.) Trying to one-up another black man with complements
Here’s the routine…
You: “How you doin’, man?”
Your Homey: “Maaaaan, I’m just tryna be like you.”
You: “Shiiiiiiit, bruh. Don’t be like me, I’m tryna be like you. I see you with them clean clothes on.
Your Homey: “Nah, bruh. You the one out here doin’ it big shoppin’ at grocery stores and shit.”
You: “C’mon, son. I seen you on IG stuntin’ in that new Nissan Leaf.”
Your Homey: “Dawg, that was just a rental. You the one out here not gettin’ shot by the cops…”
It can go on for hours, but the sentiment is priceless.
7.) The morning after a haircut
The immediate moments after a cut suck because you got all kindsa hair remnants in your collar and in your ears and shit and you smell like mentholated rubbing alcohol. But the next day, after you’ve showered, washed your hair, run the brush across it, and your scalp and forehead are the same color again, that’s the golden time of day.
Very little beats waking up with a crispy line and a wavy taper ready to hit the streets and try to avoid getting shot by the cops.
6.) When the road rager behind you pulls up next to you and sees who he’s beefing with
There’s nothing worse than trying to deal with Google maps trippin’, your wife second guessing you, your kid in the backseat begging for that gotdamned Katy Perry song and then some asshole in a Subaru Forrester tryna break fool because you kinda sorta cut him off when you crossed three lanes of traffic to get to your exit.
Now he’s honking and flashing lights and shit and it’s not like you don’t know what you did, but still…
THEN, he rolls up on you at the light, about to give you a whole earful when he peers across his passenger’s seat and realizes he’s run afoul of the soul. He calms down and relents and you get back to driving, only really having to worry about getting shot by the cops.
5.) When you’re flying first class and people try to figure out if you’re famous
This is one of those weird moments of inverse proportion, for real. If you’re in a suit and you’re in the front of the plane, you get no love. But fly first class in some sweats looking tired, and I promise you someone’s gonna snap a clandestine photo of you, text their teenage daughter and ask her if you’re the guy from that song with that dance or that show with those zombies.
Just play it cool, there’s Air Marshalls up there and you don’t want them to shoot you.
4.) Watching slam dunks
Take a look at this and I promise you’ll feel empowered to take on the rest of your day.
Plus, that’s 4:43 that you weren’t shot by a cop.
3.) When you get the “Hard Day Hook-Up”
A few years ago, when my daughter was still a baby and teething, my wife sent me to Boston Market to get dinner for the family so that she could get a break. I’d had a job interview that day so I was in a shirt and tie when I grabbed the crying baby and made my sojourn to secure a meal for my family. Upon my arrival with a delirious child in tow, I placed my order for a whole chicken and two sides. The brotha behind the counter saw the whole scene, man. Here I was, looking professional yet disheveled, trying to be both a nurturer and a provider and keeping calm under pressure.
When my order came up, dude gave me the nod and the “come here” head gesture and, when I approached his face lit up…
“Bruh, I see you. I went ahead and added some green beans and a cake to yo’ order. You got the family meal now, mayne. Go ‘head. Take this big cup too and get you a drank.”
I hope he made manager and I hope the cops haven’t shot him.
2.) When someone fixes you a plate
Ladies, if you fix a man a plate and you’re not related to that man whose plate you just fixed, for the duration of time that it takes to deliver that plate and for him to eat said plate of food, y’all go together. Bam, girl. Plate bae.
Plus, you might be saving his life. That time he’s allowed to stay seated and comfortable are precious moments when he isn’t standing up or being perceived as a threat to a cop that might shoot him.
1.) Using the N-word
Because even if you don’t use it colloquially, the fact that you can use it enhances your enjoyment of music, ability to quote movies, and buttresses your levels of insults. I’m not advocating for the use of the word, but I am saying that every once in a while I say it to remind me of the limited privilege that comes with being a black man in America.
Saying the N-word, taking MLK Day as a personal holiday, wearing a baseball cap backwards without looking like a douche, and listening to Gucci Mane without irony are the few real benefits of being a black man.
Besides, something’s gotta offset the chance that the cops might shoot you.