10. “Say what?”
Threat level: Minor
This is probably the most benign threat among the black population because it’s also a means of clarifying a misunderstanding. It’s sort of like an out for both the person using it as well as the individual being addressed to say: “I’m not here to fuck you up. I’m not sure what you said is worthy of me fucking you up. Are you trying to get fucked up?”
This threat might also come out as “Say word?” or just an extended raised-octave “Whaaaaaat?” but the meaning is always the same. You need to either clarify or amend your previous statement so as to avoid fisticuffs, or get ready to be about that business ’cause it’s goin’ down.
9. “Swear to God.”
Threat level: Moderate
For the record, this is properly pronounced “Sweahtagawd.”
Honestly, by the time you’ve heard this phrase, you’ve probably been given at least two statements of fact as to the black person you are presently confronting. It’s the moment of verification of credentials or a hood credit check with the ultimate guarantor (see: the Lord) as the backstop.
Once God has been sworn to, you’re turning a corner to an intersection of faith and fuck-you-up where it’s time to make some hard decisions; it might just be time to apologize now and move on.
8. “_____, please.”
Threat level: Intermediate
Here’s one that’s both direct to the point of being offensive while at the same time something like courteous with the inclusion of the word “please.” And let’s be clear—there are a lot of offensive nouns that can be placed in that blank that, when balanced by the sarcastic statement of gratitude, hit like the apex of a swung bat against an unsuspecting face.
This is also a point where the immediacy of the threat in front of you should start to become more clear. If it’s said in a dismissive tone with a tooth-sucking sound, you might be all good. But if it comes with some gesticulating arms and a furrowed brow, it’s time to look for them exits, mayne.
7. “I wish a mothafucka would … ”
Threat level: I’on’t know, bruh.
Right about now, you’re in that strange place where your opponent may be, quite possibly, perhaps, selling wolf tickets. I mean, it’s hard to tell at this point if the black person you’re confronting is actually offering you a live and credible threat or if they’re quoting Cedric the Entertainer just to see how far they can take it.
The problem here is that, in order to prove or disprove that hypothesis, you’re gonna hafta teeter into a real danger zone. Like, you gotta really ask yourself and find a quick answer to whether or not you’re dealing with a funny mothafucka or a crazy mothafucka. All you know is that it’s a hopeful mothafucka who’s looking for a contemporaneous mothafucka to possibly box a round with.
Don’t chance it. Wishes don’t always have to come true.
Threat level: Oh shit.
Simple. To the point. Dangerous.
By the time you hear this, you’ve already been tried and convicted in the court of blackness and you’re now at the mercy of the judge and jury (see: them left and right hands). It’s delivered flippantly, almost dismissively, but that belies its declarative authoritativeness, and you might mess around and think you’re off the hook. You might think that cooler heads have prevailed and your Afro-adversary has come to their senses. You might think you’re, in fact, aight.
Nah. You not. Square up.
5. “On my mama … ”
Threat level: High
At this point, the game is all but over and your fate is sealed. You’re fitna hafta throw them hands. BUT—all hope is not lost because, based on the modifier, you might get a sense of the level of black person you’re about to trade angry high-fives to the face with.
- “On my mama”: Probably raised in a single-parent home. Loves their mother.
- “On my daughter/son”: Most likely a loving parent in the throes of an irresponsible moment.
- “On everything I love”: A generally indecisive yet overall compassionate individual.
- “On the [insert gang/neighborhood name here]”: Oh, that’s a real live gangster. You fitna die. You shoulda quit at No. 7.
4. “What you NOT gon’ do … ”
Threat level: Immediate
We’ve now reached the sentencing portion of your street trial, and this statement is analogous to having your charges enumerated before the gavel drops and you’re handed that punishment (see: them hands).
“See, what you not gon’ do” is basically sending a message to others that what you’ve done is an asswhoopin’-worthy offense and that anyone else who tries that shit is probably going to meet the same whooped-ass fate.
At this point, it’s time for you to think about why your moms didn’t sign you up for that karate class back in 1988 and put the blame squarely on her shoulders for your pugilistic lacking.
“That’s where you got me fucked up.”
Threat level: Fucked up
Yo’ ass shoulda run at No. 7, man. We tried to told ya.
Calling someone who isn’t black the n-word.
Threat level: Conditionally dangerous
If you’re not black and you’ve found yourself in a position where a black person is calling you an n-word, it’s game over. I guess the good news is that you’ve transcended race, and your Negro adversary is willing to overlook the whatever-you-are-ness of you and treat you as a peer. Congrats?
I mean, you still fitna get your issue, but at least you can feel like you accomplished something. Right?
If you are black, it’s probably just Thursday and this threat drops to No. 19.
1. “You don’t know me … ”
Threat level: Run.
Just beat feet and hope you make it another day.
This is, by far, the most dangerous phrase that can escape a black person’s lips, and it encompasses just about everything else on this list. Quite frankly, by the time you get here, y’all’s nipples is probably already touching and you’re smelling somebody’s cologne. Furniture’s fitna get moved, probations are fitna get violated, and all that’s left now is the preservation of one’s respectability in the waning moments of battle.
“You don’t know me” is the ultimate statement of black aggression because it seeks to dispense with any presuppositions of acquaintance, inference or assumption that one may have made with someone they might have felt, heretofore, familiar with. It’s the prologue to the story just about every black person can tell about themselves and how they arrived at the exact moment that you met them. It’s the thing that hides behind the masks we all have to wear to make everyone else comfortable with our mere existence.
You. Don’t. Know. Me.
You don’t know what I’ve been through. You don’t know what I’m going through. You don’t know where I’m trying to get to and you shoulda quit at No. 7. But you feel comfortable enough in your station to confront, step to and respond to all of the warnings that have been presented to you like you not gon’ get this work?