Over the next couple of weeks, families all over the country will congregate to observe and celebrate whichever holiday those particular families observe and celebrate. Some of these families will be black—including mine—and in these particular holiday celebrations, there may be many unique things present, including (but not limited to) ...

  1. Dining room tables with 117 different types of swine present.
  2. Dining room tables where absolutely, positively no swine is present because, to quote Jules Winnfield, “Pigs are filthy animals.”
  3. Donny Hathaway.

Anyway, after the food has been eaten and the gifts have been exchanged, there’s a moderate to strong possibility that someone will decide that it is time to play spades. Which, for those uninitiated, is a surprisingly intricate and devious card game that also serves as a convenient delivery device for old grudges and new alliances.


To wit, if you see a cousin aggressively chide another cousin for talking across the board, know that the aggression has nothing to do with spades and everything to do with a Snickers ice cream bar the one cousin stole from the other cousin in 2005. She remembers how badly she was fiending for peanut butter ice cream, caramel and peanuts with chocolate packed inside a delicious ice cream bar that day and has never gotten over that senseless act of dessert terrorism.

There will also be, at this gathering of family and airing of grievances, one person who, to everyone’s “surprise,” doesn’t know how to play. And “surprise” is in quotation marks because this person reminds everyone every year that they’re the special snowflake black person who doesn’t know how to play spades despite the fact that they’ve witnessed it being played somewhere between 27 and 932,819 times. You know how (some) vegans and atheists and socialists attempt to insert their veganism, atheism or socialism in every conversation?

(Example: “That snow sure is coming down, isn’t?”

“Yeah ... and I’m sure you think it’s Jesus’ dandruff.”)

Well, grown-ass black people who grew up around spades-playing black people but refused to become a spades-playing black person can be the same way. You ask them about broccoli stalks and they reply, “But it just doesn’t look that fun, and no one ever taught me ... ”


Whenever they begin these preambles, I usually lose interest by the second sentence (which always, somehow, includes a reference to Daria). Today, however, I’m interested. For those of you who do not know how to play, what did this to you? Why are you like this?

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a columnist for, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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