Why I’m Willing to Represent the Entire Black Community to the Not Black Community

White House handout via Getty Images
White House handout via Getty Images

You know what I don’t mind? Aside from not minding if you stroke me up, (I don’t mind) I do not mind being the voice of Black America. Not on radio or television, I mean in the office and to white people anywhere. If I work at a company and there aren’t a lot of Black people around (likely) and white folks have questions (more likely), well, I’m the guy to send them to. If HR and Legal wouldn’t frown upon it, I’d have placed an “Ask This Black Guy” sign on my door years ago.

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Not for nothing, I did check; HR and Legal did, in fact, frown upon that shit.

I know lots of Black people who hate it when white people come to them and ask them questions about Blackness, pop culture, urbanism, hair styles, or any assorted cool thing that’s happening in the world right now, with the assumption being that “you’re Black, you might know this.” I can understand how that might be annoying, especially when issa google and shit. So it might seem like fite wolks are outchea trolling. Especially assuming that just because I’m Black, I know this and that and this and uh.

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And maybe they are. But the truth is, of course I know whatever it is. Is it because I’m Black?, asks Syl Johnson. Not always. But mostly it’s because typically I'm the coolest person in the professional room, being Black is just the icing on the cake. Since I probably do know the answer to the lecture at hand, I’d rather they ask me than go off into the world with bad information, making some shit uncool on the wrong merits. They’re already going to ruin it, I’d prefer they knew what they were actually ruining. Context, unlike everything, is everything.

[Sidenote: I’m fully aware that all Black people don’t know everything about Black culture. But we all look alike to white people so just enjoy being Lebron James or Michelle Obama and pretend you know the answers to everything. Make it up, who's going to tell you that you’re wrong?]

A white person wants to know if something’s racist? Fuck it, let’s talk about it. (But yes, it's racist.) I’ll tell you exactly why it’s racist and why you might be a racist for that line of thinking. In fact, I HAVE done just that at the day job. Numerous times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a co-worker come into my office, close the door - its how I always know that fuckery is afoot - and say, “I have a question…tell me if I’m wrong.”

I usually start out with, “if you have to ask, 9 times out of 10, you are wrong. If it’s racial in nature, you are absolutely wrong.” But I’m willing to take that convo because I think it’s important that somebody is doing it. Also, I  learn a whole lot about my coworkers this way.

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Real talk, I view it as community service. I’m just out here doing my part to foster understanding and common ground. Mmhmm, that's right.

Now, I ENTIRELY understand why you, the Black people, might hate this shit. I get it. We are not a monolith. We all have different opinions on lots of things and some of our homes have leatherbound books, some don’t. Hell, sometimes I rhyme slow and sometimes I rhyme quick, ya know? It is annoying that white people think that there’s a single solitary Black answer to whatever ails them. Except, let’s be real..when white folks ask socially-centered questions there really IS one answer. White people are never looking for a nuanced conversation about why Rosewood sets Black folks off…

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…white folks ain’t seen Rosewood (lately). They’re not looking to discuss the maturation of Nia Long and how it is proof positive that Black indeed, does not crack.

White people want to know what the fuck is happening in the world today that cool people - the Black people - are doing and what game we’re up on and want to make sure they’re not racists. Almost every single conversation I’ve ever had with my white coworkers where they felt a need to bring it to me centered around understanding something that they saw that they assume their teenage children might not understand even though we know their kids know all of it; guess whose coming to dinner, ma! OR some examination of racism in various form or fashion.

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In a rare third category sits, “I saw something that made me think about what you told me about the Black struggle and I want you to know that I understand.”

Almost every question white people ask has some sort of common sense, textbook answer.

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“How does your hair do that?” (#boybye #girlbye #sorrynotsorry)

“Am I racist?” (Yes. Yes you are.)

“Are Ice T and Ice Cube the same person?” (real question I was asked, no, they’re not.)

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“Why do Black people hate Trump?” (Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh.)

White people are seeking out general information, not nuance and deep dives, but if they come ask me, I answer the question then hit them with the hee of nuance, complexity, history and white guilt. But I ain’t one to gossip so you ain’t heard that from me.

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So if you are tired of talking to white people about what it’s like to be Black, I understand. Me and Kevin Gates, we got six jobs, we don’t get tired. So you can send them my way because I will have the same conversation over and over again until the cows come home.

Somebody has to do it.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.

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DISCUSSION

First, I've never heard the saying "fite wolks." Second, I'm only black person in my office (there is an occasional rotation where another one comes in, but mystery bites the dust after the diversity report). My colleagues don't ask questions. Rather, they make statements. The process of checking said folk goes like this:

1. Cringe worthy statement is made. For example (real life), "The [black] women in the focus group said they paid $250 on a hair style. That's why they don't go to the gym often. That's crazy. Who has that type of money to spend on something that is free and grows out. Silly since hair grows out their head."

2. I summon all of the ancestors known to not immediately become the "angry black woman."

3. I offer a witty rebuttal so it's clear the statement was out of line. [awkward chuckle] "No, what's silly is you spending $200 on those brown loafers that look like office crocs. And I find it fascinating you assume these women can't afford a beautiful $250 hairdo."

4. I send a follow-up e-mail, (I like paper trails. you know for when I need "diversity" feedback). "Hey [Becky]! It was good to catch up, today. I wouldn't be me if I didn't let you know I was offended during our little chat. I often spend, and can easily afford, the type of hairstyle you deemed silly and "irresponsible." As an African-American woman, my hair maintenance is different than most in the office. I know the concept of investing in quality hair products and paying for high quality service, may be foreign to you and others. That's why I wanted to share this blog and article with you. It'll give you better insight and hopefully educate you on our cultural hair differences. :-) Looking forward to seeing you same time next week. Have a great day."

5. Await profuse apology.