Or: how to win friends and avoid being punched
By J'Mel Davidson
Here we are again, at the beginning of the shortest month of the year — Black History Month! It’s a leap year this year so let’s leap past the formalities and discuss a few things. There may be a few topics covered here that I have covered in the past but what’s important is that you clip and save this article. It may spare you a mattress-spring shanking in the near future.
As you read these simple tips and facts, you may occasionally look up at the silly little picture of me and think to yourself “Oh, that J’Mel! Ha ha!”
Ha ha, hell. I’m not joking.
Let’s start with Barack Obama. People always ask me if I’m voting for Obama then get this look across their faces as if they’re thinking “I already know the answer!” They all believe that the Negro newsletter came out and gave us all the go-ahead to put a brother in office. Let me explain a few things, and keep in mind that the only black person I’m speaking for is me and the ones that read along and nod in agreement.
The whole “First Black President” thing doesn’t impress me. Not because I’m a hater, and not because he won’t do a good job. Hell, it would be really difficult to do a worse job than the Weeble we have in office at the moment. No, the Black President issue is moot to me because of that very point; he’ll be a Black President. No matter what he does, he’ll be the Black President. Barack Obama is a politician with a very good chance of becoming the next President of the United States of America, and by that very fact alone, he has to be at least a little bit crooked. That’s just the way it is. But if he isn’t the first President to put a man on Mars, cure AIDS or find the lost city of Atlantis, then everything he does will be overshadowed by the fact that he’s black. I doubt we’ll be ready for a Black President until we’re at the third or fourth guy. If Mr. Obama missteps even a little, trust me, those guys will never happen.
I don’t think we’ll be ready for a Black President until he or she is not called “Black President.”
On occasion, I’ll get the question “What’s proper?” — meaning “What is the current accepted nomenclature for the North American Dark-Skinned person?” For this I answer, I don’t know. I prefer just “American.” We all should at this point. I am OK with “black” if we must discuss color. Some people prefer African-American, but not all people of color you meet originate from Africa directly. If you want to get technical, then everyone is African but not necessarily American. That cradle of life is a bitch, baby, and we’re all from it. A good rule of thumb may be just to leave race out of your descriptions unless necessary to the plot. That way, when your brown friend arrives, everyone gets a surprise. Fun!
Here is something else that is very important and should be addressed: The “N” word. Many black people believe that it is dirty and ugly and should be put to rest. Still others believe that it’s just a word and a means of expression that has gone from a terrible putdown to a term of Negro endearment. It has subtle meanings within the black community depending on context, timbre and time of day. You may think that watching the famous Chris Rock routine has given you the inside track on this word. You are sadly mistaken. I had a white friend tell me that she thought that it should never be used. While I appreciate her passion, it really doesn’t matter what she thought. All that matters is that she was smart enough not to utter it in the presence of one or more black persons.
There are rare occasions when, in the heat of discussions, mainly about the actual word, the word will be uttered by a Caucasoid person. The actions taken in such a situation are to be decided by the black person within earshot of the utterance. Also, there are occasions when a white friend will find himself quoting a Wu-Tang lyric or Richard Pryor joke and release an “N” bomb in the process. This instance is almost always followed by the “Permission Look” from the white friend. This look says/asks, “Since the I’m quoting something that was originally said by a black person, the usage of the word should be OK, right?” The answer to this look always depends on the mood of the black person you are dealing with and on the ease with which you uttered the word. You’re being read like a polygraph, my Anglo friend. It’s best to sweat a little.
Let’s all be adults here. We know that some white people use the word in the comfort of their own homes. Lots of people toss around racial slurs in the privacy of their homes among their friends. I’m not saying that its OK, I’m just saying don’t slip up and bring it outside.
Recently I had two very different Saxon women use the “N” bomb in front of me then relate to me that they’d “earned it” because of their chocolaty dating histories. I’ll clear this up for you right now: the right to comfortably say nigger among black people is not sexually transmitted. No more than the right for me to wander around Mountain Brook at night was passed along from a sexual partner.
You have been allowed to pick up a dangerous habit that you should break yourself from before you inadvertently start a riot. I have also heard that some have been “Given permission”. This permission does not extend beyond that one guy. You are not added to a great book of Right holders. That book hasn’t been updated for years, and the last person added was Steve Martin. You’re not Steve Martin, so be careful. This is not a threat, it’s a promise.
So, I guess that’s all for now. Enjoy the month, read a book, watch your mouth, and we can all have a good time.
I’ll bring the Kool-Aid!