I am a gentleman. Arguably of the Stone-Cold variety (80’s babies stand up!), so it might surprise some of you to know that I don’t always give up my seat for women on public transit. Correction: I rarely, if ever, give up my seat for white women. Follow me with this.
I am a free Black male, that makes me a numerical minority within our already marginalized 12-14% of the population. So, when a white woman would get on the C train or A train, loaded down with her H&M and Forever 21 bags, and stand there looking askance at me for not offering my seat simply because I was conveniently in her line of sight, I simply didn’t care. Look to one of the men who looks like you to be chivalrous for you. I’m saving this seat for the unknown, underserved Black woman who’s about to get on this train, tired as fuck from working her 2nd of 3 jobs, who NONE of your men are even going to acknowledge with eye contact– let alone stand up for. I’m keeping this seat for her – and if she never gets on? Well then I’m holding it in honor of Rosa.
The way I see it, our grandparents and great grandparents walked an entire year in blazing heat and bitter cold and rain to earn those seats. We don’t just give them up because someone looks at us shady. Rosa Parks didn’t stay rooted in her seat for me to be giving it up to the very people she said “No” to, out of some misplaced sense of duty to a society that still does not respect me as a whole human. That seat was too hard fought.
If I won’t give up the space under my ass in service to white comfort – I will not be found be giving up the riches and comforts of Blackness and Black identity to make white people feel comfortable with co-opting our culture, and reward them for being marginally interesting white people. There will be no “Black Cards” disbursed here. Their credit will never be good enough.
BET recently published some high level fuckery (image seen to the left) in promotion of their show “Black Card Revoked” – The show, based on the original card game of the same name, premiers tonight with Tony Rock (yes, Chris’s brother) hosting. The rise of the hit card game and having it optioned for television is a triumph for gaming enthusiast and entrepreneur Latesha Williams who created “Black Card Revoked” and founded Cards For All People with her Brooklyn-based crew. It’s a triumph for all of us, that an idea that started around a card table made it this far. The shame is that BET saw fit to center white people in some of the earliest promotional material for the show.
The heart of Black Card Revoked is the celebration of the culturally rich, and almost universally ubiquitous touchstones of Black identity. Including the tradition of roasting those who do not “get” those touchstones. It elevates the norms of Blackness to high of appreciation. We have argued in this space before about the “understood definitions” of Blackness. We’ve wrestled with the idea that there is no one way to be Black; we’ve pushed against the creeping notion that Blackness is not cultural (it is.) and argued in favor of the inherent Blackness of certain generalities that have become a shorthand within the myriad of sects and communities that make up our culture.
The success of the original Black Card Revoked card game is a proof point that Blackness is indeed cultural and easily identifiable. The nature of the game also suggests that cultural Blackness is quantifiable – you gain or lose points depending on your answer, transferable – according to the title Blackness can be revoked, which suggests it can be conferred, and fungible; you can earn it – and on the television program, where winners get $10,000 cash, you can spend it. The overall takeaway here is Blackness has inherent value. Why then, do we consistently make it a cultural trope to simply give it away?
To be Black is to know the sting of being denied a comfort, or benefit so a white person can have it. If there isn’t enough of any given resource to go around, and white people are in charge of the disbursement of that resource, we already start preparing to be denied. We’ve been conditioned to the brutal reality that, in general society, whiteness is served first. Our government and other private authorities are well aware of this reality and accordingly (in some rare instances) set aside allocations specific for Black people, with the understanding that unless those resources are specifically earmarked for Blacks, we’ll be met with empty hands and well wishes. In governance, this is the equivalent to setting aside a plate for Aunt Maybeline because she works on Thanksgiving and won’t get there till late.
So when we give away Blackness to the Caucasian-du Jour who has curried some favor by mimicking Blackness that they’ve observed, and then co-opted, its the equivalent to lifting the foil on Aunt Maybeline’s plate, scooping out the Mac and Cheese that Niecey made, and giving it to cousin Sheila’s boyfriend who aint nobody met before, and who came up in Mama Shug’s house not speaking to nobody and smelling like weed.
We don’t know them. We don’t trust them and they don’t respect this house so we are not depriving our hard working family in service to their comfort. Just like Nicey’s Mac and Cheese – because she only made one pan knowing good and damn well it aint never enough – Blackness is a precious and increasingly FINITE resource. Finite because we create Black culture in the midst of a larger hegemony that seeks to steal, decimate, or shame Blackness out of existence. Finite because the creators of our culture are incarcerated at an alarming and disproportionately high rate compared to any other demographic. Finite because whiteness seeks to dilute Blackness both materially and culturally by invading or outlawing Black exclusive spaces and centering white concerns, white beauty standards, white feelings, white tears and white love, all in service to white comfort, and ultimately white power.
And it is in that relentlessly harsh environment that we cultivate and raise healthy, booming crops of Blackness as tall as your daddy’s head and as lush as your momma’s college afro. Every season, we harvest a bounty of fresh, organic Black excellence, grown to maturity in impossible conditions and picked at the peak of cultural ripeness – and you want to give free access to that bounty to some sun-bleached, Lil’ Yachty doppleganger with a name that sounds like he’s the prison bicycle, who dares to say ‘nigga’ defiantly, even proudly in his raps? That’s what you are doing with the fruits of Blackness grown in the fields soaked in the blood of our progenitors??!
B*tch, NO. Have a seat. Here. I saved one for you.