Sunday, August 29, 2010

#10: Songs About Shoes

As previously mentioned, black people are huge fans of various organized dances. But why would anyone want to concentrate on a black person's feet if they are not adorned in a way that is aesthetically pleasing? Everyone loves shoes, but black people love them so much that they write whole songs dedicated to them.

Granted, other groups of people have written songs about shoes, but the difference with black people is that when we write songs about shoes, we are not only expressing out love for them, but also shaming other people into wearing them. How else would an organized black-people dance be organized if we're not wearing similar shoe styles?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

#9: The Electric Slide

We've already covered how much black people love organized dances, but the Electric Slide stands in a class by itself, so much so that it deserves its own post.

Every black person knows this dance, unless there are extenuating circumstances that would cause otherwise. Really. It is the quintessential organized dance, originally called the "Electric Boogie," sung by Marcia Griffiths of the I-Three's , the ladies who sang backup for Bob Marley& The Wailers. The Electric Slide is like hypnosis for black people, once the opening bars come on, black people are compelled to the dancefloor.

Without further ado:

and the original video:

#8: Organized Dances

Black people are well aware of the stereotype that we are all good dancers. Of course, our savviness with movement has less to do with genetics, and more to do with the fact that dancing plays a huge part in black cultures all over the world. Black people spend time dancing like how white people spend time wearing Birkenstocks.

But not all black people can dance. Knowing this, the black community takes steps to keep up the illusion that we're all naturally good dancers by administering every few months or years a new organized dance for black people to learn. Organized dances are great for black people because:

1. They set up a foundation of steps that look complicated but are actually really easy. You learn the steps, you're good money.
2. The steps are easy to manipulate, so you can do you and not look like the next person while you're dancing. This also makes the steps look harder than they actually are.
3. Gives black people an opportunity to swag on other black people and boast about how much better they look doing any given dance.

Here are some organized dances that have taken black people by storm in the past 10 years:

Harlem Shake:

The Jerk:

The Infamous Dutty Wine:

RIP to all those dancehall enthusiasts who have died doing this dance (seriously, people have broken their necks).

Lean With it/Rock With it:

God Bless America.

The Heisman:

Let 'em know.

Nuh Linga/Sweep:

Chicken Noodle Soup:

and, because of my personal love for Harlem, The Aunt Jackie:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

#7: Doin' Me/You

"They all look alike," is a mantra heard sometimes when members of one group (doesn't matter if it's a racial, social, cultural, etc. group) are described by members of an opposing group. Asians are the worst with this, as many of my non-Asian friends who have traveled in Asia have reported. One young man I know told me that in China, any white man with a white beard is called "The Colonel" as in the KFC Colonel. I'm calling an SMH on that one.

This sort of thing ain't gonna fly with black people, though. Especially in the United States where that phrase has been used to marginalize black people along with other people of colour. Black people combat the 'ol "they all look alike" mantra by adopting one of their own: "Doin' me". "Doin'" oneself allows a black person to assert his or her individuality without actually having to do anything but say the phrase. Try it!

"I'm doin' me." Don't you feel your individuality becoming more pronounced? Try walking outside! "I'm doin' me." Now everyone knows there is no one in the world like you, even if you sort of look like that other guy from work except with a slightly larger forehead.

But why do black people love to do them? Because it's a form of boasting, of course! The #1 favourite activity of all black people. Doin' me in itself, it implies a degree of flyness and realness, which is important to black people.

Black people love to spread this ideology to others. If a black person ever tells you to "do you," take it as a gesture of respect for your individuality.

#6: (Not So) Secret Black People Language

Most black people on this side of the world did not, as we all well know, choose to come here. We won't get into that. We had no choice in the languages we speak. Some
lucky ones got the romance languages, the rest of us got German's slightly less harsh cousin, English. (Hey, at least it wasn't German!) Since these languages were forced upon us, we obviously had to adopt them. But since black people are bound by the principle of "doin' me," we do not speak the languages in their proper (whatever that means!) forms-- we took them and made them or own. With English in particular, simply put, the structure of the language does not fit black people's aesthetic. English is a rather ugly sounding language, we're all aware. Black people try to make up for this by at least making it sound cool.

Before we examine Secret Black People Language (SBPL), we must discuss why black people love it so much: SBPL is more efficient and overall better suited for describing the Stuff Black People Like. Think about the use of the word "swagger," (other forms include: swag, swaggin) that has become so popular as black people know it's such an apporiate word to describe the inherent "coolness" ("cool" is also a term made up by black people) every black person obviously has.

Consider the following phrases. I will write the first in English, the second in SBPL:

English: "He's gotta stop showing off for other people"
SBPL: "He('s) gotta stop tryna swag on niggas"

English: "They just started getting all huffy and bent out of shape when I told them the Lakers were gonna beat the Celtics"
SBPL: "They started feelin' some type a way when I told them the Lakers were gonna beat the Celtics"
In the last couple of sentences, you can see that not only is the sentence shorter in SBPL, but more judicious. Feelin' some type a way could mean many things, as opposed to getting "huffy and bent out of shape." The phrase itself gives the listener more room for interpretation.
SBPL is great for black people, because black people love to be up on exclusive shit. Initially, other people will not understand our secret code phrases. When they finally do catch up with us, the old slang has been deaded and we're already on to the next. Black people love being ahead on trends, which is why we stay switching up how we talk. Think of how black people in the '70s were all speaking Jive! Today, if you try and talk Jive to a black person born after 1979, you will undoubtedly receive the regular face.

SBPL is spoken by black people all over the West. It varies from region to region. But what happens in a country where there are mostly black people and few white people trying to understand our secret codes? Creole and Jamaican Patois. Jamaica is an extreme case of SBPL, as it has gotten so out of hand black people from different parts of the country can't understand each other! But it's okay, since the confusion falls under the principle of "doin' you."

Here are some more examples of SBPL in comparison with English:

ENG:"That man is a womanizer"
SBPL (USA):"Dude gets mad shorties"
SBPL (JAM): "Man a gallis"

ENG: "I'll be there in a long while"
SBPL (USA): "I'm around the corner"
SBPL (Trinidad & Tobago): "Jus' now"

ENGL: "She's got a big butt"
SBPL (USA): "She got a fatty" or "She got a donk" or "She got cakes"

But probably the greatest thing about SBPL is that it provokes others to think: "Why can't they [black people] just speak like everyone else?" These people are haters, which are black people's second favourite type of people.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

#5: The Black Man's Uniform: White Tee, Jeans, and A Fitted

Every young black man has all of these items in his wardrobe. It's become an instant classic and it's easily accessorized. Yankee fitteds preferred. But the most important thing is that black people all over the world love the look.

A tribute to the Black Man's Uniform, from Jamaican dancehall artist Vybz Kartel:

Friday, July 2, 2010

#4: Mentholated Cigarettes

Everyone likes fried chicken. Everyone likes watermelon. Black people like mentholated cigarettes. It's probably one of the only stereotypes that is actually true. Try and think of a black person you know who smokes cigarettes and would turn down a menthol or doesn't like menthols. Hipsters don't count. (Do they make menthol Parliaments, though?)

There are people of other races who like menthols, but they usually smoke them because they can tolerate the delicious minty-fresh taste, and *mostly* because they don't want other people to bum cigarettes off them. These people don't know many black smokers. Recently, there have been talks of banning menthols, as they are technically flavoured cigarettes, which are now illegal in the United States (thanks, Obama). To entertain such a thought is foolish, as our President is a black person who happens to smoke. (Granted, it is reported he is partial to Marlboro Reds, but remember-- homeboy is half-white.) Think of the outrage from the black community were menthols to be banned:

"Roughly 70 percent of blacks smoke menthols, compared with just over 20 percent of whites and 26 percent of Hispanics, according to the latest government data."

70 percent. These days, black people are about the only people content with Obama. So if CNN thinks this banning is something that would actually happen, they should really re-examine that theory. And hello? Menthols are clearly flavoured, if Barry wanted them outlawed, they woulda been gone.

So, fear not, black people. Menthols are here to stay.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

#3: Haters

"Hate on me, hater, now or later"-- Jill Scott

In life, there will inevitably be those people who dislike you. It could be your fault—you could be a lame or just an asshole. But in certain situations, people hate you for reasons out of your control: talent, beauty, intelligence, flyness, success, impeccable swagger— any of these could serve as a cause for hateration. While some people are bothered by the fact they may be hated on for such petty reasons, black people do not share this concern. Ever resilient, black people are used to experiencing a degree of hostility for their existence, so haters ain’t nothin’. In fact, black people have come to grow fond of haters, I would go so far as to say after “real people,” haters are the group most beloved by black people.

Having haters has a myriad of implications/meanings:

  1. Black people love to feel important. Having haters means that there are people out there who think you are important enough to be watched. Naturally, people pay no mind to those they deem unimportant—they don’t even think about them! A hater immediately alerts a black person that he or she is on someone’s radar without even trying.
  2. You have an emotional affect on the hater, which means you have power.
  3. Assurance that a black person is coming correct.
  4. Probably the best implication: having haters means there is always going to be a present and attentive audience to witness a black person’s triumps, which are further sweetened by the fact that that black person now has an opportunity to do another favorite black people activity: boasting.
  5. Haters add fuel to the fire. Once a black person knows he or she has haters, they also know they are probably going to just grow more fabulous, starting the cycle of hate over again.

Black people can barely contain their excitement when they find out they have haters. It’s like finally getting that reparations check in the mail—there are so many exciting things to do with the money! So it is with haters— there are so many reactions a black person can have, but the most popular ones are:

Acknowledgement: To let the haters know we see them.

Dismissal: Oftimes followed by acknowledgement.

•Encouragement: Let the hater know to continue hating

Gratitude: Thanking haters for making their success possible

Affection: Showing love to haters for abovementioned success.

No matter the nature of the hate or the subsequent reaction, one thing says the same: the black person continues in the action/s that caused the hate in the first place.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

#2: Identifying Fake People

As much fun as being a black person is, under certain conditions it's not so easy. With a history of getting generally screwed over, it is important for black people to discern who they can trust and who they cannot, between those people who are really friends of black folk and John Mayer. As a result, black people have a very keen fake-dar, that is, identifying those individuals whose friendliness is a thin veil for dark ulterior motives.

Black people have over the years made it very clear that fake people are absolutely intolerable. Physically pointing out and publicly shaming these fakies is encouraged, just to make it easy and save others the ugly hardship of finding out someone they may associate with is indeed the ever-abhorred fake ass nigga.

Besides keeping fake people in check, outing fake people is also beneficial to those real folk, as being real is a quality cherished by black people the world over. Once you have been identified as a real dude/female, you are free to mix and mingle to your heart's content amongst the realest of black people.

If not: trust and believe you will be cut off with the quickness. Enjoy a life of red-letter status contempt and stank looks

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

#1 Boasting

"I don't brag, I mostly boast" -- Missy Elliott

One thing that is befuddling to many people is the overwhelming amount of self-confidence black people have. You would think that after hundreds of years of oppression and being told that we're not good enough, we would be the racial group with the lowest self- esteem. But be it DNA or the fact that black people are just highly self-aware about how nice we are, turns out that black people probably are the most confident group of people in the world.

In the world? Not even an overstatement. Consider the musings of Muhammad Ali:

Note how all the white people think he's being hilarious, when in reality, Mr. Ali was probably just being real. Everyone's all "hahaha, Ali you so funny," and Ali is like, "wait, but dead ass though..." Dude even called himself the (with capitals) "World's Greatest." But he is not alone. Black people stay proclaiming themselves the best. Lil' Wayne calls himself "The Greatest Rapper Alive," and Jay-Z decided to name himself God because he is that nice at rapping. And hello? Why do you think white people call Barack Obama an elitist?

The thing that is so unique about black people's tendency to let everyone know how great we are, is that 100% of the time we believe it. Every nigga swear he/she is that nigga. No matter what. A black person can be publicly embarassed, shamed, tarred and feathered, and come back from it singing the same song.

Do not think that black people are limited in the avenues we use for boasting. We realize that not everyone is going to be able to physically hear us or understand what we are saying, so we exercize every aspect of human expression to get our boastful nature across. Why do you think black people gesture so much? The swag is so overwhelming, it takes over our whole bodies. Why just say you're good when you can also show it? This is why on many occasions, black people wind up looking like this in photos:

The boastful self-importance of these young men is easy to discern in this photo.

For black people, there is never an innapropriate time or place when it comes to boasting. Boasting is always acceptable, even if it means you have to interrupt your moment of glory. This nigga Usain Bolt is a prime example. Dude slowed down during an Olympic race to maximize his boasting time and future boasting potential. Now that's a champion boaster. Why wait 'til you've actually shattered the world record to let everyone know you did? Why break a world record performing at your full potential, when you can slow down, still break the record, and leave enough time for you to do it again, so you continue to boast about how nice you are in the future? There's a man who plans ahead.

So If you ever come upon a black person, especially in a setting that involves competition, dancing, or just general living, don't start feelin' some type of way when that black person starts talking about his/her virtuosity in whatever activity. Just smile and respect that whether or not this percieved niceness is an actual reality, it is very much a reality for that black person.

And hey, why wouldn't we boast? Especially when we're clearly significantly better at it than everyone else.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Note Before We Begin...

I've noticed that other blogs with the same/similar titles and the same/similar objectives have not been as popular or well written as this one is about to be (oh, snap!) This is a blog that tries to examine (in the most hilarious of ways) cultural phenomena enjoyed by Black people affected by the diaspora. living mainly in the North America/ the Caribbean. So, stuff Black Americans/ West Indians (sometimes) like. As fabulous as it would be to explore what black people living in England or in Brazil like, I really have no idea as my life experience is not part of that narrative. But I'm sure those niggas like the same things we do anyways.

I leave you with a photo of an excited Stokley Charmichael (Kwame Ture) who is probably the embodiment of the two black consciousnesses I mentioned. My dude is cheesin' in anticipation.

With Love,