Home » Long Live the Colored Race!, Our Shame

The 7 Worst Things to Happen to Black Folks

6 November 2007 42 Comments

I skipped obvious things like slavery, racism, and crack in order to focus on things that ONLY black folk can control starting today.

1. “The Corner Store”. Also known as “The Chinese Store” or “The Ghetto Store.” Unlike a bodega, the corner store only sells Newports, beer, blunts, candy, gum, Chinese food, single-use Tylenol PM, snack foods, soda, 3-pack condoms, and phone cards. Nothing sold here is meant to be used tomorrow – you can ONLY get what you want for TODAY from a corner store. Plus none of it is healthy, premium, worth what it costs, or assumes that you will have any needs in the future. In short, the corner store caters to straight up check-to-check livin’. To top it all off, you usually pay the Korean shop owner through a bulletproof divider – rather dehumanizing. Let’s walk the few extra blocks to a real store from now on. Along the Same Lines: Check Cashing spots.

2. “Talking/Acting White”. After being told I ‘talk white’ for most of my life I now find myself surrounded by other people who have been accused of the same (just ask ill mami). Is that because “white is right”? OBVIOUSLY not! It’s because somehow black folks started believing that speaking standard English, reading, and even extra-curricular activities in high school are for people who ‘act white,’ but these are the same exact people who are now able to contribute something to society besides grunts and lip smacks. I actually spent a fair amount of energy trying to ‘talk black’ around 7th grade just to fit in, all the while listening to Def Leppard on the sly. What a waste.


3. “Bling”. The hottest chain, the hottest car, the hottest brands. We spend a whole lot of time and energy trying to make other people think we have money and in the process stay broke. It makes no sense.

4. “Baby Daddy/Baby Momma”. I’m not going to rant about the decline of the black family (or the decline in my personal dating prospects) and the extent to which single parenthood has become expected in our community. Just as troubling are the terms themselves and people referring to themselves as someone’s “Baby Daddy/Momma.” I once dated an SEBD (Someone Else’s Baby Daddy) whose BM called his office and when the receptionist asked who was calling she replied “Oh, this is his Baby’s Momma,” as if the term is generally accepted. No. Just no.


5. “Cheesy Pan-Africanism”. This includes all things related to Kwanzaa, kente cloth, and cowrie shells. Nothing is inherently wrong with any of these things, it’s the lack of understanding and willy-nilly identification with cultures we know little about that is cheesy. You may think that these X-clan-gear days are behind us but judging by that fresh fake kente cloth boot, they clearly are not. Can us slave descendant black folk just agree that we’re our own squad descended from of mix African slaves, Europeans, and Native American Indians and leave it at that instead of trying to be all randomly African for no good reason?

6. “Nigglature”. Ninjagirrl, an avid reader who coined the term “nigglature”, wrote that its distinguishing characteristics include rampant typos, weakly bound spines, and even weaker plots: a young fatherless girl who wants to get out of the projects turns to her local drug dealer for help and then gets involved in sex, drugs, hip-hop, the church, and/or other Negro things. Not literature. Just nigglature. Published books aren’t supposed to have typos! The next time you have the urge to read a book with a title like “Thong on Fire,” or “Holy Hustler,” get a bag of salt & vinegar potato chips instead. I swear it will be just as satisfying.


7. “Conks and Curls”. The day the first black man to chemically straighten his hair put in that first touch-up black consciousness died a little. Even the more ‘evolved’ conks (Jheri Curls, S-curls, Leisure Curls, and all other ‘taco meat’ hair) turn an attractive black man into a wack dude instantly. And don’t think that combing a little texturizer through it is something we don’t notice, fellas. If all of the energy black men have spent processing their hair in the last 50 years could be somehow gathered and applied to, say, fighting oppression in America, we wouldn’t have to be bothered with Al Sharpton today in more ways than one.

42 Comments »

  • Ill Mami said:

    I think you just summed up “the problem” with Black America in seven points. And let me also commend you for not resorting to blaming it on hip-hop (Don Imus, I’m looking at you).

    Damn, now that you tagged me (as Lil Mama, but it’s cool), I gotta write a post because I NEVER follow directions.

  • Thembi said:

    I’m so sorry for the mistake ill mami! Putting up all those links felt like old school computer science class.

  • Ill Mami said:

    Tell me about it…I should get paid per hyperlink :-)
    No problem
    I kept typing “Tembi” for some reason when I first started reading your blog.

    ‘Night!

  • MrsGrapevine said:

    These same things make the culture colorful and it’s the downside that comes with a culture so unique and creative. Many of these things are also legacies of slavery.

    I went to an school with only one other black person in my grade, but I lived in the hood, so the acting white comment was heard a lot. Now I have to hear how “articulate” I am from the others.

    I also went natural and didn’t feel any more black. So I don’t care what gunk people put in their hair as long as they can tell me who the Talent Tenth are, and tell me why Liberia is significant to America.

  • justjudith said:

    lol. great post, thembi. hilarious and kinda sad…

  • hottnikz said:

    I see nothing wrong with Kwanzaa at all. You talk about the decline of the black family, maybe of more black families followed the principles of Kwanzaa it wouldn’t be in shambles. I agree that wearing kente cloth is not being an actual African, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to embrace that part of ancestry.(I wouldn’t be caught dead, in it,lol.)

    I gotta agree with you and I know it’s a double standard but I’m not feeling black men with processed hair either. I went natural before too but it wasn’t to feel more black, it just was to try something different.

  • Anonymous said:

    “Can us slave descendant black folk just agree that we’re our own squad . . .”

    -the gospel II Thembi 5:1

    LMAO the record has been set straight

  • Tha L said:

    Oh. My. Gawd. You are SO right on with this post. All these things we have full and complete control of and power to change. Amen Thembi!

  • ambboogie said:

    I talk white. and I can say FUCK YOU with amazing grammatical precision and punctuation.

  • KelleBelle said:

    Don’t forget that NOT having kids and NOT having at least one tattoo are characteristics of trying to act white.

    Meanwhile, the corner stores in the hood are probably more responsible for the high level of child obesity in the black community…not to mention baaad fake ponytails that some stores carry.

    Finally, salt and vinegar chips instead of nigglature! Well played.

  • Anonymous said:

    Ummm…ok these things are NOT what make our “culture colorful” In fact everyones culture is probably colorful…or it wouldn’t be a culture now would it? More like its comments like THAT that make Thembi post blog entries like THIS one! Y’all must not know Thembi because she could never utter phrases such as: “legacies of slavery” or “embracing our ancestry” with a straight face. Unless she was playing a trick on some white people. And let me tell you something else, if my mother started telling me that I need some umoja and ujamaa in my life I would laugh in her lightskinned nappyheaded face! And Thembi don’t front, you know you done read some B’More Careful.

  • Qucifer said:

    I am having THE shittiest day BAR NONE and you just made it so much better by making me laugh the fuck up!

    I needed this even if it feels like schadenfreud

  • abdurratln said:

    One comment: Kwanza is not Pna-Africanism. Next time, try to get your facts straight.

  • Thembi said:

    Actually abdurratln, Kwanzaa was started by a descendant of slaves, who renamed himself in a Kenyan language, then threw some Swahili into this fraudulent holiday in an attempt to create identification with and celebration of “African-ness” – these last two things have NOTHING to do with the ethnic heritage of slave descendants as these languages are found in the east of Africa whereas an overwhelming majority of slaves came from the west. If the notion that there is a single “Africa” that slave descendants should identify with and that we should identify with Africa AT ALL is not Pan-Africanism, I don’t know what is.

    And you misspelled Pan-Africanism. If you want to disagree with me respectfully, its fine. But Thembi pretty much always has her facts straight.

  • Ill Mami said:

    Uh oh…
    According to kellebelle I am truly ghetto as I have both a tattoo and a child, AND I am unmarried.
    Damn you, slavemaster for leading me astray!

  • Thembi said:

    To Anonymous – I do use the phrase “legacies of slavery” when I’m being academic or ironic or both, but “embracing our ancestry” is defintely a good one for tricking white people. And depending on who you are you know good and well I aint read no B’More Careful, although maybe I shoulda 😉

  • Trew Life Advice said:

    I agree with #2 fully. It’s nice to hear another person put that fact on the table.

    However, I don’t fully agree with #6. My novel, A Bitch’s Gospel might come across as “Nigglature,” but I feel expressing the stereotypes of modern day African American society is a must in our communities.

    My book, like #6 suggest, has a ghetto behaving Caucasian woman who becomes involved with a respectful neo-soul African American woman and a mixed junky whore named Zinaye. The junky woman is the most unlikely guardian angel that saves the two women from their own addictions to love, sex, and drugs…

    In the book, the white girl meets up with a drug dealer in order to score drugs after her abusive husband almost kills her. The drug dealer tells her that, “Slangin’ is not a career,” and offers her a Bible. I don’t think that makes my book Nigglature at all. It’s a crazy ass conundrum that speaks about the mysterious power of God, in my opinion.

    When a book has no message and is just an entertaining sex and violence romp void of any spirit beyond the unrealistic twists and turns, then that’s Nigglature… But, hey, look at the book Homer.

    I do think that this Nigglature (I can’t believe how I’ve placed this word in my vocabulary for this post) should stop soon, before 30 year olds can barely read The Cat In the Hat.

    Ask Trew Life

  • Ill Mami said:

    Trew Life,
    Please excuse me when I say this, but from what you just described, morality play your novel my be, it sounds alot like “nigglature” to me. You also have a very valid point about Homer’s Iliad being not much more than a Greek soap opera. Who knows, it may be that “nigglature” may one day have its place among other bestselling novels. For right now, though, it’s just not my cup of tea, but apparently lots of others enjoy it.

  • Malcolm: said:

    Let’s not forget about the women with the perms and weave jobs. Also Thembi… do you still rock out to Def Leppard? I know I do.

  • theBULLY said:

    Its so good to come across someone that won’t look at me crazy when I say “African American???? I ain’t no damn African. I’ve never been to Africa, never seen Africa, and no one in my family has been to or seen Africa.”

    I honestly feel you on everything that you said…except for the corner store thing and ’cause I have never been around one to know what its like.

    Anyway….Kudos for you

  • Anonymous said:

    @Trew Life Advice:

    Did you seriously just call something titled “Bitch’s Gospel” a “novel”?

  • Exodus Mentality said:

    Well now that I know a little more about Themi, I can give her my vote in good conscience. And since I’m giving my vote, I can be a critic unabashedly.
    1. Very good point that a problem with Black folks in America is that we are so caught up in the present that we have no reverence for the past and pathologically reject any attempt to plan for the future. But the problem with the corner store is not it’s existance. We need to do less hoarding, and more purchasing of fresh things. We need to own our community stores and those stores need to provide us with essentials, and once again begin to serve as a center of commerce in our communities.
    2. The worst part of talking/acting white is not our parody of mainstream speech patterns and cultural norms, it is our internalizing of those things that continue to serve as programming for Black people to see themselves as 2nd class and to see white as right. That we have confused literacy and postivity with acting white is indeed a travesty.
    3. I have to agree 100%. WE are even farther behind in economic literacy than we are in any other area of knowledge.
    4. What’s in word? Some term has to be used to describe the current norm in this culture for men and women to have children without having any real familial connection to each other.
    5.As long as your problem is with the “cheesy-ness” and not with a group of disenfranchised people trying to establish some needed cultural connectivity to offset the white supremacy culture norms that persist in teaching us that we did not exist as a viable culture until we ended up in the Americas as slaves.
    6. Nigglature is so judgemental. As a self proclaimed creative person yourself, I find it odd that you are so judgemental regarding the direction of another’s creative expression. That which you choose to denigrate does and will continue to exist outside of your sphere of knowledge. If you choose not to try to relate to it, that’s fine, but don’t hate on it. And even though I don’t have any particular problem with the word nigger or any of the creative variations that have spun from it, your use of the term Nigglature is the tpye and character of use that some might say crosses a line. I know you didn’t coin it, but you are perpetuating it.
    7. Adjusting ones physical appearance is often indicative of state of mind. Where Blacks have latent inferiority complexes that cause them to try to look more European than African, we should be very critical of those changes. Where people who have a strong, positive awareness of their self image, we should allow them the freedom to express themselves and look however they feel comfortable looking.

    Overall, good work and a good list of things to cosider; but you paint with a very broad brush little sister.

  • Naughtynurse said:

    AMEN to #6, AMEN!

  • otilia said:

    i feel very strongly about number 6… that is not reading!

    i just laughed out loud for about 5 minutes – thank you!

  • Don't Eat My Buchela said:

    Lol. This was post was funny. Thank you for the laugh. I specially relate personally to number 2.

  • Don't Eat My Buchela said:

    Lol. This was post was funny. Thank you for the laugh. I specially relate personally to number 2.

  • Yobachi said:

    I’ve said it for years and I’ll probably say it forever:

    The Jheri curl is the worst thing that ever happen to black people; point blank, period.

    Worst than the transatlantic slave trade; worst than anything

  • Yobachi said:

    and lol @ niggaliture. I’d rather scrap my eye balls than read that shit.

  • BeautyinBaltimore said:

    I don’t mind a curl, but a conk is never cool.

  • Julian said:

    exodus mentality… tell us more about this “white supremacy culture norms” of which you speak…

    or rather, run that entire comment through grammar check and get back to me…

  • Femigog said:

    How in the hell did I miss this??????
    You had me at nigglature! Thank you! These books make me cringe sometimes!

  • Phil said:

    Is that Junebug in the picture above? R.I.P.

  • Exodus Mentality said:

    @julian..you are so correct about the grammar check. When I’m in a hurry sometimes I just don’t get around to that.

    But it just so happens that I said exactly what I intended to say with regard to white supremacy. A very brief elaboration may be in order, although I suspect that you are just fishing for specific points to attack, rather than any fresh understanding of what is meant by white supremacy culture norms.

    It is my belief, based on study and observation, that the dominant culture in the United States and throughout the world is a white spremacy culture. I recognize that there are a number of smaller cultures, perhaps more easily identified and defined, that make up the overall “white” culture of which I speak. The dominant white culture norms, the core of which are antipathy towards non-white people, can be recognized within the smaller offshoot cultures. This dominant culture has placed its values and norms ahead of those of all other non-white people. Thus in the United States, we are indoctrinated in the white supremacy culture, with the revisionist history of white supremacy being one facet of this indoctrination. I have become convinced of the white supremacy practice of intentionally distancing people of African descent from any true knowledge of their own history and the sub-cultures therein. This truth was replaced with an alternative belief system that elevates the advances and the accomplishments of whites and ignores or diminishes those advances and accomplishments of non-white people. This serves the purpose of creating within the non-white people a false impression of inferiority to the dominant culture.

    Is that clear enough for you? I’m not asking if you agree, only if you clearly understand the position I am advocating.

  • Julian said:

    Firstly, I believe you mean ‘white cultural supremacy’ or ‘white supremacist culture,’ as opposed to “white culture supremacy” or “white supremacy culture.”

    Look… brotha… I don’t disagree with what you’re trying to present here, you’re just struggling a bit, “painting with a broad brush” as you’d call it. (And don’t get me wrong, I can tell you’ve taken an Africana studies night school course or two. For that, Bravo.)

    SCHOOL:

    Yes. The white slaveholding class attempted to systematically distance African slaves from their varied cultural heritages in order to establish one pliable and degraded slave class. By degrading and conditioning African slaves away from their distinctive cultural identities, whites desired to affirm white American racial and cultural ascendancy.

    BUT:

    While SOME of these distancing and reconditioning efforts worked, MANY did not. In fact, what sprung from largely failed attempts to keep blacks forever in servitude was a rich and amazingly complex new culture. One that infused and signified on (or as Ann Coulter might say “perfected”) elements specific to African cultural experiences, as well as those European and of the Americas.

    There was no “replacing” or brainwashing going on. Don’t give white people so much credit. Even as slaves, black people were extremely powerful, negotiating their own physical and spiritual freedom despite hostile environs.

    IN SUM:

    What arose from not just slave desperation but from slave and slave descendant CHOICES was Black American culture. A distinct, singularly rich culture that’s been globally celebrated more than any other culture formed in the modern era.

    Many elements and modes of expression within black culture are excellent: The works of Toni Morrison, Eldrige Cleaver… The oration of Huey Newton… The coonery of Lawanda Page… The after-church buffet.

    And some elements of our culture are certainly not excellent: The corner store, Kwanzaa, and Nigglature (exploitation literature) — all half-baked phenomena which seem to actively defy excellence.

    We are NOT inherently “disenfranchised.” But somehow the world’s been successful at convincing people like you that we’re lacking roots.

    Black Americans (descendants of American slaves) are and have always been enfranchised in a tremendous cultural heritage. And we certainly never had to reach back to some idealized, kinte-coated wet dream of Africa to draw pride. That’s why I love this blog. Because it’s about critiquing what’s misfortunate about present-day Black America, and re-discovering the excellence that’s always been.

    So stop making excuses for black mediocrity, big brotha. You’re part of the problem.

  • Exodus Mentality said:

    Wow. Not to get too involved with this discussionon yet another blog, I feel a couple of things must be clarified.

    First, never took an African Studies class. Not one. I’m completely self taught in this area, although I tried to read everything that I could on the subject, and I’ve attended lectures and watched videos of some noted scholars on both sides of the discussion.

    Second, it never fails that people who confront me about my stance on white supremacy find some way to convolute my position of acknowledgeing the Global System of White Supremacy to some sort of acquiesence of the paradigm and accuse me of contributing to the problem by virtue of my simple recognition. Then they point out to me all the great things that Black folks have done.

    What you need to understand, at least about me, is that you do not understand my position nor the more complex thought and behavior processes that have grown out of my understanding. I have not attempted to give you that much insight and your assumptions are creations of your own understanding, not mine.

    In no way does acknowledging the white supremacy dynamic diminish any part of the amazing journey and accomplishments of Black people in this country since our forced immigration here. I never even insinuated that it did. You created that idea, I didn’t put it out there, so you should claim it rather than attributing it to me.

    “somehow the world’s been successful at convincing people like you that we’re lacking roots”

    You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m convinced of, other than what I have expressly told you. You cannot continue to create straw men, and then pretend that your own creation prooves your point of view. For the record I feel exactly the opposite of how you would like to depict me. I KNOW my roots, I celebrate them everyday in my life and how I choose to live. What I don’t do is pretend that just because Black folks managed to survive, and even flourish in some cases, in the face of a virulent white supremacy system, that serves as proof positive that the system doesn’t exist or operate to our continuing disadvantage. That leap in logic can only be made by ignoring generations of history and the observations of present day phenomena.

    “we certainly never had to reach back to some idealized, kinte-coated wet dream of Africa to draw pride”

    However you attained your pride in Black folks, I commend you for it. I know that in my life, I was not expressly educated in any fashion that was designed to instill that pride. I wasn’t made aware of historical facts about the legacy of people of African descent until I went out and found the information for myself. And I was afforded a better education than most people I know. So despite what you may think, there are people out here who still today are not getting whatever it was that you got to help instill that pride in you. You can tell that a lot of our people are not proud of our past, are not really knowledgable about it, and as such have little or no plan for a future. I appreciate that you don’t disagree with me, and I don;t disagree with your position that Black people have achieved in the face of virtually insurmountable odds. I am sure that we are working toward the same general goals. But the only way I’m part of the problem because that is the brush you chose to paint me with.

  • Thembi said:

    Ok its time for Thembi to weigh in…

    First, this is a humor blog. Whatever ‘broad brush’ I may paint with, my goal is to make people laugh and not doze off during rhertoric. So the reasons why we do ridiculous things are and probably will remain beyond the scope of anything I write. And if it’s not funny it won’t be found here. It’s just too much of a drag, and I think its time for us to stop worrying about confusing white people and just celebrate blackness like no one is watching…

    That said, I agree with exodus mentality that there are reasons why we do these 7 things – I just don’t care about those reasons. As I said in the opening lines of the post, these are all things we can control RIGHT NOW. No white supremecist ever forced me to shop at a corner store or made me read a book about nonsense written at a 4th grade level. This ‘we’ve been so brainwashed’ stuff is just an excuse. Our daily lives, as affected as they may be by white supremacy at the root of things, have little to do with all that we’ve been through against our will. We’re not children or drones. We make choices and settle for less BECAUSE we rely on white supremacy as an excuse and have decided that certain ways of living our black folks’ lot in life, and then raise our children with those values. I just don’t find it acceptable at this point.

    To be more academic than I prefer to be on this blog, when you look at the so-called system of white supremacy it affects non-whites globally at varying degrees – not just black people. So why is it that we are the only ones who use it as an excuse to be less than excellent in our daily choices? In my personal experience travelling around the world, when the phrase “American culture” is heard by a native European, African, or Asian, laughter usually ensues. How can there be any legitimate culture in a country that is only 400 years old? In the US, we tend to forget that this is one of the youngest countries in the world and was intended as an experiment. Descendants of slaves have been RIGHT HERE that entire 400 years cultivating the best of African, European, and Native American cultures, and the result has been, in my opinion, the richest culture to exist in the modern age. French people, for example, don’t believe Americans even HAVE a culture, and I see their point. Meanwhile, we moan about OUR culture having been decimated while ignoring what we DO have – as much if not more than the white next non-black American. As much of a trifling as it may seem, someone like Lawanda Page would be considered a comedic genius if she were white. The reason she is just ‘Aunt Esther’ is that we as black folk are SO convinced that white americans even HAVE a culture that ours simply can’t measure up to that keeps us from proclaiming her as a comedic genius along the lines of Milton Berle for white folks. This is the thinking I am trying to change thru WWTD.

    The merits of specifc contributors to culture aside, Julian is right. When I post about what we’re doing wrong, I’m trying to make people think. And when I post about the minutia of black pop culture it’s to remind people that we DO have a lot of beauty going on, and it’s a huge mistake to trivialize or forget it. In fact, its suprising and a little disappointing that I even have to explain that to any other black person. I refuse to see what we have as a people as ‘what we’ve managed to do with a decimated culture.’ In Julian’s words, that’s giving white people way too much credit. For example, I understand that Kwanzaa was an attempt to create something for ‘us’ as ‘Africans’ (which we are not), but since any educated person knows that its bunch of contrived flim-flam the concept just doesnt fly with me because it’s NO GOOD. It’s just plain poor. Even if I did feel like an abused child there’s a point where one must stand up and think as an empowered contributor. We have been and continue to be victims in so many ways, but our entire culture that started 400 years ago? I refuse to accept that. And THAT is why I will celebrate Juneteenth and not Kwanzaa, and why I will laud Martin Lawrence and Debbie Allen without putting their achievements in the context of “the best we’ve been able to do” until the day Blogger disconnects my account.

  • Ann Brock said:

    Great stuff!I think you sum it up real good.

  • Anonymous said:

    whats with all the broad brushes? doesn’t anybody use rollers anymore?

  • Gerri said:

    Nice post. I am guilty of a couple (talking white for one – won’t say the other). I know a few people who will laugh a lot at themselves when they read this post.

  • Antonio said:

    Stumbled upon this post from Undercover Black Man’s blog. Good stuff. I’ve PASSIONATELY hated the word “bling” from the day I heard it. I hate it so much I can’t even laugh when it’s used in a satirical manner.

  • bo bliz said:

    hey don’t hate on “urban” books- they make black teenagers read when they otherwise might not. kids that read books like this come into my program with significantly higher reading levels. this allows them to read EVERYTHING better, including classwork. besides, criticizing people’s choices in entertainment is weak sauce.

    ps- sorry for commenting on old shit but i’m catching up on the blog on a lazy sunday

    pps- i don’t use the term urban but i don’t know what else people call these books

  • Anonymous said:

    I dont think there is anything wrong with the corner store. I LOVE the corner store. One time I was going to get intimate with my ex and I needed to quickly shave my legs but I did not have a raizor. Where did I go…thats right …the Corner Store..!!

    You should replace that with the Liquor Store.

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