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What’s Beef?

15 December 2008 8 Comments

You may have heard that on Sunday, during a surprise visit to Baghdad, President Bush had a pair of shoes thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist. The shoe thrower shouted “this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog!” Check it out:

All of the news outlets are reporting that the incident was highly symbolic; Iraqis used their shoes to beat the statue of Saddam Hussein after his overthrow and in Arab culture it is considered rude to show someone the soles of your shoes. During my trip to the Gulf I was in fact warned not to put my feet up in any way that would subject another person to the bottoms of my feet. World cultures are so fascinating to me, but not as fascinating as people just wilin’ out. Remember the two little Russian ladies beating each other with their handbags? Or how about the Romanian politicians who threw water on each other during a televised debate? People wile out all over the world, and all of this got me to thinking, what’s a fair one according to black folks? In no particular order:

1. Spitting. Spitting in some one’s face is pretty much universally disgusting and is almost always grounds for a thrashing. But I think that that the spitting thing went to new heights thanks to VH-1’s Flavor of Love, when Pumpkin spit in New York’s face. This incident created a way for the viewer to actually have sympathy for the beast that is Tiffany Pollard, thereby positioning her as a ridiculous, mildly likable yet intolerable Celebreality star. Most of us wouldn’t play ourselves by trying to get a Gremlin like Flava Flav to fall in love with us, but after seeing that nuclear loogie fly into New York’s face most of us screamed at the television “No WAY I’d let that little white girl spit on me!”

2. The old pie in the face. When I was a kid and went to Girl Scout camp, a food fight would break out from time to time. Guess who was not trying to participate and usually ended up in tears by the end of it? That’s right, the black girls. Not only was there no way I was going to get cake icing in my cornrows only halfway through a three week stint in the woods, but putting food on someone is the height of disrespect where I come from. It’s wasteful, and my hair is not wash-n-go!

3. Step on a sneaker. Once upon a time the illest dancer got all the girls – it was cute to be out there doing the Kid n’ Play or breakdancing in beat up footwear with worn-out knees on your jeans. Then along came crack rock and the drug culture; by the late eighties, if you weren’t fresh to death you were getting NO play whatsoever, and the hot sneaks went from simple Shell-Tops and Chucks to elaborate $100+ pieces of athletic equipment. It is very real out there when it comes to scuffing a black man’s kicks! Thank you Michael Jordan and Nike, you created a new form of beef, and thanks to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, even white people know not to go there.

4. Throwing or pulling braids, tracks, or ponytail pieces.
I cannot tell you how many clueless white girls have pulled on my hair only to be met with a reflex swat of the arm. And I know that using fake hair as weaponry is not a rampant form of wilin’ out but I have seen it done. Fake hair can be really coarse, the pins and clips required can definitely leave welts, and if you’re really in a fight it’s best to take off any wigs (and earrings) beforehand anyway. I tell ya, you’re just not sufficiently proud to be a black American unless said pride can endure watching a chick gather up a handful of her own braids and slap someone with them.

5. Say something about somebody’s Momma. The oldest beef in the book, simply saying “Ya Moms!” to someone is always a fair one. Bringing some one’s mother into a standoff, unless it’s within the context of “The Dozens” is little more than a code for “let’s fight.” The insulter probably has very little actual information on the insultee’s mother, and the insultee knows that. Still, the very mention of anyone’s imaginary Momma usually leads to fisticuffs.

6. Hot Grits. Throwing hot grits on a nigga is the quintessential black woman settin’-it-off move. First of all, it requires that there are hot grits to be had, which is such a Southern condition that you gotta love it. Furthermore, you really have to want to burn someone up if you throw hot food on them that is near impossible to just wash off. Al Green famously endured burns over 80% of his body thanks to an enraged woman wielding a pan of boiling grits, and since then throwing hot grits on a man has been first in the arsenal of a black woman fed up, often the suggested route for abused women. I must admit, it’s definitely a game-ender and the first thing I would pull if I had to!

Please school me on anything I may have left out in the comments!


  • Kristin said:

    Thembi I love your analysis. I still believe the Secret Service needs their asses kicked. After the first shoe they should have had Bush on the ground. I truly dislike the man and I am not looking forward to him moving back to Dallas but, I actually felt bad for him yesterday.

    Now talk about wilin’ out just thinking about someone spitting in my face is enough to get me looking at my coworkers with the side-eye this morning.

    I dropped the Jazzy alias btw.

  • blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said:

    Hey there Thembi!

    See…I can tell that I am a bit older than you are…sistas MY age know that you have NOT passed through the rites of passage of black womanhood until you have slashed a cheating man’s tires or smashed his stereo!

    The other thing sistas would do is to unplug the box….see, if a man is on house arrest and has an electronic ankle band and he happens to make you mad, and you want to be really foul…you can unplug the box when he’s not looking before you storm out of his house. The police will show up on his doorstep and and arrest him within three hours.

    Ummmm….not me…but ummm….the other sistas I know did stuff like that. *smirk*

    Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

    P.S. I just joined the AfroSpear! Holla!

  • Woe said:

    See there, Bush finally found them Weapons of Mass Destruction huh? You laid it down Thembi, and I truly know bout #6, I’ve had some hot grits flung in my face before, and it wasn’t nu-thin nice…

  • boris said:

    Thembi, you forgot one of the big ones. calling someone dark is a big no-no.

    oh, and u forgot wearing red instead of blue, and blue instead of red(…oh god we have pretend crips n bloods in england too *side eye*

    ….and saying 2Pac and BIG arent the best rappers of all time is taboo in negro culture

  • Blazingnickel said:

    My all-time favorite, from personal experience . . .
    being called an African Booty-Scratcher.
    I’ve bloodied a few lips for hurling that insult at me.

    A more localized version, a friend from New York told me, was to say -You’re Haitian, son!

  • Reginald Dorsey said:

    When I was at camp in Lancaster, PA from 1989 – 1994, even as a guy I’d get dumb hair-related comments. You go to camp with a super low cut, because you’ll be there at least 2 weeks. When it would get long enough that I needed to start brushing it, after 4 or 5 days, the white kids would always be like “what are you brushing? Why do you even need to brush?” I got that from the white kids from my school who were in Ghana with me, as well.

    It’s like in their minds black hair is just moss that grows on our heads and requires no brushing, stroking, frying, dying, coiffing, picking, sheening, or tlc.

  • Reginald Dorsey said:

    Not quite a fair one, but something that annoyed me during my time in Africa. The white kids on my trip (they really were cool, just not about this) asked me “so what does it feel like for you, being in the majority here?” I was like “um, I’m basically *almost* as much in the minority here as y’all are. I don’t look Ghanaian, and they still call me (behind my back) ‘obruni’ – Westerner/white even if you’re of African descent, regardless of skin tone – just like they call y’all.” I guess the fact that even these types of liberal minded YTs still see negroes worldwide as a massive, indistinguishable monolith annoyed me.

  • jazzfan360 said:

    LOL all the white people I know pretty much seem to think the same thing about black hair, unless they grew up knowing black folks all along. If I leave the house and get mad ’cause I forgot to brush, they’re like, “What? You don’t have any hair. You look fine,” and it could be I haven’t had a cut in two weeks and have a centimeter mini-fro, which is a LOT for me, and they actually don’t notice any difference from then to the day I get it cut again, and think it always looks fine, even if I got BBs on the back on my neck. ::Shrug::

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