The Pros and Cons of Being Black in America in 2014
Being black is not a choice, but what if it were? I made a list of pros and cons for my ethnicity amidst my Ferguson-fueled depression.
Illustration by Nick Gazin
The year 2014 has not been great for black folks. In fact, it's been pretty much awful. I'm talking final-episode-of-How-I-Met-Your-Mother awful. Having to endure 365 days of George Zimmerman, Bill Cosby rape allegations, Will Smith's kids, and Real Housewives of Atlanta can do nothing but bring a brother down. The Ferguson grand jury decision was my own last straw, as I imagine it was for many African Americans. I've sat through enough miscarriages of justice and Tyler Perry movies for one lifetime.
Maybe you're thinking about getting out of this "being black" game? Maybe a system that constantly works against you, a collection of "civic leaders" who let you down at every turn, and a culture that keeps shoving Iggy Azalea videos down your throat has robbed you of your last shred of dignity? Ignoring the realities of genetics and biology, let's assume we could choose whether or not to be black in America. What if we could ditch this burden of prejudice and mistrust? Would we still choose to be who we are? I asked myself this question a lot over the past two nights and came up with the following pros and cons of being black.
PRO: There Is a Black President of the United States
Can you believe it? MLK's dream finally came true in 2008. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. The election of Barack Obama changed American history forever and ushered in a new era of racial harmony... for about a few months in 2009. I suppose we should be grateful. I can't wait to tell my grandkids about the couple weeks I didn't feel like a second-class citizen in my own country. That'll be a fun story while I outfit them with their bulletproof vests.
CON: The First Black President Is Kind of a Wuss
It's been over six years, so I think we can finally be real here. This was not what we were hoping for. You can get mad, dude. You should be mad. I'm mad. What do you have to lose at this point? Are you hoping to get a late-night talk show? Good luck with that, man. The odds are not in your favor. The one time you really put yourself out was for healthcare reform and you backpeddled on the single-payer system anyway. We still have Guantanamo, more wars than I can keep track of, and a nation that is rapidly losing faith in its institutions. Keep it 100 next time, Barack.
She's so fierce! Her latest video, dropped without warning last weekend, set the internet on fire. I'm too busy staring at her ass shaking to be upset about Ferguson. Girl, I don't know what you got, but I like it.
CON: You Can Get Shot by the Police While Unarmed
It should go without saying that this is a bit of an occupational hazard. This is not what I signed up for when I decided to be black. I distinctly recall asking for a killer fallaway jumper, a new Maybach, and a pool full of champagne. I did not ask for the ever-present threat of a violent demise. I guess it's true that you can't always get what you want.
The police have guns, tear gas, tanks, Tasers, billy clubs, helicopters, and the criminal justice system. I've got a scary face and some Skittles in my pocket. I think the deck is stacked against me on this one.
He's always got a clean fade, his Instagram is on point, the ladies love him, and his last album was a legit banger. I mean, the guy can do it all. Let's try to forget him airballing during Kentucky's pre-game shootaround or his bizarre cameo in Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" video. Instead, remember all the joy Champagne Papi has given us in 2014. The dude is untouchable.
CON: It Is Assumed That You Have Superhuman Strength
In some instances, this could be a plus. It's a lot less likely that you're going to get cut in line at the DMV. It only really becomes problematic when firearms and batons are in play. The LAPD almost killed Rodney King because they alleged that he had developed some comic book superpowers after doing PCP. That was supposed to excuse the fact that they clubbed him within an inch of his life. Ferguson PD officer Darren Wilson, on the other hand, didn't even have the PCP defense to fall back on. Officer Wilson only had the look in Michael Brown's eyes to go off of, and based on his evaluation of the situation, you'd think Brown was struck with a Gamma Bomb or fell in a vat of radioactive waste.
Personally, I'm a bit fed up with my friends and neighbors acting like I have freak strength. They're constantly harassing me to help them move, open pickle jars, and defeat out-of-control cyborg monsters. Memo to white people: I cannot lift a car with my bare hands. Also, bullets work on me just like they work on you.
PRO: The Kardashian Sisters
OK, they're not black, but they're the strongest, most vocal celebrity allies we have. They're constantly speaking out about their love of black people and are not ashamed of it. As we reflect on how far we've come with race relations in America and how far we still have left, we can point to the Kardashians and say, "at least they are doing their part to further the cause." Thanks, ladies.
CON: People Think You Look Like a Fucking Demon
The above is a demon. Michael Brown did not look like that. Has Darren Wilson ever seen a real demon before? Perhaps one of the police academy tests should be an eye exam. "Is This a Demon or a Black Guy?" If you can't tell the difference, you have to go bag groceries or sell insurance.
PRO: Our Slang Only Gets Better Every Year
I just learned what a " fuckboi" is. What a useful, versatile term. I've already used it twice in conversation today, and I can tell you that my coworkers were all impressed with my linguistic dexterity. We did it again, people. Hopefully the rest of the world doesn't realize we have E-40 trapped in a basement with a car battery attached to his nuts, forcing him to invent new words every day. Let's keep that amongst ourselves.
CON: Don Lemon Represents You on the News
Remember, he's doing the best job he possibly can. This is his A-game. This is his "Michael Jordan NBA Finals Flu Game." This is Don Lemon killing it, and he's still fucking terrible. Don Lemon is a human facepalm. He is a walking meme of cringeworthy nonsense. He must have the Looney Tunes theme playing in his head at all times. That's the only way to explain why he can't hear the voices in his head telling him not to spew bullshit on television.
Being black is not a choice. It's something we have to live with forever, and unfortunately, it's not getting any easier. I can only hope that we all take this time to come together, not just as African-Americans, but as Americans. This country is not even close to being perfect, but it's all we have right now. Instead of embracing despair, it's time to do something besides burn down pizza restaurants.
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