As society enters the utopia promised to us in old negro spirituals, the Bill of Rights and Martin Luther King’s dreams we are beginning to witness this country morphing into a true homogenous melting pot. While we are still a long way away from a post-racial America, neighborhoods across the country are evolving into multicultural mixtures of where white people play Spades, Black people listen to country music and everybody hates Donald Trump. Whether it is gentrification, progressive thinking or the result of the pre-Obama real estate crash, more White people are moving into Black neighborhoods. Harlem is no longer an all-Black mecca and there are scores of White people who are beginning to receive mail at addresses on Martin Luther King Boulevards across this nation.
With this integration comes an array of situations that our Caucasian comrades might not be prepared for. Never fear. As NegusWhoRead has previously guided you through Black cookouts, church services, Thanksgiving dinners and parties, we now offer you our latest installment in our Caucasian Guide series–The Caucasian Guide To Black Neighborhoods.
By Michael Harriot/NegusWhoRead*, AFROPUNK contributor
Probation After you have chosen to move into a Black neighborhood, there are a few things you should know. The most important rule to remember is that living in a Black neighborhood is like getting a job at a Fortune 500 company–you will be on a probationary period. For a period of either 90 days, or until someone inside the neighborhood Illuminati (we will get to this later) gives you the stamp of approval, you are a visitor in this section of town. Even if you have a year lease. Even if you have a mortgage. The side-eye that you receive is because Black people are very territorial of their neighborhoods, and we are predisposed to the same prejudices that White people have when they see Black people. However, our race-based skepticism actually makes us nicer. Because of what we see on TV and movies, we assume all White people are one bad breakup or firing away from becoming a serial killer. I know that’s very prejudiced, but just like how your kin clutch their purses when we pass them in parking lots of Target, Black people will be nice to you for the first three months because they want to be the one person you spare when you go on your shooting spree.
After we get to know you, you can enjoy the full rights and privileges of everyone else in the neighborhood. We’ll invite you to the cookouts (but you still can’t bring potato salad or make the Kool-Aid) and even invite you to our church. The only restriction you will have is that you still won’t be able to use the n-word. Never, ever, ever make the mistake of believing you’re so inside the loop that you can say that. Not even the version with the “a” at the end. I know you are dying to say it, so when James introduces you to his homeboy as “my nigga Brett,” just lower your head, smile, stick out your hand and offer a handshake.
Meeting The Neighbors When you move in, the first order of business should be getting to know your neighbors. There is a right way to do this, and a White way. The right way to do this is organic. You have to holla at them when you go to the mailbox or as you see them on the street. The wrong way to do this is the White way. Do not show up on anyone’s doorsteps with brownies or a homemade pie to introduce yourself. We don’t know you like that. Plus, we don’t know how clean your kitchen is. We (probably wrongly) assume that you let your dogs lick your silverware and you wash your dishes in the dishwasher (which is nastier than feeding your dog with people spoons, in our opinion) because that’s what we see on TV. How else would we know?
We are suspicious of all white people showing up at our houses for no reason. What do you want? Did I order an Apple pie? Then why are you on my porch offering me food? Even if your neighbor is a middle class Black doctor, we assume all uninvited White people are undercover police investigating us for the crime of being Black. Am I under arrest? Is there a listening device hidden in the pie? Are you the Feds, Brett?
All Black neighborhoods are commercial districts Because of the disparities in employment, hiring and the cost of regulation, every Black neighborhood has an underground economy that rivals La Cosa Nostra. I know you believe in the steadfast rules of law governed by zoning boards and city councils, but Black neighborhoods are different. According to the Negro Constitution, every street populated by more than 50% Black people must, by law, have a Black woman who does hair in her kitchen. Why would anyone drive downtown when Sherita can do a quick weave while watching her stories? In fact every barber and beautician in Black America started out in his or her kitchen. It’s like the minor leagues for baseball. There’s also a woman named Pam who runs a complete restaurant out of her house two houses down from you. However, she doesn’t sell “entrees” or “meals.” She sells “plates.” Chicken plates. Sandwich plates. Just plates. They all come with either fries, rice and gravy or macaroni and cheese. Other businesses in your neighborhood include the guy who fixes cars in is backyard, the neighborhood carpenter/handyman/plumber/electrician, and of course, the weed man. That’s Al. You’ll get to know him.
Don’t Ruin Our Neighborhood The number one rule for White people moving into Black neighborhoods is to respect their culture. You can live there, but don’t gentrify. I know you want to bring in a Panera bread and a Whole Foods, but you better take your white people shit somewhere else. Al’s Deli has been making sandwiches in this neighborhood for 37 years, and even though his sandwich shop’s health rating averages a C-, and he sells marijuana sacks in the back, we don’t need a Subway Sandwiches here. Once white people start showing up, Starbucks follows and thats when the trouble starts. We know what your plan is–to build high-rise condominiums and market our block as the hot new hipster hangout. That’s why we rob you guys every now and then. There really isn’t much crime here, we have just designated a few local guys to rough random white strangers up every now and then as a preemptive measure from overrunning our community with thrift shops, cupcake stores and ironic White college students looking for adventure. We know what happens when you show up.
If only the Indians had thought of that.
Dignitaries Every Black neighborhood has a list of people who are royalty in their little fiefdom. It is your responsibility to get to know these people and honor them with the respect they deserve:
The young people
The Neighborhood Gossip
Pets There is one rule you should know about Black people and animals: They don’t give a fuck about your pets.
White people love dogs. Black people love our dogs. Knowing this can prevent a lot of headache. If you’re going out of town, don’t ask one of the kids in the neighborhood to pet-sit. Your little Fluffy will die. Also, don’t try to pet dogs in Black neighborhoods. They bite. You might fuck around and lose a finger. Black pets are companions, family members and bodyguards. We like our pets mean. 83% of the reason Black people have pets is to warn them when White people are approaching. It’s like a pre-doorbell security alarm, because y’all will just pop up at people’s house without calling. We know how y’all do. You haven’t spoken to your mother since Thanksgiving 1998 but you act like your neighbors are blood relatives.
Also, when your Black neighbor visits you, don’t assume they are cool with your dog greeting them. Again, we love our dogs, not all dogs. It’s a cultural thing that’s kind of y’all’s fault. Between the police dogs biting us during civil rights marches and the drug sniffing dogs locking up Black people disproportionately, we might need a minute to acclimate.
Police When living in a Black neighborhood, one must remember the role of police in Black populations. I know that in White habitats the rule is–the more police, the safer the neighborhood. The converse is true for Black neighborhoods. This is the one area where Black people are politically conservative and believe in small government. You will not find police helping people get cats out of trees or change tires in your new environs. It is partly your responsibility to protect your neighbors and part of this is restricting access to police. If your neighbor is too loud, call him and tell him, don’t involve the police. If you see someone lurking around Miss Mary’s house, call Big Jack. There is a false belief that Black neighborhoods have a code of silence because “snitches get stitches.” That is propaganda. The only reason we don’t run to law enforcement all willy-nilly is because when they come around, everybody seems to end up with stitches–not just the snitches. You now live in a community and there are only three things that bind a community together:
1. Mutual respect
3. A sandwich and a 20-sack from Al’s
Now you are ready to live in a Black community. Go enjoy yourself but always follow these rules. You’re my nigga, Brett but remember:
Sherita’s watching you.
*This post is in partnership with http://neguswhoread.com/