Growing up in a predominantly white environment, I am proud to say that I have still maintained enough “Black culture” to meet the expectations of what my white peers hope to encounter. One of my great friends Marilyn, who happens to be white, expressed to me recently how glad she was to have me as her best friend. So I asked her what was so special about me.
She replied, “I think it’s because you’re Black.”
And it took me a minute to understand her logic, but I finally did. A Black friend can open many opportunities for a person of white race.
Black people love to party. It’s a part of the culture. Kickbacks, grill-outs, house parties, clubbin’ – all excellent examples of a Black person’s idea of a good time. See, Marilyn feels that I am an all-access pass to any venue I choose because Black people are known for “gettin’ crunk” and “turnin’ up.” She comes to me for the latest dance moves. Now, I’m her excuse to “get crunk” and “turn up” too. Not to mention that her taste in music has gone past the usual Beyonce and Lil Wayne; we jam out to Jazmine Sullivan and Chief Keef. I can give her new experiences she couldn’t imagine experiencing by herself.
Marilyn also loves to eat. And to be frank, that’s why I’m glad to have her as my best friend — because we always put our tummies before ourselves. So we love trying new things, and a cuisine that is always evolving . . .
The philosophy of soul food is that if you “put your foot in it,” it’s good. It doesn’t matter what’s in it as long as it tastes so good, it makes your soul feel good. Most of the time I couldn’t tell you what I was eating, but I could tell you how good it tasted once it was in my mouth. Baby-back ribs, collard greens, baked beans, fried chicken, macaroni cheese, all soulfully delicious examples of soul food. The first time Marilyn had my dad’s soul food, you could see the light in her eyes change. She later told me that she had never had an experience with food like that before. It was like life was finally beginning to make sense.
Whenever Marilyn leaves a location, she always does a “hair check.” Hair is always a big factor for Marilyn. And she can always count on her designated Black girl to be real with her about her hair. How should I wear my hair? What should I do with my hair? Why can’t I have hair that does that? Well, it’s all about whether you know how to make your hair do that. The terminology used with hair products can be very confusing while shopping through a Vietnamese hair shop, for example. But Black people, Black girls in particular, tend to have a better understanding of how to work what you got and where to get more of what you want. Now I’m not saying every Black girl knows how to do hair (because there are those who still run around looking like hot messes) but trust that they do know someone who can. And Marilyn will attest that she feels intimidated by the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Troung, as they hustle her into buying products she’s skeptical about purchasing. But with her designated Black girl, Marilyn feels more than comfortable when she walks in that hair shop and buys only the essentials for her cafe-colored Baywatch hair.
So you see, it’s true. Your designated Black friend will open your eyes to a culture that some could only imagine getting a sneak peek of. You can learn things about the Black culture that Tyler Perry could never put in one of his movies. The obscurities of gang references can become unobscured. Your swag-less self can become swag-filled. You’ll know all the ins and outs to the life of a Black person that you might even come to think of yourself as a Black person. Being a racist is far out of the question and having jungle fever is a high probability.
But it’s okay. Because even though you think you’re taking advantage of this Black friend because you want some of the perks she has, you’ve not only completed a close focus study on the Black culture, but you’ve also managed to make a good friend who appreciates the time you took to experience her culture.
And don’t worry. White people have perks that Black people want too. Your Black friend is dying for you to take her to a NASCAR race!
© Kendall A. Trammell 5 December 2012