I am terrified of white people. I usually don’t let anyone know this because I’m hoping that my Amazonian stature coupled with the “angry black woman” trope will keep me safe enough to get away before some white person remembers that the cops work for them & makes the call that may end my life (be that figuratively via a prison stint or literally at the end of the barrel of one of their firearms). The threat of physical violence, the black person’s only resort in a system with zero institutional protections for us, then becomes a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand it is all that leaves me with any semblance of safety, on the other hand my reliance on it allows me to be more easily painted as savage, dangerous, and deserving of the very violence I am desiring to escape.
I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. We impotently use our physical strength as measures of power our whole childhood. We are trained to understand that our fists and strength are all we have. The ghettos and schoolyards are our training grounds. A hierarchy is created with the weakest at the bottom and the strongest at the top. A Deebo runs every hood and as long as you believe your hood is the end of the world (and for so many of us it truly is) then Deebo runs the world. Wit, cleverness, and charm take a backseat to “real” power, tools used by the physically weak to survive along the margins, just to get along.
How natural then, that these very traits of wit, cleverness, and charm should be the things that eventually soften the white heart in favor of us. The white world opens up for a black person who knows how to survive without their fists and we soon realize that our hoods weren’t the end of the world after all. We even go so far as to lambast the Negro who would choose violence, as though there were no other options (as though we wouldn’t have chosen violence if we were stronger). And why shouldn’t we attack them? Our histories are stained with the trauma of their aggressions against us. We wholeheartedly welcome a life without fear; we encourage the like-minded to join our ranks.
Until one day, after the high starts to pass, after the novelty of feeling like you’re no longer at the bottom rung of some fucked up social system you never wanted to be a part of starts to wear off, you begin to notice things. Little things at first. A strange look of anticipation as you speak, and that vague look of surprise when your done. The flash of fear when you raise your voice a little or sometimes even when you stand up too fast. The odd way people can completely ignore you gesturing to them on the street or in a public place, like they don’t see you until you’re right up on them. But they did see you all along. “Oh, I thought you were someone else.”
Then there’s the rage. That terrifying unbridled rage when one of “those people” gets out of line. That OJ Simpson trial rage. That backwoods, good ol’ boy, plantation ass rage. That lynch mob shit that makes you remember who you are so fast that you get out of breath. And in the middle of it all, they’ll reassure you that you’re a good one of those people, they don’t mean all of those people are like that after all.
You suddenly realize that you’re somebody’s pet Negro and you’re just as in danger as any other black person, not because you’re violent, but because of your proximity to whiteness. Because you’re there next to them & at the end of the day, no matter how witty and clever and charming you are you’re just another Deebo to them.