Not this again...

Have you ever been on a bus or train surrounded by black kids dropping n-bombs and going bonkers like they’re watching the throne? What’s your usual response? Do you say something? Do you crank up your ipod and ignore them? Do you make a subtle attempt to differentiate yourself? Do you feel the need to let the primarily white onlookers know we’re not all the same? Have you ever thought to yourself the kid(s) or adult(s) were embarrassing you? Oh, you thought it was just the kids? You don’t gotta visit Worldstar Hip Hop to know adults do some ridiculous things too.

Just a few weeks ago in Penn Station, I saw a grown man steal a beer from an ice tub in plain sight. Apparently he’d forgotten that hiding in plain sight is different from doing dumb ish in plain sight.  It wasn’t more than five steps before he was confronted by one of the food dealers. The black man tried to apologize. The worker waived for the police. He apologized some more and the worker eventually let him go. The restaurant employee threw the beer back in the tub and looked at his nightshift colleague as if to say “there goes another one.” I couldn’t help but feel some type of way when I walked by the same ice tub. I looked at the workers, smiled, and waived.  It was my subtle way of apologizing and differentiating without saying a word.

See Also:  The G-Code: Unwritten Rules That Separate Men From Boys

How often have you found yourself in a situation like that? It frustrating isn’t it? You want all of us to do better. Scratch that. You want everybody to BE great, and you’re tired of getting visual confirmation of why we can’t have nice things. So you take it upon yourself to be the best representative of the chocolate delegation that you can be. Little do you know that you’ve also joined the League of Subconsciously Apologetic Negroes (SAN), a non-secret society of black folks that expends energy differentiating themselves from other black folks and making up for missed courtesies with the nonblack. Members of SAN do things like hold open doors longer than they normally would, take their hands out their pockets to show they’re unarmed, say “excuse me” louder and more politely, and smile in elevators to ease any mounting anxiety.

It’s okay. Acceptance of your membership isn’t required. It’s a way of life that a lot of us have trouble shaking off at times — self included. Even as recently as this morning, I found myself reactively playing “the delegate.”

When I get on the train at 8am, the last thing I wanna hear is n-bombs and expletives. I just wanted to read my Kindle, enjoy the self-created silence, and make the best of my Tetris train car shuffle to work. Unfortunately for me, this wasn’t meant to be one of those pleasant mornings. It was set to be rambunctious. A few teens stepped on the train dropping F-bombs and N-apalm in the vicinity of mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. It took everything in me to not cringe. I’ve lived in NYC for close to two years now and I still can’t get used to the acting out as much as I see it and comment on it.

See Also:  From Elegant to Elephant: When Your Woman Gains Weight

Rather than play Captain Teachem and risk wrecking my morning, I tolerated it for the 66 streets that we shared the same car. And as much as I tried to focus on my routine, I couldn’t help but notice the white, asian, and latin folks looking in the kids’ direction. Some looked inquisitive. Others looked confused. A few even looked concerned, as if their safety was in jeopardy. I just looked down and shook my head slowly.

When the kids finally got off at their stop, I looked at the people around me. I took my left hand out my jacket pocket to let them know I wasn’t interested in fulfilling their most stereotypical desires. I made sure I was loud and courteous as I shuffled toward an open seat. I was Team SAN and a member of the chocolate delegation. Like I had a choice.

A few of the passengers smiled. Others paid me no mind. One person, neither black nor white, gave me a look of pity as if they’d done the same thing before…maybe even recently. I recognized that look. It was similar to the ones we started to give Arab people after September 11th. He knew the subconscious burden when he saw it. All I could do was shrug and accept that I’d just played a role.

See Also:  Not All Booty Is Made Equal

As much as we try to get rid of our SAN cards, they keep finding their way back to us. And we keep fighting to recover racial idiosyncrasy credits. It’s a crappy cycle. One that many of us wish we could retire from our minds and sell the parts.