AAWG: “Acting Black”; To Be, Or Not To Be?
“Hey, there’s that guy I was telling you about!”
There’s certain words a white guy just doesn’t wanna hear directed at him, especially when he hears them and looks up, only to see a group of Black folks looking right at him while one guy is pointing you out to everybody else. Nothing personal, that’s just not on my list of things to do once I drag myself outta bed every afternoon.
Well, whether I liked it or not, that white guy was me and I had to do something the second I heard that. My mind kicked into gear and assessed the situation.
“Too late to run. Maybe I can deny it, or maybe I can just say I was drunk and didn’t know what was going on. Wait, hold on a sec, I know this guy. It’s Mike! And ya know something? I probably am the guy he was telling them about. Busted. Guilty as charged. Let’s get this over with.”
The guy pointing me out to everyone was right. I was indeed the guy he had been telling them about and now here we all were face to face in the grocery store. It was Judgement Day, so to speak, and I was about to get my judgement right there in the meat department. See, when I heard those wretched words I looked up, saw it was my neighbor Mike with some various family members and immediately knew what was about to go down right there. Fortunately I had a few things going for me, so I wasn’t that worried about the group of Black people looking me over after he pointed me out. The first thing was the fact that I wasn’t pushing a grocery cart full of mayonnaise and SPF 100 sunblock, and the other thing was I happened to have had Lady Smooth right beside me, even though she was wondering what the hell was going on with me getting pointed out like this and why this dude had been telling people about me.
As I looked up and smiled at everyone, all I could think here was,
“Don’t act black. Don’t act black. Don’t act black. And don’t say something stupid either, for God’s sake!”
Yeah, the “don’t act black part”, well…I’ve been accused of much malfeasance in my misguided life, but that ain’t ever been one of them so I don’t know why I was thinking about it. Well, actually I do. It’s cuz I already knew what Mike told them about me…heh heh.
Have a seat and let’s rewind a bit…
Mike is my new neighbor and also a good friend of mine. Good enough to where he knows my routine and how to take advantage of it, anyway. He knows that Monday I mow the lawn, water it, fire up the grill, chill on the patio with a cigar and some bourbon and grill up a big ass steak while listening to zydeco.
It’s not long before he comes by…
“Hey man, what’s up?”
I set down my cigar, take a sip of my bourbon and say,
“You know damn well what’s up, ya scheming bastard!”
Then he laughs, sits down, I hand him a cigar and he pours a drink and we chill and talk man stuff cuz he also knows I got 2 steaks on that grill.
I told ya he was a scheming bastard.
Mike’s married, has 4 daughters ranging from 1 to 10 and has 2 dogs, a yorkie and a chihuahua, both of which are female as well. Sometimes I look over the fence, see the guy drowning in that pool of estrogen and gotta throw him a life preserver in the form of steak, bourbon, cigars and talk of manly stuff, ya know.
So it’s kinda like Man Cave Monday over at my place, I reckon. Me, Mike and Ralph the ugly dog sitting on the patio smoking cigars, drinking booze, eating steak and talkin man stuff like Venus or Serena, why the Jeep in my driveway hasn’t been washed in years, or our 40 yard dash times from back in our football playing days. I go Al Bundy on him and tell him back in the 80’s I did 4.41 and woulda blown his ass off the track. Then I blow cigar smoke in his face to drive the point home.
Apparently Mike had a point of his own cuz he took a long puff on his cigar and looked out into the stars of a summer night in Texas and said,
“Hey man, you are like…the “blackest” white dude I’ve ever seen in my life, but you don’t act black at all, man. I try to describe you to people I know and I’m like,
“My neighbor’s got so much black in him but he doesn’t go around acting like it.” And they’re all asking me ‘how can a white guy be black without acting black’ but it’s just hard to describe. Ya know what I’m saying?”
Then I blow more cigar smoke in his face and laugh to myself about the fact that I know exactly what he’s saying. I just ain’t gonna come out and say I do. And ya know something else?
You know exactly what he’s saying, too. Oh yes you do and don’t even try to act like you don’t. You do and you know you do, so deal with it, and what better way to deal with it than to kick back and talk about it a bit.
Ok, so let’s look at a bigger picture than Mike and I here, shall we?
In most every Swirlin Man’s life, there comes a point where he takes a good long look in the mirror, evaluates the white guy he sees looking back at him and then asks the following question…
“Do I have what it takes to roll with The Sisters?”
Ladies, lay off that side eye. It happens more than you wanna know and if you think about it, it is indeed a compliment. I mean, look at that guy! All worked up in knots, struggling with who he is and what he brings to the table and seriously questioning his ability to get the job done. Hey, that’s quite a sway you Lovely Black Ladies have over us white guys, ya know. I ain’t gonna lie, most of us go through that when it comes to acting on how you make us feel about you.
Then we man up, ask you out and wow ya with our whiteness.
The thing is, some of those guys take it one step further. One simple step that leads to disaster and disdain. Now let’s be honest here, is it all white guys? Heh heh…thank God the answer is not only “no”, but “ Oh dear God no!”
There’s enough of them to the point where we not only have come up with a term for those guys, but we got so many terms we can’t even decide which one we’re gonna use to describe them. Now dammit, that’s some success right there, albeit in a type of success we attribute to cockroaches for being around long after the human race is gone. But success is success and we can’t deny them theirs! They earned it, along with the many names that go with it.
And let’s not fool ourselves here, we know those names. We all know those names! That’s OK, I’m not gonna ask you to raise your hand or anything like that, but the second I say “wigger”, “wangster” “weegro” …yeah, that’s what I thought. You know that guy I’m talking about and don’t act like ya don’t. It’s OK, no one’s gonna hold it against you. Shrug it off, have a laugh and hear me out on this.
Let’s take a moment and clarify something here. Speaking specifically on this site, Beyond Black & White, the agreed upon term for these guys is “wangster.”
It is. It was nominated by The Working Homekeeper, or Pearls And Polka Dots or whatever she’s callin herself these days. You know who I’m talkin about. The hot married chick with the SWAT team husband. Yeah, her. She nominated it, I seconded the motion, scanned the room for dissenting votes, and then pounded the cyber gavel declaring it to be so. What…how much more do we gotta do here?
Having acknowledged the official term for these guys around here is wangster, let’s elaborate on the need to even have a meeting on the accepted term for these guys. First, who are these guys and what are they doing that require terms to be invented in order to describe them?
So here ya go, I’m gonna come right out and say it, I’m not gonna apologize for it and there’s nothing anyone’s gonna do about it…
White guys acting black.
Yeah, I said it. And I know we’ve all heard it, too. The funny thing about that is, whenever ya hear someone say “He’s acting black” 9 times out of 10 it’s followed up with the self-serving disclaimer “whatever that is.”
Oh please…we all know what that is, we just don’t want to come out and say we know what that is. But that’s ok. I’ll do it so you don’t have to.
Yeah, the phrase “acting black” is pretty self-explanatory but before we jump into that, let’s look at it from the other side of the coin, and by that I mean “acting white.”
Yeah, you know what I mean when I say that one too, and don’t even try to act like you don’t. We all do so let’s have a laugh about that as well. Cuz ya know I am…heh heh.
So yeah, ya know what my problem is when it comes to “acting white”? It’s always for something lame like doing your homework, speaking or walking a certain way or behaving in a subdued, reserved or uptight manner. Come on, man! Why do ya gotta set the white bar so damn low when it comes to “acting white”? Why can’t acting white be something wicked bitchin’ cool like, I don’t know…driving a monster truck through the parking lot and smashing everything up? Or something totally rad like riding wheelies on your dirt bike through the trailer park while ya crank Metallica? Why can’t stuff like that be “acting white”?
You see where I’m going with this. That white bar got set so low it’s pathetic. I’m gonna have a meeting on that one soon enough and straighten it out and I swear to God the next time someone gets accused of “acting white” its cuz they sailed up in a Viking ship, stole your stuff, burned your sub division and took all your women with them. Now dammit, that is some real deal mayonnaise SPF 100 whiteness right there!
Well there’s the white side of the coin, I move we go back to the black side and discuss that one.
(pounds the cyber gavel and looks menacingly around the room Viking style for dissenting votes)
Ok, let’s you and I clarify something when it comes to “acting black”. I think that’s, like…a totally bogus term, man. I honestly believe the phrase “acting black” is a bit off the mark and I’ll tell you why. Actually, I’m not gonna tell you why. I know a better man for that job. I wholeheartedly believe the following explanation will make infinitely much more sense, as well as being kinda funny, if you read it in Ben Stein’s voice. Just trust me, ok?
Cue Mr. Stein…
“The term “acting black” as it applies to Caucasian men is a common misnomer more accurately stated as the act of adopting a persona embracing and exhibiting commonly accepted actions, speech patterns and manners of dress as widely personified by the rap and hip hop genre. These actions, speech patterns and manners of dress are not originally accredited to Caucasian men, but rather they are adopted and adhered to as a manner of self-expression juxtaposed to the background and lifestyle of said Caucasian men. It is often emulated in an attempt to assimilate with the rap and hip hop culture rather than be seen as an outsider. Effectively speaking, it is far easier to simply say “acting black” so being the creatures of habit we are, that is indeed what we say.”
And thank you, Mr. Stein.
So yeah, acting black is a very short, frankly lazy way of saying the white guy is adopting mannerisms of a specific genre universally recognized as something other than his own but ya know, I think we can all just agree to leave it at that. We know what it means.
So basically we got all these white guys running around acting like they are someone they really aren’t, right? I got news for ya, that ain’t new. Not by a long shot. White guys have been pullin that stunt for years and this whole rap / hip hop black thang is just another recent manifestation of this thing we white guys like to do.
Here, check it out. Let’s rewind back a ways and take a brief tour in the last 60 years or so. Put on this bikini and hop in my Hot Tub Time Machine with me and let’s head back to the 50’s…whooooooshhhh…
Outta sight, daddio! it’s the 50’s! Check out all this Happy Days crap going on! Hey, there’s my dad takin my mom to the drive in and they’re gonna neck and watch The Wild One. Damn, I feel like Marty McFly right now. So there’s my mom fending off my dad while they sit in a 57 Chevy watchin Marlon Brando goin all rebel against the squares. Check out how my dad and all his doofy 50’s friends are digging this and wanna be like Johnny Strabler all badass on his motorcycle wearing that hat that would get ya mistaken for one of The Village People nowadays. Hey, it’s the 50’s, you can do that kinda stuff and no one’s gonna wonder about you.
So back in the 50’s we got my dad doin this thing and that is all I need to know, this is freaky watching my parents like this. Let’s take this hot tub to the 70’s and see what them crazy ass white guys are gonna act like next…woo woo woo whooooosh…
Groovy, it’s the 70’s! Check out all this Brady Bunch Bell Bottoms righteousness going on! Hey, there’s my big sister going to the movie with some guy to watch Saturday Night Fever. They’re gonna watch that, he’s gonna ask her to the prom, then he’s gonna dress up like John Travolta and boogie down to The Bee Gees all night long. OK, I’ve seen enough of this, I’m heading to the 80’s…woo woo woo whoooosh…
Totally gnarly! This is the 80’s, right where I belong! Twisted Sister is cool, fashion is impeccable and whoa…Michael Jackson is BLACK!!! Let’s head to the 3 screen multiplex and check out this bodacious movie called Fast Times At Ridgemont High!
Behold, The King Of The 80’s…Jeff Spicoli! Totally rad!
Yeah, I had a front row seat to that freak show known as The 80’s. After Saint Spicoli descended from the heavens, every guy from Boise to Boston suddenly transformed into a Vans wearing, Bermuda shorts rocking totally gnarly tubular surfer stoner dude complete with half open mouth, squinty eyes and dumb as hell demeanor.
And as a child of the 80’s, I plead the 5th.
Time to take this hot tub outta here or you’re gonna see Michael Jackson start getting whiter than I am…woo woo woo whoooosh…
Damn, where are we? Judging by the flannel shirts and scummy lookin recycled 60’s look I’d say we’re in the 90’s grunge movement. But then I’m also seein guys wearing FUBU stuff and talkin like this Boyz N The Hood thing all acting like they’re holding a pistol sideways while saying “they gone bust a cap in yo ass.”
Dirty Harry is rolling over in his grave watchin youngins a’handlin firearms like that.
Hey, leave that bikini on cuz we are gonna jump in that Hot Tub Time Machine one last time and make a final trip. Nice legs, by the the way…woo woo woo whoooosh…
Check it out, we’re in Preston, Idaho circa 2004. There’s some guy named Napoleon tellin everyone to vote for Pedro. There’s also some skinny ass white guy sittin on the computer “talkin to babes all day” when he happens to run across that Ebony Angel from Detroit. Yeah, Uncle Kip. We see you working, you scummy little Idaho white man. And we see your pasty white Idaho ass go all bling and hood once your Ebony Angel from MoTown shows up cuz you’re afraid she won’t want a white guy from Preston, Idaho.
Here, check it out…
SCUMMY WHITE GUY FROM IDAHO
SCUMMY WHITE GUY FROM IDAHO WHO’S DOWN WITH THE SISTERS
AHA! I do believe I see a pattern with these white guys here! And yeah, that pattern has been going on for years. What’s up with these clowns?
Well, for one thing, when it comes to personas we white guys choose to rock, we have a large latitude in which to go. Actually we have VERY LARGE latitude in which to go. Don’t believe me? Think of us white guys in every stereotypical way possible, and then think of the opposite of that stereotype. Here, let me help ya with that then you can look at every white guy you see today and categorize him accordingly:
Rich Preppy White Guy / Trailer Park Redneck White Guy
Jock, Douchebag, Bro White Guy / Geeky, Nerdy White Guy
Heavy Metal Stoner White Guy/ All American God Bless The USA Boy Next Door White Guy
See, that’s quite a range right there and we’re not even counting the gray areas between the types we’re looking at. Tis an infinite combination we white guys have to choose from if we decide to be something else, which quite frankly looks like we do all the damn time.
Or, if we don’t find anything in that myriad of mess we can roll with the rap and hip hop thang and act black, uhhh, I mean…we can adopt a persona embracing and exhibiting commonly accepted actions, speech patterns and manners of dress as widely personified by the rap and hip hop genre. These actions, speech patterns and manners of dress are not originally accredited to Caucasian men, but rather they are adopted and adhered to as a manner of self-expression juxtaposed to the background and lifestyle of said Caucasian men. It is often emulated in an attempt to assimilate with the rap and hip hop culture rather than be seen as an outsider.
Hey, screw that! I’m just gonna take the easy way out and say “acting black” and there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it.
So we got white guys acting like black guys in all these ways that they think buys them some street cred, makes them look hard or rebels against the cushy suburban lifestyle cuz they wanna keep it real. Or maybe even scores a date with you. Good luck with that…heh heh.
Now before ya go thinking this is just a series of isolated incidents I presented, allow me to wrap the rambling with this tale from the vault…
Way back in 1990 I knew this pudgy little Italian guy in Seattle. After much waffling he mustered up the guts to ask out a rather Lovely Black Lady we worked with. And she said yes! OK, mission accomplished, right?
The pudgy little Italian guy suddenly went Uncle Kip and, well…that was kinda funny. He started sayin “You be illin” and everything was “fresh”. But it didn’t stop there. I walked by his car at work and saw a bumper sticker on it. I stopped. I stared. I started laughing. It had a brown hued Bart Simpson proclaiming,
“I’m a soul man, man.”
Et tu, Barte’?
I mean, even Bart Simpson got in on that acting black thing way back 25 years ago. Hey, if even a cartoon white guy does it, well…I’m just sayin.
So here we are 25 years later at the Kroger meat department, a white guy pushing a grocery cart with the Black love of his life getting pointed out by a friend of his to group of curious Black people and all he can think to himself is “don’t act black and don’t say anything stupid!”
As I stood there smiling, the guy who looked like an older clone of Mike came up to me, smiled, shook my hand and said,
“Hi, I’m Mike’s dad! I’ve heard all about you!”
I shook his hand and replied,
“Oh you have, huh? And yet here you are shaking my hand and talking to me anyway. Thanks for not holding what he told you against me. I’m Gary! Nice to meet you! How are ya doing?”
Ok, so the “don’t say anything stupid” part could have been better, but hey, what do ya want from me getting ambushed like that?
At least I didn’t say,
“Sup, dawg? What it is, bro?”
We all exchanged pleasantries, I pulled off the black white guy thang without acting like it and we all went our separate ways. Until the next Monday, anyway.
“Hey man, what’s up?”
“Sup dawg? What it is, bro?”
“Damn! I knew I shouldn’t ever have told you that! Now your gonna go all gangsta on me!”
I just blew smoke in his face and flashed my set at him. Gotta keep it real here in The Woodlands, yaknowhatimsayin.