Book Writing Adventures

What’s the Upside of ‘Being Down?’

So I’m reading a memoir about a young girl who recalls her upbringing in a broken home. But before it was broke, her mom worked all day while her husband stayed home to “look after” her and her sister.

Did he home school? Take them to museums? Feed them?

Nah. That’s some white-people stuff. This dad played dominoes all day with his boys and drank beer. He DID try to teach the author how to be “down,” which apparently to him meant being able to fight, take on ebonics as a second language, and know that if you ever use a gun, you’d better shoot to kill.

So the wife eventually (and smartly) left the looser man and went to “find herself” while he took custody of the kids. Aside from occasional construction jobs, dude played dominoes and talked shite for a living–on food stamps and the gov’ment dole.

OH! Forgot one thing–did I mention this looser was WHITE? Ummmm….yeah. Like lilly. Like the driven snow. Like rice. Like Wonder Bread.

In Mishna Wolff’s best-selling book, I’m Down, she recounts what is was like to live in a poor, all-black neighborhood raised by a father who had CLEARLY been born the wrong color and to the wrong parents. He talked ‘jive.’ He played bones all day. And while he had custody of his kids, he mostly swatted them away like little gnats when his buddies were over, which was like, everyday.

So I cringe (and laugh; the author is funny) as I read about outrageous after infuriating example of a lazy nothin’-arse man who SO DESPERATELY wanted to be black that he abdicated his God-given Clear Card, wore a short curly perm, gold chains a Kangol, AND! was a DBR by choice! CHOICE!!!!

As such, he imparted the following values upon his two daughters:

–working is for punks

–EFF the MAN! (when I read this, I was like, dude, YOU’RE WHITE. You ARE ‘THE MAN.’

–Playing dominoes is more fun than cooking your kids dinner.

–Getting into fights (ALL THE TIME) is a virtue.

–Shoot to kill.

–Don’t take feces from anyone, (except, of course, your father).

–Education is bougie.

But what was so interesting is that this guy’s value system, “being down,” are things that a right smart of people in our community think is a perfectly normal way to live. ‘Down’ is a state of mind, or in this case, the mind-less.

This guy is like the dude described in the post I wrote called “Who Wants The Thug Swirl?” And what KILLS me is the black women in the neighborhood jotted down their phone numbers and told him to ring their bells. Wolff recalls her dad saying, “You call me,” [emphasis mine] not because he wants to be pursued, but because he hasn’t paid the phone bill and can only get incoming calls.

They liked THIS white guy because he was ‘down.’ What. The. Hades. Honestly, at this point I have to wonder why any of these ladies wanted to date this white guy, who ACTS just like the other ‘down’ black dudes in the neighborhood, except for want of light-skinned kids with “good-hair.”

It seems to me that the archetype of “being down” in this case has really nothing at all to do with anything positive.

So again I ask, what’s the upside of “being down?” Especially if you have a choice in the matter?

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