Sunday, August 29, 2010

#10: Songs About Shoes

As previously mentioned, black people are huge fans of various organized dances. But why would anyone want to concentrate on a black person's feet if they are not adorned in a way that is aesthetically pleasing? Everyone loves shoes, but black people love them so much that they write whole songs dedicated to them.

Granted, other groups of people have written songs about shoes, but the difference with black people is that when we write songs about shoes, we are not only expressing out love for them, but also shaming other people into wearing them. How else would an organized black-people dance be organized if we're not wearing similar shoe styles?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

#9: The Electric Slide

We've already covered how much black people love organized dances, but the Electric Slide stands in a class by itself, so much so that it deserves its own post.

Every black person knows this dance, unless there are extenuating circumstances that would cause otherwise. Really. It is the quintessential organized dance, originally called the "Electric Boogie," sung by Marcia Griffiths of the I-Three's , the ladies who sang backup for Bob Marley& The Wailers. The Electric Slide is like hypnosis for black people, once the opening bars come on, black people are compelled to the dancefloor.

Without further ado:

and the original video:

#8: Organized Dances

Black people are well aware of the stereotype that we are all good dancers. Of course, our savviness with movement has less to do with genetics, and more to do with the fact that dancing plays a huge part in black cultures all over the world. Black people spend time dancing like how white people spend time wearing Birkenstocks.

But not all black people can dance. Knowing this, the black community takes steps to keep up the illusion that we're all naturally good dancers by administering every few months or years a new organized dance for black people to learn. Organized dances are great for black people because:

1. They set up a foundation of steps that look complicated but are actually really easy. You learn the steps, you're good money.
2. The steps are easy to manipulate, so you can do you and not look like the next person while you're dancing. This also makes the steps look harder than they actually are.
3. Gives black people an opportunity to swag on other black people and boast about how much better they look doing any given dance.

Here are some organized dances that have taken black people by storm in the past 10 years:

Harlem Shake:

The Jerk:

The Infamous Dutty Wine:

RIP to all those dancehall enthusiasts who have died doing this dance (seriously, people have broken their necks).

Lean With it/Rock With it:

God Bless America.

The Heisman:

Let 'em know.

Nuh Linga/Sweep:

Chicken Noodle Soup:

and, because of my personal love for Harlem, The Aunt Jackie:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

#7: Doin' Me/You

"They all look alike," is a mantra heard sometimes when members of one group (doesn't matter if it's a racial, social, cultural, etc. group) are described by members of an opposing group. Asians are the worst with this, as many of my non-Asian friends who have traveled in Asia have reported. One young man I know told me that in China, any white man with a white beard is called "The Colonel" as in the KFC Colonel. I'm calling an SMH on that one.

This sort of thing ain't gonna fly with black people, though. Especially in the United States where that phrase has been used to marginalize black people along with other people of colour. Black people combat the 'ol "they all look alike" mantra by adopting one of their own: "Doin' me". "Doin'" oneself allows a black person to assert his or her individuality without actually having to do anything but say the phrase. Try it!

"I'm doin' me." Don't you feel your individuality becoming more pronounced? Try walking outside! "I'm doin' me." Now everyone knows there is no one in the world like you, even if you sort of look like that other guy from work except with a slightly larger forehead.

But why do black people love to do them? Because it's a form of boasting, of course! The #1 favourite activity of all black people. Doin' me in itself, it implies a degree of flyness and realness, which is important to black people.

Black people love to spread this ideology to others. If a black person ever tells you to "do you," take it as a gesture of respect for your individuality.

#6: (Not So) Secret Black People Language

Most black people on this side of the world did not, as we all well know, choose to come here. We won't get into that. We had no choice in the languages we speak. Some
lucky ones got the romance languages, the rest of us got German's slightly less harsh cousin, English. (Hey, at least it wasn't German!) Since these languages were forced upon us, we obviously had to adopt them. But since black people are bound by the principle of "doin' me," we do not speak the languages in their proper (whatever that means!) forms-- we took them and made them or own. With English in particular, simply put, the structure of the language does not fit black people's aesthetic. English is a rather ugly sounding language, we're all aware. Black people try to make up for this by at least making it sound cool.

Before we examine Secret Black People Language (SBPL), we must discuss why black people love it so much: SBPL is more efficient and overall better suited for describing the Stuff Black People Like. Think about the use of the word "swagger," (other forms include: swag, swaggin) that has become so popular as black people know it's such an apporiate word to describe the inherent "coolness" ("cool" is also a term made up by black people) every black person obviously has.

Consider the following phrases. I will write the first in English, the second in SBPL:

English: "He's gotta stop showing off for other people"
SBPL: "He('s) gotta stop tryna swag on niggas"

English: "They just started getting all huffy and bent out of shape when I told them the Lakers were gonna beat the Celtics"
SBPL: "They started feelin' some type a way when I told them the Lakers were gonna beat the Celtics"
In the last couple of sentences, you can see that not only is the sentence shorter in SBPL, but more judicious. Feelin' some type a way could mean many things, as opposed to getting "huffy and bent out of shape." The phrase itself gives the listener more room for interpretation.
SBPL is great for black people, because black people love to be up on exclusive shit. Initially, other people will not understand our secret code phrases. When they finally do catch up with us, the old slang has been deaded and we're already on to the next. Black people love being ahead on trends, which is why we stay switching up how we talk. Think of how black people in the '70s were all speaking Jive! Today, if you try and talk Jive to a black person born after 1979, you will undoubtedly receive the regular face.

SBPL is spoken by black people all over the West. It varies from region to region. But what happens in a country where there are mostly black people and few white people trying to understand our secret codes? Creole and Jamaican Patois. Jamaica is an extreme case of SBPL, as it has gotten so out of hand black people from different parts of the country can't understand each other! But it's okay, since the confusion falls under the principle of "doin' you."

Here are some more examples of SBPL in comparison with English:

ENG:"That man is a womanizer"
SBPL (USA):"Dude gets mad shorties"
SBPL (JAM): "Man a gallis"

ENG: "I'll be there in a long while"
SBPL (USA): "I'm around the corner"
SBPL (Trinidad & Tobago): "Jus' now"

ENGL: "She's got a big butt"
SBPL (USA): "She got a fatty" or "She got a donk" or "She got cakes"

But probably the greatest thing about SBPL is that it provokes others to think: "Why can't they [black people] just speak like everyone else?" These people are haters, which are black people's second favourite type of people.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

#5: The Black Man's Uniform: White Tee, Jeans, and A Fitted

Every young black man has all of these items in his wardrobe. It's become an instant classic and it's easily accessorized. Yankee fitteds preferred. But the most important thing is that black people all over the world love the look.

A tribute to the Black Man's Uniform, from Jamaican dancehall artist Vybz Kartel:

Friday, July 2, 2010

#4: Mentholated Cigarettes

Everyone likes fried chicken. Everyone likes watermelon. Black people like mentholated cigarettes. It's probably one of the only stereotypes that is actually true. Try and think of a black person you know who smokes cigarettes and would turn down a menthol or doesn't like menthols. Hipsters don't count. (Do they make menthol Parliaments, though?)

There are people of other races who like menthols, but they usually smoke them because they can tolerate the delicious minty-fresh taste, and *mostly* because they don't want other people to bum cigarettes off them. These people don't know many black smokers. Recently, there have been talks of banning menthols, as they are technically flavoured cigarettes, which are now illegal in the United States (thanks, Obama). To entertain such a thought is foolish, as our President is a black person who happens to smoke. (Granted, it is reported he is partial to Marlboro Reds, but remember-- homeboy is half-white.) Think of the outrage from the black community were menthols to be banned:

"Roughly 70 percent of blacks smoke menthols, compared with just over 20 percent of whites and 26 percent of Hispanics, according to the latest government data."

70 percent. These days, black people are about the only people content with Obama. So if CNN thinks this banning is something that would actually happen, they should really re-examine that theory. And hello? Menthols are clearly flavoured, if Barry wanted them outlawed, they woulda been gone.

So, fear not, black people. Menthols are here to stay.