The Urban Black Man at a White Man’s Party
By: MATT JOHNSON
As a black male coming to Penn State from the “hood”, I rarely interacted with white people and I certainly never attended their parties. In fact, most white people just pass me right by without making any eye contact or simply cross the street when they see me. Because of this harsh reality, I couldn’t even fathom being admitted into a white party with my complexion and build.
Well, at this point in my Penn State career, I have finessed my way into quite a few white parties here and this is how it usually tends to go for me with some occasional variation:
I walk in with only about one or two other black friends (any more black people and you begin to upset the balance) and immediately we get a couple of dead stares. I proceed to Harlem shake off the stares and then I ask myself “The f*ck kind of music they playing?” I try to force my body to flow to the strange tunes and ultimately I realize that it just isn’t going to happen without a drink. So my friends and I maneuver through the crowd in search of cups and whatever alcohol is available (it’s always Vlad. Always).
As soon as we find the Vlad and get a few shots in us, we head to the dance area. On the way, we pass a few other brothers chilling in the cut who also look uncomfortable and out of place. I shoot them a quick nod of solidarity (as only another black man can) just to let them know that I understand their pain. For those who are unfamiliar with the significance of what has been deemed the “negro nod”, please see the following video:
You understand the nod now? Good. Aight, so once I make sure my brothers know they aren’t alone, we keep it pushing to the dance floor. Now, this is about the time when shit starts to get weird (as if it wasn’t already).
*Folks, understand that the following is actually a true story
So as we make our way to the party room, my friends and I are accosted by three white males. They’re all clearly sauced and one of them yells at ear-drum shattering levels, “BROOOOOO, YOU GUYS PENN STATE FOOTBALL!?” Before I or anybody that I was with could even open our mouths to reply, his other friend responds to him by saying “DUDE. OF COURSE THEY’RE PENN STATE FOOTBALL, DO YOU F*CKING SEE THESE GUYS!?” He then turned to me, grasped both of my shoulders just like a weirdo and said almost in a whisper, “Bro…you’re Penn State Football. You’re like family.”
After they finished profiling us, I looked at my bros and I’m 100% sure that in that moment, we all made mental contact. I later confirmed that the thought running through all of our minds was “Man, F*CK these ignorant muthaf*ckas”, but before any of us could vocalize this anger, they began to treat us like kings. Apparently, the guys who made the comments towards us owned the house. They brought us an entire handle of Vlad, a full orange juice container as a chaser, and they even brought us their women as tribute (who ignored us earlier before they thought we were athletes).
My entire attitude had changed towards those ignorant kids that had disrespected us not too long ago. For the rest of that night, they were my wealthy white best friends and I planned on capitalizing on every damn second that I spent with them. We all took shots together until I forgot where I lived. It was glorious! After that point, the rest of the night is a blur, but I do remember recalling the words of comedian Dave Chappelle, “Sometimes racism works out in black people’s favor. It doesn’t happen often. It happens rarely, but when it happens… IT IS F*CKING SWEET.” Indeed it was sweet Dave, indeed it was.
The next morning though, I woke up conflicted as HELL (also hungover as F*CK) and I felt like I needed to ask myself some tough questions:
Would they have treated us like kings, if they didn’t think I played football?
Why do white people embrace black men only when they provide them with entertainment, but look right through us any other time?
Did I help to encourage their ignorance by not correcting their mistake?
Did someone offer me coke last night? Wtf
These and more are all questions that I am still struggling to discover the answers to…
Look, the bottom line is that the urban black male experience at white parties may differ from person to person, but from the information I’ve gathered it generally seems to follow 2 fairly distinct patterns. The first is that if you don’t know anyone there, white people will look right through you and pretend you don’t exist except for maybe a few really drunk people that mustered up enough courage to approach you with some borderline incomprehensible conversation (and if you see them on campus, they won’t speak). The second is that the drunk people there will make some kind of racist assumption that you’re an athlete and they will treat you similarly to how we were treated that night.
The first pattern sucks, if I’m being honest with you. So if you choose to let them think you’re an athlete, shit, I can’t even be mad at you fam. Play on playa.