Three Reasons Why Folks Tried to Take Away My Black Card and One Reason They’ll Never Get It

January 13, 2024
5 mins read

Three Reasons Why
Folks Tried to Take Away My Black Card and One Reason They’ll Never Get It

By Lawrence Ware | @Law_Writes |With
thanks to NewBlackMan (in Exile)

April 17, 2017.

It’s usually threatened whenever there
is a cultural milestone that you’ve failed to accomplish. Perhaps you’ve never
seen the original Roots or have not fully memorized the entire
catalog of Luther Vandross. When those around you discover this lapse in your
black cultural conditioning, the threat is issued: “We’re going to revoke your
black card.” That is, your inclusion in the collective black community is going
to be rescinded.

Mine has
been threatened for a number of reasons: I haven’t seen every episode of Good
Times; I didn’t like hot sauce until I was in my mid-30s; I think John
Singleton’s Baby Boy is an earnest yet overrated film—and
those are the minor offenses. There are three main reasons why my black card
has almost been revoked, and one reason it’ll never be taken away.

I’m not a
fan of Anita Baker’s music.

I see that
she is talented. I recognize and respect her unique voice. Her music just comes
off as so damn … old. The lush instrumentals and, in my eyes, excessive
vocalizations rub me the wrong way. I don’t begrudge anyone who is a fan; it’s
just not for me.

listening to Anita Baker, I feel as if I should be wearing a leather baseball
hat while rocking a velour sweatsuit and Stacy Adams shoes. I also feel the
need to say things like, “What y’all young bucks know about this?” and comment
on how a person wearing a finely tailored suit with matching shoes is “suited
and booted” while I make my way to the driveway to play basketball in the
aforementioned dress shoes. Y’all can have Baker. I validate her as a national
treasure; I just don’t want to listen to her music.

Chicken is overrated.

I didn’t
say “bad”—I said “overrated.” Look, if I want some fried chicken, more often
than not I’m going to visit a local black church and buy one of their
fried-chicken dinners. They sell them every other week, and it’ll probably come
with green beans, mashed potatoes and a roll. If that fails, I’ll go to
Popeyes. Not because it’s great—just because it’s there.

My theory
about why Popeyes is so popular is simple: Black folks are able to get the
flavor of hot sauce on decently seasoned chicken without actually having to put
hot sauce on the chicken. Now, to be sure, there are many who still put hot
sauce on Popeyes spicy chicken, but I hold to my hypothesis.

I hate Tyler
Perry’s films.

is defined as watching something for the sake of the enjoyment one derives from
mocking or criticizing it. I’ve seen every single Tyler Perry movie (save
for Madea’s Christmas—I just couldn’t bring myself to sit through
that one), and I’ve hated every one except Daddy’s Little Girls—and
that was only because of the all-consuming charisma of Idris Elba.

films are not just bad; they are case studies in horrific filmmaking. He uses
good actors, but he fails them with poor editing, bad scripts and
one-dimensional characters. He is an auteur in the worst-possible way: His
films are almost uniformly bad. His moralizing is also off-putting. One need
only watch Temptation to see how this impulse hurts his

While my
articulation of the above has often put my black card in danger, it has never
successfully been taken away, for one simple reason:

Black people
are not monolithic.

to white supremacist narratives about what it means to be black, we, as a people,
do not all like the same things. There are black comic book readers, like Deborah Whaley, who were once on the margins of black culture but are
now in the mainstream. There is the Afropunk band Rough Francis,
who took up the mantle of the underappreciated Detroit black proto-punk band
Death. There is even the brilliant Chance the
Rapper, who brings his nerdy, gospel-influenced
sensibilities to bear upon postmodern hip-hop.

is no one thing. We are a complex, beautiful people. The next time someone
tries to take away your black card, ask that person if he or she has read
Frantz Fanon or W.E.B. Du Bois or Ralph Ellison or Richard Wright or Kiese
Laymon, or if he or she has seen Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep or
Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust. You’ll discover that we all
have cultural blind spots—or things about which we disagree. We should
celebrate our variations instead of seeking uniformity … unless you don’t like
Prince. Then we’ve got problems.

A version of
this article originally appeared on The Root.

Lawrence Ware
is a philosopher of race at his day job and writes if the kids go to bed on
time. He is a contributing editor of NewBlackMan (in Exile) and a
frequent contributor to The Root and VSB. He has been featured in
the New York Times and you can sometimes find him discussing race and politics
on HuffPost Live and Public Radio International. He is the kind of Steelers fan
that enjoys watching the Cowboys lose.

Three Reasons Why Folks Tried to Take Away My Black Card and One Reason They’ll Never Get It

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