To be young, gifted, and Black.
Lord knows I love the velvety goodness that is the voice of the late great Donny Hathaway. What I don’t love is the pressure that comes with being “young, gifted, and Black.” I touched on this last year when I happily revoked my Black Card. I like to think that I’ve lifted the burden of having to represent the race in every aspect of my life, but it’s hard not to cringe when I see my peers refer to behaviors and habits that I routinely partake in as being undignified or “ratchet” as the cool kids call it.
You know the standards: “If you still [name behavior here], #killyoself,” or “Only #basic hoes like [name behavior here].” Lately, I find myself hesitating to do things I find fun and harmless because the standards of the self-proclaimed Talented Tenth are dancing around in my head. Should I do this? Should I feel ashamed for liking this? Nah. People can’t know I do this.
I can’t be about the “Eff what folks think and do what makes you happy” life if I’m always looking over my shoulder for the Upper Echelon Negro Society to throw me out of their ranks. So today, I declare no more. I shall not only own my allegedly ratchet behaviors, but partake in them with the utmost pride. I shall fight the power and say “Eff yo boxes and labels, b.” This is my Ratchet Revolution. Here are a few of my favorite things that Proper Negroes should not do or like.
1. Ring Tones – According to the Upper Echelon Negroes, gainfully degreed and employed adults should not still have ringtones on their cellular devices. They are immature, unprofessional, and uncool. After a an incident that erased my phone’s SD card, I had started using factory ringers, thinking “I’m probably too old to still have a ringtone anyway.” You know what? Fuck that. If hearing Babyface sing “Her eyes/her smile/her skin/her smell/her hair…” whenever my phone rings makes me happy, that’s what I’m gonna do.
2. Use Beyonce* songs for temporary esteem boosts – Yeah, I said it. There are few things more empowering than standing in the mirror, singing “I got every reason to feel like I’m that bitch,” and believing it with every fiber of your being. In fact, add all R&B girl power anthems to this list, because I still enthusiastically sing Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock” whenever it comes on the radio.
3. What’s My Favorite Word? – It’s no secret that I love Jay-Z’s “That’s My Bitch” dedication to Beyonce, or that my ex would lovingly sing to me “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, that’s my biiiiitch.” I know Rosa, Coretta, Betty, Michelle, and Claire wouldn’t go for that kind of thing, but you know? I ain’t them. When I need to motivate myself to go out into the world and kick ass, my internal dialogue consists of phrases like “bad bitch,” “queen bitch,” “tough bitch,” or “bitch, you got this.” And then I get to it.
4. Mirror pics – Because sometimes I want to show you my outfit and the most convenient way to do so is to snap a flick in the bathroom mirror.
5. Keeping the swagger – I’m sorry that rappers and 90s babies have abused the word “swagger,” and it’s bastard child “swag,” to the point that it hurts folks’ ears. However, swagger was in the dictionary long before Jay introduced it to the hip-hop lexicon back in 2001. Real talk, I’m sick of wasting time and energy searching for synonyms when swagger nails the tone and context of what I’m trying to depict. As long as Merriam-Webster still rides with it, so do I. Just close your ears/eyes when I say it.
If any of the above listed behaviors offend your sensibilities, the door is open for you to unfriend me. I’m not here to tarnish anyone’s shining reputation as a credit to the race. I’m just trying to live this life in a happy, entertaining, honest way. Call me crazy, but I think I can be a balanced, productive contributor to society while holding on to my harmless ratchet habits. You have the right to disagree with me. And I have the right not to listen to you. Gotta love this thing called Free Will.
[*] – Beyonce is the Patron Saint of the Balanced Ratchet. The woman pals around with the likes of Michelle Obama, is a wife/mother-to-be, has an incredible work ethic, and carries herself with class. But she also gets her twerk on, allows her husband to lovingly refer to her as his “bitch,” and proudly oozes sex goddess all over her music and on stage. I <3 Bey.