The Ratchet Revolutionary

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.

  • Alissa

    Like! Like! Like! Lol

    I am soooo feeling this post. I cannot keep up with what’s not cool anymore cause it varies from person to person and seems to change every day. Like you, I’ve decided to just forget it! The examples you used are so true too. I love my Ringtones and I rock out to Pretty Girl Rock on the treadmill and Beyonce is perfect getting dressed music. And what’s the point of a self-facing camera on my iPhone if I can’t take a self-pic? Ugh there is a whole list! I say to heck with people who try to be some sort of authority on what is or isn’t “appropriate” for a 25-year-old black girl. The only people who have a say are the people who pay my bills and the last time I checked, I’m the only one doing that. This post was everything I needed this morning. Kudos!! (Wait, do people still say that? Haha)

  • Elle

    I love love LOVE this post…and as a lover of ratchetness, I approve ringtones and mirror pics 110%! I can’t be bothered with always trying to find out what the most politically correct Negro rules of living are. This sentence sums it up for me:
    Call me crazy, but I think I can be a balanced, productive contributor to society while holding on to my harmless ratchet habits”

  • @MrSpradley

    The duality of being a young, progressive, educated and socially conscious black person raised who happens to be raised on supply-side economics, inner-city drug culture and Hip-Hop is beautifully striking. This is why Jay-Z and Beyonce represent so much more than just the first couple of American entertainment. For us they’re like fully evolved prototype of what we all – in some ways – aspire to be. They’re corporate but gangsta, successful but humble (in their own way) and they’re materialistic but philanthropic. In our minds, they are who we’d be were we to achieve that same level of success.

    Well done.

  • ASmith

    I stay with a ringtone.  My phone also stays on silent a lot so I don’t always get to enjoy them, but I stay having one.  I even have ringback tones (another  offense) but I have the good sense to assign them to people who know me.

    It’s hard out here for us young black folks.  But I embrace my rachet side because it ain’t ratchet.  It’s real.  C’mon now, we can’t force ourselves to be this ridiculously perfect person in front of the white people AND our homies.  We gotta relax some time!

    I’ve also found that half the people who make these rules are losing themselves, anyway.

  • La

    I am ratchet as hell on Twitter. And sometimes on my blog. Occasionally on fbook. And I can’t even lie, sometimes I check myself like, is this too much? Am I acting too much like I don’t got a daddy and a degree at home? Some things make the cut, some don’t. But I would be lying if I said I never second guessed myself about whether or not there was too much cursing or twerking or odes to UGK in my content. Then one day, about 10 minutes after I scrapped a tweet about sexy times to Jeezy’s “Tear it Up”, a friend called to get my input on his dissertation about James Baldwin because he knows how I stan for him and I realized; all the people that matter realize I have sense. Everyone else is background noise.

    Nobody can bear to shoulder the Talented Tenth mantle all the time. And that’s what Too $hort is for. lol

  • Anonymous

    The most entertaining yet truthful thing I’ve read all day! I can soooo relate to #2. I also can relate to how you feel when you begin to question whether you should, or should not take part in what the upper ‘echelon negroes’ deem ratchet or inappropriate. I battled with the ringtone dilemma as well. At one point in time I had Drake’s You Can Thank Me Now as my ringtone. I soon after turned 30. So I then changed it a factory/house phone ringtone. But thank goodness for my teenage girls who promptly informed me that it was for “old people”, and that it sounded horrid anyway. Needless to say I still effs with the R&B Hip Hop ring tones. LOL Great Post!!

  • Nikki Bee

    This is dead on. The older I get, the more I realize that I only have to do ME, and not give any excuses/reasons why. If you dont like what EYE do, turn around and walk thee away from my space. I just don’t have the time nor the engergy anymore. Do what makes you happy and don’t ever apologize for it. Toure’s new book explains this very well.

  • shardonay frierson

    ive been freed…..god bless u sbg

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