Black Folks Ain’t Never Satisfied
Common is one of my favorite rappers, but he isn’t exactly known for punchlines and bars that become everyday quotations. However, he gave us a line on “The Sixth Sense” that is damn near tattoo-worthy:
If I don’t like it, I don’t like/that don’t mean that I’m hating
Amen and ase.
Not everyone subscribes to the Chicago emcee’s philosophy. Thus, the preponderance of comments along the lines of “Black people don’t like anything! We always gotta complain about something!” in response to any of criticism of anything presented to or by us.
I sincerely believe that if Sarah Palin drove up and down 125th Street handing out watermelon and fried chicken, the offended parties would be accused of hating: “Y’all need to quit because you know you like Crown Fried and somebody was trying to do something nice for you!”
If a “Black” film was released by a famous White director and featured nothing but 175 minutes of an esteemed Black actor saying “Nigga. Niiiiiiigggggga! Nigguh! Nigga!,” anyone who penned a less than 3.5 star review would be a hating-ass hater who would have loved the same movie had Spike Lee or Tyler Perry made it.
A book review that says anything less flattering than “At least she tried to write a book, that’s a lot of work, so good for her. Support it” is just evil, Black-specific crabs-in-a-barrel thinking that keeps us from growing as a people.
If President Obama shut the doors of every HBCU in the country, some Colored person would loudly challenge any protest and say that we need to be glad that we have a Black president in the first place and we ain’t never gonna have another one if we don’t show some gratitude.
There is one noteworthy exception: Black-owned businesses. Somehow, even the same folks who don’t want you to say nothing bad about any book, movie or notable have room in their hearts to find fault in them. Your food came out 3 minutes late at Big Mama’s House of Grits on a busy Sunday? That’s because BLACK BUSINESSES ARE THE WORST. Always and forever.
In all seriousness, while “hating” (finding fault when there is none, being dismissive and biting for no other reason than being nasty) is a real and ugly thing, I don’t know why so many of our cousins can’t engage or understand the value in legitimate criticism, or that it’s quite all right for folks not to like, celebrate or respect everything.
I’m tempted to call it “chitlin syndrome.” When one is used to being fed scraps and given meager crumbs, they might become appreciative of things that other folks would dismiss as trash. Such as, well, chitlins. We don’t get that many movies! You gon’ keep complaining this one and they ain’t never gonna give us no mo’.
I also think that charges of hating are sometimes easier to lob than, say, a well-reasoned defense against whatever criticism of said movie, songstress, leader, etc. If you don’t know how to engage or understand what the critic has said, you can just brush them off with “Why you mad?” and hope that they go away.
There’s also those misguided attempts at Black unity and solidarity. I’m all about ‘the people united will never be divided,’ but at the point where it requires me to support Chief Keef’s recording career because he is a Black and I am a Black and, thus, I should be compelled to do so? Stop. This. Train.
Honestly, I can’t explain why “Black folks are never happy” is such a thing. However, I can quizzically tilt my head and wonder how is it that these people are unaware of the fact that people of all ethnic backgrounds are critical and thoughtful. Even—-if not especially—- White folks! That’s who wrote the model for living, amirite? Just kidding, but if you’ve never stepped outside Negronia and read newspapers, books and blogs written by White writers, well, you are in for a big surprise: they aren’t much better at being satisfied by every single thing ever than we are.
Don’t folks remember the show “Siskel and Ebert” (later “Ebert and Roper”), where two film critics broke down Hollywood’s latest releases to the white meat? Would a Black version of this show feature 100% “two thumbs up, way up” ratings because “Movies are entertainment and I don’t expect them to be accurate and I don’t care if people walk out the movie believing that they were accurate and, thus, confused about important moments in history” (Django) or “At least he is giving Black people a job” (any Black director ever) or “It’s not that bad! He’s getting better. And Cicely Tyson was in it!” (He Who Shall Not Be Named)?
Thinking is not a bad thing. Criticism is not a bad thing. You aren’t required to like everything. Nor is anyone else. If you think “My Cousin an Nem” is a cinematic tour de force, good for you. However, there is no law requiring all Black people to feel the same about Miguel Nunez’s gripping performance as a former pimp-turned-payday loan store manager, so please don’t call us haters when we don’t like it.
Actually, call me Silky Johnson.