And Then the White Girl Said…
We’re going to address some stereotypes in this one. I feel it’s important to just put that out there, because our story actually takes place in, of all places, the world famous chicken joint in Seattle, Ezell’s Chicken.
World famous? you say? Yes. Oprah used to have it flown across the country. The chicken is so good it’s evil. The bread rolls- if you’ve ever had one, you’re groaning and rubbing your tummy as you read this. If you haven’t been to Ezell’s in a while, you should know- they have peach cobbler now. Pure sin.
There is no eating at Ezell’s; just get your food and go. Not a bad thing, especially on hot days. When it’s hot outside, it’s hotter in Ezell’s, so any time you’re in there on a hot day, you can’t wait to get the hell out.
Earlier this week, this was my predicament- hungry as hell, waiting for food, sweating out of my own skin, when in walks 3 white girls. We’d pulled up at the same time, but they took longer getting out of the car.
Ranging from 17-19, I’d seen the type before. Don’t get me wrong, everyone eats at Ezell’s. That’s one of the fascinating aspects of the experience; Black, White, Asian, Latino, their fried chicken is universal, hehehe. So it’s no shock that White people are there.
From the second they hit the door, the scene turned into a passive aggressive exercise in race and privilege.
The girls came in with the “yeah I’m white and I’m in Ezell’s” attitude. The posture, the facial expressions, the measure of eye contact was all an attempt at intimidation. Of course there was a ring leader; the smallest of the three, in a bikini top, with a white tank and short-shorts that were too short and wayyyyy too tight. The other two girls were considerably larger and less comfortable in their unfortunately revealing clothes.
Also in the joint, an elder sista of at least 50, who was waiting for her order to be filled, and another sista of about 25 or so, also waiting for her food.
Infraction number one; the leader of the White girls, bumped past me in line. Now, I’m not one to look for confrontation, but I’m not afraid of it when it’s necessary. Fighting over a spot in line at the chicken joint- not so necessary. Obviously the White girl was in need of some external power, and boy was she feeling it. Her crew of 2 shuffled on behind her, unsure if they should apologize or adopt their leader’s “I have just as much right as you- if not more- to be here” attitude.
Time ticked on and the girls talked amongst themselves; It sounded a lot like “wawah wawah wawah wawah,” until the ring leader uttered the words “nigga please”, to one of her friends.
Immediately the head of the elder sista snapped up, as if she’d been slapped, and she gasped, as elder sistas do, and shook her head looking genuinely disturbed and offended. The other sista put her hand on her hip and used her eyes to bore a hole right into the back of the White girl’s head.
For her part, little miss ring leader knew she’d caused a spark, and set about doing her best to start a fire. Every other word out of her mouth was “nigga” and everyone could hear her; the sista behind the counter, the Latino brother on the fryer… as the observers, we shared the experience from different frames of reference and yet, we were all equally annoyed.
I ordered my food and started the waiting game as the White girls continued to throw their power about, and all the while the word “nigga” assaulted our ears. All parties managed to keep their cool. Until…
“My nigga know who in charge…”
Some people might hear “my man know who in charge”, when she said that. Others might hear “my nigger slave know who in charge” in the same words. I know, it seems a stretch, but for some Black people, and some Black women in particular, it’s challenging enough to see brothers with White women. But to have a white woman (woman is a stretch, she was a little grown girl) brag about being “in charge” of a Black man, a “nigga” as it were- too much for some to stomach.
It’s as if she uttered the words through a mega phone that doubled as a flame thrower. The inferno enveloped the entire building in dramatic, slow motion effect.
After the .5 second blackout I said “Oh hell no!” fully prepared for, in the least, a verbal battle with the leader of the pack.
The sista who’d been eying the threesome wanted to fight, and a barrage of angry words flew out of her mouth: “ain’t this about a bitch?! You think I won’t fuck you up?! You must be out of your muthafuckin’ mind if you think you gon’ just stand up in here talk like that you fuckin’ skank!”
That set the tone. The fatty-followers were terrified, I mean, absolutely terrified. The ring leader was in shock- I think she thought that since she’d already said the word 35 times she wasn’t going to get challenge. Now her life was being threatened by someone who looked ready, willing and able to fuck her up, catch a charge, do her time and keep it moving. The leader of the White girls seemed torn, her arrogance was telling her to stand her ground, while her gift of fear was telling her to back it out of there.
“If you say that word one more time,” I said, “I promise you, you’re ’bout to get your ass handed to you. Shut your mouth and wait for your food outside (that was really all I could come up with).”
45 seconds after she’d uttered those 6 words, the White girl found herself outside huddled with her crew and licking her wounds while also trying to appear as if nothing was wrong and she’d chosen to stay outside.
Mercifully, my order was called before theirs; I got my food and left.
In case it’s not obvious by my take on the events, I’m not a fan of the word “nigga”. Now, I know that some Black people believe that the word “nigga” is a reclamation of the word “nigger”. I hear people say all the time “we took a negative word and made it our own, made it positive.”
This isn’t a philosophy I agree with or think is rational, or even possible for that matter. The word “nigga” is not a positive word, it has no positive connotation to it, isn’t linked to anything positive in our history or in our culture. I personally believe that it is hurtful to us as a people. I can’t stand to hear Black people call each other niggas. I can’t stand to hear White people call each other, or us, niggas. I see parents say it to their kids, and kids to their parents. None of these people are putting the word- or the mentality into historic terms, which saddens me. For those who do not know their history are doomed to…
What do you think?