For a long time, during my adolescence through my teenage years, I thought I was a hood guy. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t live in an affluent neighborhood, my family didn’t have much money and there were certainly hood guys in close proximity – all that is true – but if I’m being honest it could’ve been much worse. Still, a wrong turn here or there and my life could’ve turned out much differently. I admired hood guys – their rebelliousness and ability to flourish in the margins was intoxicating to a young impressionable introvert. The mystique of that nebulous “code” spoke to me, as if there was an inherent strength in such a rigid set of principles. I envisioned it providing an artificial confidence where there was none and a sense of belonging to a self-diagnosed ‘outsider.’
“The code,” as I perceived it, was mostly defined by situational micro-judgments by the hoodest hood guy present at the time – whatever he deemed a code infraction was so. Because of this murky foundation ‘the code’ was difficult to accurately define but If I had to distill it down to its core elements, I’d say they were: 1. Don’t snitch, 2. Don’t be gay, and 3. Don’t act like a bitch.
“Don’t snitch” is a fairly well-known credo at this point and “don’t be gay” is a can of worms that I’ll save for another writing session. “Don’t act like a bitch,” of course, means do not engage in ho shit, bitchassness, punkassness, hoassness, markassness, duckassness (etc.), sucka-shit, trickness, soft-type shit or any such bitch-made activities. But try not to think of it so singularly. It’s really a catch-all rule that means you should not do anything that could be considered odd or “soft” by the hoodest of hoodsmen – don’t be an individual. That concept leads me to the heart of my thesis today.
…See, in my quest to conform to the code, I was sacrificing my individuality. I’d suppress the urge to do, consume, even think things I might enjoy (or agree with) for the sake of being included – I didn’t want to stray too far from those whom I looked up to. And, for whatever reason, I perceived “white people stuff” among the most audacious and reprehensible of code infractions.
Everyone has his/her own perceptions of which things are owned by which races, so I’m not proclaiming my list to be any better curated than the next guy’s, but here is a (non-exhaustive) list of several things that I would’ve considered to be white people stuff:
- Mushroom toast
- Flip flops
Some of those things I still do not get down with but I’m happy to say, with confidence, that it is not because of their inherent Caucasianality. Some of my readers may recall a Facebook status I’ve since come to live my life by; it went something like this:
“I’m giving up guilty pleasures and, by that, I mean I’m giving up the guilt part. Then, it’s just pleasure.”
Keep in mind that my aim isn’t to give creepsters and seedy-types free-reign to make people uncomfortable, but if what you’re doing makes you happy and doesn’t hurt others, do that shit – enjoy it and think nothing about conforming to someone else’s standard. The moment I began unapologetically enjoying the things I’m naturally drawn to or have acquired the taste for, is the moment I allowed folks to start appreciating me for who I am – or judging me for it; either way it’s dope because I get to be my genuine self.
Ok, I realize that I said something there and just moved on from it like it was nothing, and I can hear your protests. I can feel some of you having your hands up, saying “Hey, ‘scuse me. ‘Scuse me, sir! What in the entire fuck is ‘mushroom toast’?”
Look, I try my best not to classify things in a way that might dissuade someone from trying them, and calling things “white people stuff” has the potential to do just that. How-ev-er “mushroom toast?” “Mushroom toast” tho? It sounds like it was invented by a white man named Dwight Whitman, during a snow storm on Hugh Grant’s birthday. Doesn’t it!? Anyways, mushroom toast is that fire. Try it – don’t try it – whatever. That’s your journey. But, for me… give me a slab of sourdough with buttery/garlicky mushrooms all over that shit and a pint of porter and we can be friends.
I had a notion to just leave that thought as-is because, honestly, the phrase “furthermore pastrami” is self-sufficient. But I’ll say this: I think it may have had something to do with George Costanza loving pastrami so much, that caused me to avoid it. “Too white of a lunchmeat for my liking” I thought. Maaaaaan listen… Do you like flavor? Taste? Succulence? Pastrami, bro.
Lastly, flip flops. To this day I can’t believe that I was converted to a flip flop wearer, considering the vitriol with which I’d condemned them in the past. To me, walking around with your toes all out seemed like unabashed and unmistakable hoassness – definitely against the code. However, when I moved to Atlanta, I was forced to reconsider the tools I was using to prevent sweat and body odor and my friend, the benevolent Joe Hoot, said “make some organization to your shoe situation, dude” – or something like that, and gave me a pair of floppies for the free. I was astounded by the difference they made – who knew I was trapping all of that heat in my shoes? Instantly, I improved my coolness statistics (or “Billy Ds”) by decreasing my negative ratings: -25 foot smell rating, -4.5 swass rating, -13.75 overall sweat profusity (OSP). That degree of improvement in core Billy D measures are unheard of, especially the OSP decrease.
My point is that you need to allow yourself (and others) to make your own decisions on what you like. I know all too well how conforming to the norm can cause one to miss out on some great things and I believe it’s especially prevalent in urban youth culture. There can be so much pressure to fit in that you start to feel like you have to listen to one genre of music or play a certain sport, even focus on a particular set of career paths. It’s a dangerous way of thinking and can be a detriment to the psyches of our youth and to communities as a whole, who often benefit from a diversity of interests and pursuits. For me, it took a joke which led to an epiphany to reach the final paces on a long road toward self-acceptance, but it’s something I believe we can foster as a culture. It’s okay to be the weird kid or the weird adult – to be different. And white people stuff is really just stuff… Perhaps with the exception of mushroom toast.