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What's Matter with Self?

By Kathy Y. Wilson · September 3rd, 2003 · Your Negro Tour Guide
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White T-shirted niggas look like pigeons. They flock and clock on corners and in doorways shittin' death onto white and black likewise niggas. Then these peddlers swagger past one another, Biggie-sized uniforms won/one with the win of sin. They all look alike/like we do to whites.

They look away from palms pressing cash only long enough to check the score.

White T-shirted niggas are so bad, so stealth and so cold-blooded they serve in God's broad daylight. What for?

For death, for cash, for rims, for babies, for they mammas, for life. Maybe because it's all they know. But they know better -- they just can't do better.

They've got corner offices cornered. Their balls are briefcases; beneath is where they stash stashes. They're always bringing work home. Cell phones chirp orders: Buy! Buy! Buy!

They're up in arms like heroin. It's scary when they drop guns in garbage cans, scared to carry the weight whenever cops chase quotas.

I'm unarmed. Got no statistics and no police reports. No official government statements, poll results or disingenuous political concerns. I don't even have interviews.

I just see white T-shirts. So many white T-shirts, it's like clotheslines stretching above ghetto sidewalks.

Like you, I'm afraid to approach and talk to any of the brothas within the swarms of posturing and jostling crack and cocaine dealers. Besides, they ain't feelin' me.

I might as well be five-o. Anyway, I got my job and they've got theirs.

We're both seers.

I see cause and effect; they see supply and the man.

Still this feels like betrayal. Until now they've counted on us to always consider them invisible.

I hate to disappoint. Something says: Speak.

The threat of racial excommunication -- of wearing The Scarlet Sell-Out -- will be worth it in the end, because maybe someone will do something. Meanwhile, I'll write more sentences than they'll serve, and up above my head "I'm a motherfuckin' P.I.M.P." repeats, depletes, defeats.

It's beats, rhymes and life. And I can spot 'em a black away.

I know them by their white T-shirts -- those awnings hewn from Hanes declaring them to be merchants selling crack and powder cocaine. I know them to be black, mostly boys and men.

Sprinkled among them are young black girls donned with the androgyny of white T-shirts, jeans and boots. Trying to fit in, the girls nudge at the periphery of street-level drug trade, swapping breasts and vaginas for slang and rocks. Either that or they're customers working sex for leftover crumbs and dust.

They exhale blowjobs. They inhale suicide.

White T-shirts got little use for a bitch. They reek. They weak.

I know 'em, but I don't want to get to know them. Our long-distance relationship is better. It's more comfortable to check each other across the pain of half-closed car windows.

If we talk, we'll have to break it down about disappointment and stereotypes, about joblessness, illiteracy, AIDS and homophobia. Our exchange will be all about absentee mothers and fathers and broke-down grandmothers, child support payments, subsidized housing, Kobe Bryant, bitches, hoes and being locked up. We'll have to go there.

Really I am already there, and every direction I turn there's nothing but white T-shirts. Thirteen- and 14-year-old black boys tagging behind twentysomething black men, and they're all wearing these shirts, sometimes in layers of three at once.

I recognize them, yet they're anonymous. Maybe it's genius. Maybe the more alike they look, the harder it is for cops and robbers and victims to call them by name.

They are proud. Maybe it's professionalism. Maybe the whiter the shirt, the purer it is to smoke and snort and cook to get all fucked up.

There's an infestation of dealers and addicts. Vermin. Pure roach.

All around I see them clamoring. If I know what they're doing, why don't the cops?

Why isn't the racist anti-loitering ordinance effective? Why are its targets left congregating? What good's an unenforced statute?

At what point are we terrorized to submission. Why does the monotony of a white T-shirt make the rest of us appear abnormal?

I'd ask 'em, but I feel more comfortable just keeping my eye on them.

Thank God they're wearing white T-shirts. It makes them easier to see.



Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.
 
 
 
 

 

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