This Black chick pissed me off a couple of days ago.
I had just boarded the [C] at 168th and pulled out Paul Beatty‘s The Sellout – which was absolutely incendiary; his best that I’ve read and quite possibly one of the 20 best books I’ve ever read – and she was on the train with some white dude who may have been a boyfriend, may have been a coworker, but after very obviously looking both me and my book over, she said to the white boy, “Everybody’s reading that.”
Now, I know I’m a sensitive snowflake, but here’s why that really got to me: first, she wasn’t reading it, second, neither was the white boy, third, nobody else on the train, as far as I could tell, was reading it.
So clearly, “everybody” was not reading it.
And, again, forgive my sensitivity, but I couldn’t help but see her decision to comment on my actions as an effort to somehow belittle me.
Like a Black dude with a white girlfriend that’s never content unless he’s always bashing Black women, I couldn’t help but wonder why the Black chick hadn’t either ignored me altogether or even pointed out that the book was something that she herself was interested in reading.
But no, she had to placate and reassure the white boy that a Black man publicly reading was not, in fact, part of a larger plot and evidence that the niggers were indeed gearing up to take over, but that I was simply doing something because “everybody” was.
But why do so few Black people read?
Did we laugh with Chris Rock when he joked that “books are like kryptonite to a nigga” because it was absurd or because it was true?
Well, in my opinion, the most treacherous byproduct of the myth of Black intellectual inferiority is that it leaves Black people absolutely no room to be either ignorant or confused.
While white people can revel and marvel at all they don’t know – because they’re supposed to know everything – a Black man caught unaware or uninformed has only one emotional response available; fury.
That’s how you know that great Jay Z lyric in his last official shot at Nas during their infamous beef was directed at white people.
When Hov spit “Cause you don’t understand him it don’t mean that he’s bright/just mean’s you don’t understand all the bullshit that he writes,” he could have only been addressing Hip Hop’s white fan base.
Black people don’t have the luxury of being intrigued by that which we don’t understand.
It’s only more evidence of our affliction.
That’s why Black people, especially Black men don’t read.
It’s why we overwhelmingly like to appear as ciphers when you see us on buses and trains, or just standing around.
Reading, and especially reading publicly, would be confirmation of the fact that we’re ignorant about something, in this case, the contents of the books that we’re holding.
However, if you see me and I’m not holding a book, you don’t know what I know.
It’s very possible I’ve read that book you’re reading.
It’s very possible I’ve read everything.
And it’s just as possible and sadly, even more likely, that I haven’t read anything at all.