As we come to the close of another year, now is the time individuals reflect on the triumphs and tragedies of the year and how to make the next year their best year.
Millions of folks worldwide will figuratively or literally draft new year’s resolutions that they may or may not keep. I’d like to submit a resolution myself for the coming year as a call to Black people: stop with the “inviting white people to the cookout” nonsense.
In case someone is unaware, the proverbial cookout isn’t actually a literal cookout with barbecue, games of spades, dominoes, and Frankie Beverly playing in the background. It’s a governance formation, meaning it is a sacred Black space that is all things psychological, cultural, intellectual and emotional as it relates to the Black experience in the United States, whereby we relate to one another (as Black people) according to who we are to each other.
Who we are to each other is not who we are according to how non-Black people, particularly the white power structure, view us.
Black people are a communal and inclusive people. Intercontinental colonialism, imperialism and chattel enslavement are not in our DNA. The Black experience is one where we’ve sought only to be, and be by any means necessary. But we’ve always sought to be. But never at the expense of the being of others. So, when a white person “reveals” to us they’re in alignment with us in that goal, we welcome them into the fold and invite them to the “cookout.”
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We invite those white folks because we’re so excited to have our humanity, our experiences, our struggles and our Blackness, as it appears, acknowledged, affirmed, and even embraced by a member of the oppressor group.
I get it… but no, we must stop doing this.
It isn’t because we shouldn’t be inclusive. We should be. Personally, I believe it necessary to embrace the various members of our human family, white people included.
However, Black spaces are Black for a reason. Not because we desire to segregate—although forced to, but I digress. Black spaces are where we can relate to one another in ways only we can, come to know who we are, and affirm that identity through folkways, norms, and traditions.
But also, there’s the problem of what I call appropriational familiarity. It is when someone appears (or behaves) familiar with one’s cultural ways of knowing through the means of appropriating anything from language to fashion, to elicit trust as capital for their own benefit in some way.
In other words, it’s Blackface of a different kind.
An example is when politicians come around during election season. It’s Hillary Clinton pulling out a bottle of hot sauce from her purse on the Breakfast Club. It’s Joe Biden telling Black people that they “ain’t Black” if they don’t vote for him. It’s even Barack Obama singing “Amazing Grace” amongst Black Church folk while having previously denounced Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a member of the Black Church, for his liberation theology tone.
I personally witness it when I see a white teacher employ the AAVE in the classroom to curry favor or feign trust from Black students.
Those white people who know of our experience and stand in solidarity with Black people are appreciated. We include those who stand with us in our spaces without having to trivialize our spaces and those we included are deserving of such inclusion.
Handing out “fake passes” is disingenuous and detrimental. We don’t have to do that, nor should we. In 2023, let’s stand with those who stand with us as we protect our peace of our spaces.
Rann Miller is the director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. He is the author of the upcoming book, Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids, with an anticipated release date of February 2023. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .