01/27/2014 11:02 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Practically Magic


Recently, I've been keeping a whitemaninmypocket. It's for protection of course, a charm for the rapidly gentrified, since there's no stopping whitefolks and their artisanal tastes, designer strollers or cultural appropriation. I rub it to secure my bearings in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and Flatbush and Crown Heights -- a compass among fusion eateries and wine shoppes. It's also a talisman against the general out-of-pocketness of white people since the election of President Barack Obama. Every quarter presents a revolving collection of white people dinning on their own foot -- seasoned to taste with privilege and followed with an apology course. I'm through with being outraged or even surprised. Steve Martin, I never knew ye, and I better not catch that Russian chick in the streets.

Growing up in north central Florida (also known as Crackerville, U.S.A.) I am familiar with white people and their culinary foot fetish, the apology portion, a recent PR development. Pero, anyways, home remedies, root working and collective incantations are similarly well known. Got something stuck in your foot? Place a piece of salt bacon and a penny in a sock and that'll draw it out. Cut your leg and you need the wound to knit quicker? Put a spider web on it. Husband can't get it up like he used to? Feed him watermelon, especially the rind. Stinky smell in fabric? Lay it on dewy grass. Gargle with hydrogen peroxide, wash your windows with vinegar and newspaper, keep clippings from a haircut, pray until something happens, undershirts from Thanksgiving to Easter and so on. Beyond the supposed effects of these rituals they reflect a comforting protocol. It's an opportunity to creatively explore cause and effect without harm. An acknowledgement of cultural civility allowing for retribution and regulation in equal measure.

Civility is a funny thing. It's a showcase of our hard won distance from pure instinct, but tricky when home training is selectively applied. Home training -- those habits ingrained in your own household ensuring that act right among other folks. It's the "please" and "thank you" when you are three, and the "pardon me," and calling when you have to cancel when you are a grownup. Or perhaps it's "Did you realize your taillight was out?" instead of leading with a cold "license and registration," (sans "please,"). Or maybe it's "Hello my name is," rather than the suspiciously intoned "Do you live here?" It's a sincere "May I help you?" at Barney's instead of the "May I help you?" served with side eye. Blackpeople have been conditioned to err on the side of civility, or at least adhere to protocol, as we expertly shift speech patterns and apparel to make sure the Dubya Pees are comfortable in our presence. Reciprocity is noticeably absent.

But I know you just want to hear about the whitemaninmypocket. To begin, an understanding of out-of-pocket is required. In pimptological terms, out-of-pocket refers to being out of control, blatantly disrespectful and deserving of a good ass whooping. A trifecta of sorts, all three elements must be present to warrant its usage. Blatant disrespect could just mean you're a teenager. Being out of control is simply a hallmark of toddlerhood, and ass whoopings are a staple of college sports. But put all three together and you've got Stop and Frisk. So the whitemaninmypocket has become a talisman, a reminder that I am actually bigger than the multitude of isms that he represents. The whitemaninmypocket is also a traveler, an observer, an art model, a philosopher and a shared joke. A damned funny one too. Ha-Ha and peculiar.


Juju is a funny thing. While I've never professed to being a member of the faithful, Bible belt upbringing notwithstanding, I do cobble together my own sense of the spiritual -- a touch of new age, a dash of that old time religion and heavy dose of luck. This whitemaninmypocket is a mirror to the feigned ignorance that mainstreamers rely upon when bullshit gets called. On them. I don't believe for one minute that Ani DeFranco didn't consider the firestorm that her plantation melodies might illicit. Double for an editrix perched on Negress. Not in the age of the internets. It's absurd to be that oblivious. Almost as absurd as keeping a whitemaninmypocket.