Happy Black History Month, everyone! I hope your edges are extra laid and your chicken extra crispy.
More often than not, I find that Black History Month tends to turn into “Explain standard historical references to white people who just never bothered to do their Googles.” Don’t get me wrong; I’m learning things about black history regularly—particularly black American history, since that’s not information I was readily exposed to at home—but after the 20th year in a row of “Didn’t you know that Bayard Rustin was an important activist and gay?” I think it’s high time to shake things up. Let’s talk about some pivotal contextual moments that we all know and love—that real s—t, s—t that makes you feel s—t—but have probably let collect a little dust in the attic.
Without further ado, I present … underrated moments in black history.
My first submission to this series is a scene from the seminal, “Oh no, that n—ga did not” classic, Waiting to Exhale. Namely, the moment when Bernadine Harris—played by Angela “My triceps will always be fleeker than yours, so stop trying” Bassett—slaps the ever-loving mayonnaise-ridden existence out of that white woman.
It’s a five-second scene in a movie that runs more than two hours, but it manages to pack in so much power. I mean that literally as well; can you imagine getting a hot one to the face from Angela Bassett? That woman eats pushups for breakfast. The left side of ole’ Becky’s face must’ve been redder than a Fuji apple with the force of that backhand.
But beyond the physical impact, you can run through a whole gamut of reactions through the lens of that incident.
First, you feel bewilderment: “Did she just slap that white woman?? She really slapped that white woman! She slapped that white woman and kept on moving!”
After your brain processes the magnitude of what just happened, empathy follows: “White women always just butting in when no one asked them to, huh. That trifling woman knew she was doing the most but still had to be a nosy-ass Nancy. Well, girl, that’s what ya get. You start meddling outside your lane, you might just get slapped into the next time zone. Mmhm.”
Finally comes the envy: “Mannnnn, Carol gets on my nerves every damn DAY at the office. What I wouldn’t GIVE to introduce her to my black-hand side one time. Just once!”
Next thing you know, you’re playing a five-second clip over and over and clapping with glee at Bernadine Harris’ f—ks to give being more absent than contraceptives at Peter Gunz’s house.
This scene is truly a gem, and I call on it to lift me up and when times are hard and white women are trying it. Whether it be the one who was “told by Apple Care,” or the one who claims that Oscars are racist against whites, or any of the so-called feminists who pretend that black women don’t exist, I can live vicariously through Bernadine’s rage. Through Bernie, I can respond to the umpteenth passive-aggressive email without losing my marbles. That slap is the wind beneath my wings and deserves its due praise in black history.
Shamira Ibrahim is a 20-something New Yorker who likes all things Dipset. You can join her as she waxes poetic about chicken, Cam’ron and gentrification (gotta have some balance) under the influence of varying amounts of brown liquor at Very Smart Brothas.