Whenever a white person does something remotely decent related to black people or black culture—be it displaying basic decency or performing some act with competence—a chorus of Negroes will declare, “They can come to the cookout!”
For our new white readers, “the cookout” is essentially what most of us across these United States refer to as a barbecue, though there are other culinary equivalences that amount to the same thing (black folks gathering for food, liquor and celebration as only we can): say, a crawfish boil, a fish fry or something similar. So, when someone of African lineage extends an invite to someone melanin-deficient to the metaphorical cookout, they’re more or less saying you’re cool enough to hang with us now.
OK, I don’t like being the literary Urban Dictionary. Besides, if I tell y’all anymore, you might steal it because y’all are good for that. No shade.
The most recent example of this came during the 59th Grammy Awards at which Adele stood before the awards-show audience and rightfully declared that Beyoncé was robbed in the Album of the Year category for her impeccable sixth album, Lemonade.
Although some took issue with the British singer-songwriter noting how her black friends were impacted by the project in ways even she, a longtime stan, could not relate to, those who knew better didn’t bat an eye. Nonetheless, for the most part, many appreciated Adele’s remarks and, by extension, a few invited her to come over their way and have a plate of ribs and a red Solo cup of her preferred spirit.
However, the loudest person to make this declaration was a white man.
Gary Owen is funny, has a black wife and has a reality series on BET. That’s super-duper dope for him, but he’s a plus-one. Plus-ones don’t get to extend invitations. I don’t care how down LOL-Teena-Marie thinks he is or even if he was joking; this is the ha-ha equivalent of Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair.” No, white man. No.
Yet, beyond the debate and Owen’s joke, there are some sentiments I read in which some black folks get way too giddy when someone white doesn’t sound like he or she hopped out of the basket of deplorables.
On some level it’s funny, but for the most part it’s irritating as hell. Personally, while I would love to drink with Adele and rap Nicki Minaj lyrics with her, I also don’t believe in handing someone from the majority absolute acclaim for doing the bare minimum.
What Adele said mattered, but she didn’t explicitly state the outright racial bias the Recording Academy has long been proved to have. We can give her a polite church clap. You know, the kind we give soloists who don’t really hit the notes but were OK enough, and we just convince ourselves that they were caught up in the spirit. That’s basically her George Michael tribute, too.
And if recent years are any indication, more of us need to be more cautious about who we rave about and invite over. It has long been proved that a love of black culture doesn’t necessarily equate to a genuine affinity for black people. Robin Thicke was great until he took his Marvin Gaye obsession a wee bit too far. Speaking of obsession, some of us recall the Paula album. Then there is the subject of that album, who has recently lodged accusations of domestic abuse against him.
We can’t forget about Justin Timberlake, he who expressed an affinity for black women he never actually dated, disrespected Prince when he was alive, and, of course, left Janet Jackson’s nipple and career on the sidewalk very swiftly after the Super Bowl.
While we’re at it, insert every famous white artist Kanye West has met in recent years. That’s not so much a cookout as it is a game in which you lose your marbles and self-respect. But, you know, it still fits the overarching problem.
I could continue naming white people, but then this post would turn into an anthology called, It Was All Good ’Bout a Week Ago: Where White Folks We Thought Were Right Went Wrong. There’s also some level of truth in a joke, but the underlying subtext from those imaginary cookout invitations are that we ought to be pleased by the bare minimum. Now, more than ever, we should be demanding more than just the bare minimum.
Across Al Gore’s internet are various lists of white folks invited to the cookout. Some of these lists include names like Jon B., which I guess is fine if he agrees to sing “They Don’t Know” for at least an hour. However, some of these include names like Tom Brady. Why are y’all inviting that Tangerine Mussolini cheater anywhere near us?
The same goes for Nick Jonas. I would invite him to the show, the after-party and the hotel, but what has he done? I’ve also seen Bernie Sanders’ name. Some of y’all are out of your black-ass minds.
Maybe living in Habanero Hitler’s America has me more skeptical than ever, but I do know a lot of you beloved black people need to quit sipping pickle juice and calling it Champagne. Stop doing this cookout thing for every sixth white person. Hell, not even all black people deserve to come ’round us.
When they open the door for you, just say thank you. If they have rhythm, cute for them. When they don’t shout a slur at you in anger, just thank Black Jesus that you don’t have to catch a case. When they call out racism, nod. It’s the least they could do. Don’t tell them to bring napkins to the fake cookout.
It is Black History Month. Do better! Be more selective. Most of all, remember that they probably voted for you-know-who or, at the very least, know someone who did and ate their casserole anyway.