I am not afraid of stereotypes. I know that many of them are rooted in racism and false perception, but I do not concern myself with that. I embrace them. They are funny to me.
When a white man says, “Black people are lazy,” all I hear in my head is, “Watch me outwork this insecure Caucasian motherfucker.” Anyone I ever met who believed that black people were dumb had an IQ at least 32 points lower than mine. I can dance better than most white men. I also probably like fried chicken more than most of them, too.
And then there is watermelon.
I don’t know how black people’s love for watermelon became a racial stereotype. Some say it is because it was one of the few fruits accessible to slaves in the South—you can grow it damn near anywhere, and you don’t need a knife or utensil to open it like those bigoted honeydew melons and racist-ass cantaloupes. Others say it is because it was a cheap source of nutrition and hydration that could satiate an entire family. I have my own peer-reviewed, scientifically researched hypothesis as to why black people love watermelon more than any other fruit:
Because it is delicious as fuck.
Today is National Watermelon Day. I have no idea who comes up with these designated bootleg holidays like National Steak and Blowjob Day (yes, that is actually a thing) or National Play Cousins Day (no, that is not actually a thing, but it should be. Call your local Congress member or senator). But if there was one melon that deserves a holiday, it is the watermelon.
I am not ashamed of my love for watermelon, and you shouldn’t be, either, because during my previously mentioned research, I discovered that the watermelon is the blackest fruit of all time.
Blackness is elusive. By the time you figure it out, it has often shifted. There was a time when calling oneself “colored” or “Negro” was revolutionary, but now both terms are antiquated. There are only two unchanging things that black people have always loved, still love and will always love—from the second we stepped our shackled feet onto the shores of Jamestown until the moment you read the colon that ends this sentence:
In that order.
Watermelons are black. Watermelons are beautiful. Watermelons are us.
If there is such a thing as “unapologetic,” its meaning is embodied by the watermelon. There are respectable Negroes who are ashamed to eat it in public—especially around people of no color. It’s not that they don’t like it—it is just that they have allowed themselves to fall victim to the Caucasian caricature of how we are viewed.
Those are the people who code-switch when they go to lunch with their co-workers. Those are the people who turn their music down when they drive through white neighborhoods. Those are the people who tuck their blackness into their back pocket. They allow the larceny of whiteness to steal a little bit of their souls. The best part of their souls. The black part of their souls.
I dive in face-first and spit out the seeds. I will not eat it with a fork or buy the prepackaged cubes. I bust it open. I want it to drip in my beard so my face can smell like sunshine and first cousins laughing. I proudly put watermelons to my ear and thump them in the produce aisles of random Whole Foods. I eat them to the rind. I do not care what they think. I love it that much. I love me that much. I love us that much.
There is nothing more beautiful than watching a black child sitting on a front porch eating a slice of watermelon. It is the epitome of black joy. I cannot show it to you, but there is one thing that comes in at an awfully close second. It is this video of radio legend Petey Greene, sitting in a wicker chair, explaining how to eat a watermelon:
That is the opposite of shucking and jiving. That is what refusing to allow whiteness to define your blackness looks like. A lion does not listen to the opinion of sheep. White people’s historical record of chicken seasoning and potato-salad-making disqualifies them from determining what I should or should not eat. It is not uncouth. It is beautiful. It is black as fuck.
Like watermelon. Like us.
Happy National Watermelon Day.