While some may claim there is no such thing as “white culture,” I vehemently disagree. Those schooled in the anthropological specialty known as wypipology are keenly aware of the hallmarks of the Caucasian culture, including guitar-based dancing, the affinity for wraparound sunglasses and an addiction to calling the police (known to the ancient Romans as “Pontius Pilate-ing”).
And then there is the prank.
Perhaps no phenomenon encapsulates the white way of life more than the Yakubian shenanigan. White people love pranks, capers, tricks, larks, hijinks, gags, put-ons and even “monkeyshines” (which sounds racist AF). The reason why their language has a million words for it is because lying has been a part of their ancient lifestyle since April 1, 33 AD, when Jesus’ bestie discovered he had been pranked into attending a cookout but was only offered bread and water.
“You got me,” said Judas Iscariot. “Good one. I’m sure I’ll figure out how to pay you back.”
Aside from the word “sike,” practical jokes never quite caught on in Black culture. Ever since 1441, when Nuno Tristão and Antão Gonçalves took a break from seal hunting to prank a “naked man carrying an assegai,” for some reason, Black people haven’t really been into tomfoolery.
And, believe me, we’ve tried.
When we learned that, unlike traditional African enslavement, the European version of human bondage was intergenerational and everlasting, we assumed it was a very unfunny joke. We only discovered it was real after Thomas Jefferson explained that he was using English dry wit when he wrote that thing about “all men are created equal.” Of course, this misunderstanding is expected. After all, there is only one ancient African word for “prank”:
That’s why April Fools’ Day is so hard for us. If you’re Black, it’s damn near impossible to tell when white people are joking. I thought I was making some progress into solving the puzzle of wypipo pranks when a creamsicle-colored candidate entered the presidential race. I actually guffawed when I heard that the guy from The Apprentice was running for president. I thought the 2016 election was one of the most hilarious hoodwinkeries of all time.
“They even got Hillary and CNN to play along,” I said after watching the election results. “Those comedy writers are great!”
Remember when white people pretended to care about police brutality last summer? That was a really good one. When they told me that Derek Chauvin hadn’t been arrested, I thought: “Wow! that episode of Candid Camera was very realistic. It almost looked like Chauvin was actually kneeling on a man’s neck! I should have known something was up with all those camera angles. Nice.”
That was not nice.
But I get it. It’s a prank, like the flash mob prank at the U.S. Capitol Building. I don’t know how all those people kept it a secret, but I figured out it was a joke. “I ain’t gonna lie, they had me going,” I said to Black people everywhere. “But the third act was totally unrealistic. I knew it was a lark when all the extras went home without being arrested.”
I never bought into the silly “Stop the Steal” stunt, though. There’s no way that many people bought into that QAnon bullshit. White people are vote-against-my-own-interest crazy but not I-see-invisible-votes crazy. Plus, the cast of this particular reboot of Punk’d was too white. They should have invited more Black people to the casting call. I waited for hours for Ashton Kutcher to show up for the big reveal.
He’s coming out, right?
And exactly who was in the writers’ room when they wrote the fake Georgia law that bans people from handing out water at the polls? Props to them for getting Brian Kemp to act so authentically racist. At least that spoof had a Black woman in a prominent role. The police officers could use a few more acting classes, though. They should have let the actress playing Rep. Park Cannon actually commit a crime before they fake-arrested her. Also, just a bit of advice: Signing a parody of a voter suppression law in front of a painting of a plantation was a little too on-the-nose. Still, I’d give the entire thing a B-minus for the satire alone.
I can’t speak that highly of the white people pretending they didn’t want to wear masks during a deadly pandemic. I can appreciate how they set up their mockery of public safety by saying that COVID-19 was no worse than the flu. But it all fell apart when they cited their constitutional right to kill other people. The premise would have been more believable if they hadn’t shown up with guns to protest. What were they planning to do? Shoot the coronavirus? That big hole in the plot was too obvious to ignore. But hey, they can’t all be winners, right?
Maybe Black people don’t like April Fools’ Day because, for many of us, white supremacy has always been one big joke. How the hell are we supposed to take people seriously when they consider Confederate traitors American heroes, ignore racism, believe in the unbelievable idea of trickle-down economics, dismiss Russian interference while whining about election fraud, look the other way at police brutality as they pretend to care about “law and order,” undermine Obamacare while pushing a pro-life and pro-death penalty agenda, and spill gallons of white tears about “cancel culture” after canceling Colin Kaepernick?
Make it make sense.
The only way to separate truth from fiction is to realize that this is all a joke. None of it is believable. If aliens came down to Earth and asked me to explain the concept of a prank, I would tell them the history of America, from 1619 until April 1, 2021. After they listened to my summary of Black people’s existence in America, they would probably ask me to explain what’s so funny. And with eyes wet from tears of laughter, I would deliver the greatest punchline ever written:
“With liberty and justice for all.”