Kiese Laymon remembers on Gawker the summer when he was a graduate student and he and his girlfriend lived below a poor white family. One day, the cash-strapped family patriarch asked Laymon for $10, and then told him that he wasn't like his "kind."

After he answered all my questions, Kurt got really close to my face. He looked up at me and didn't run from my eyes. "Keith, yous should move here," he said. "I'm serious. Yous are different. Yous ain't like your kind."

He kept saying it too, absolutely sure he'd given me that gift that a number of white folks I'd met loved to give black folks at the strangest times, the gift of being decidedly different than all them other niggers. Kurt wanted a pat on the back for not saying the word "nigger," two pats for distinguishing one nigger from another nigger, and three pats for inching closer to the realization that black Americans were never niggers to begin with.

On the way back from the murder site, Kurt walked ahead of me. I gripped his bony shoulder before we got to the hill leading up to our building. I asked him if his greasy mullet, his two in-house partners, his caved in chest, his white BeBe's kids, and his belief in niggers made him different than his kind.

"I ain't racist, Keith," he kept saying.

"That's sweet," I told him …

If white American entitlement meant anything, it meant that no matter how patronizing, unashamed, deliberate, unintentional, poor, rich, rural, urban, ignorant, and destructive white Americans could be, black Americans were still encouraged to work for them, write to them, listen to them, talk with them, run from them, emulate them, teach them, dodge them, and ultimately thank them for not being as f—-ed up as they could be.


Read Kiese Laymon's entire piece at Gawker.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.


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