There are a few truisms about growing up in Black households in America; here are two: 1) you must close the gotdamned door when the air conditioner is running—don’t be air-conditioning the whole damned neighborhood; and 2) you better turn off the damned lights in the house if you ain’t using them. Even if you’re an adult, well past the age when your mother or father would provide daily (or hourly) reminders of such truisms, they probably still represent voices in your head, saying, “why all these damn lights on?” as they spiritually lead you around your house on an unintentional quest to, indeed, turn off all unnecessary lights.
And yes, we had to turn off The Everything when it was thundering and lightning outside because some mythical cousin that is apparently related to all of us with grandparents from a certain generation was electrocuted or disappeared or something...I don’t actually recall what happened to Cousin. Which is fine; my grandmother didn’t either. Rest in paradise, Grandma.
But there is one common cultural expression we apparently all share that runs counter to the unnecessary use of electricity: turning (and leaving) on the light above the stove when the house is turning down for the evening. On social media, it’s been represented as an African-American urge—the latest sensation in Black Twitter meme-ing where African-Americans, natch, share things we all seem to have an preternatural calling to ask, do or say, no matter where you are in African America. As it turns out, a not insignificant number of us both did this—turn the light on at the end of the night—and still do this (raises hand).
Whenever I clean the kitchen to end the night, I instinctively turn on the light above the stove. Hell, if I come to your house—and you’re Black—and get a few moments to myself to tour your home, I might make sure the light above your stove works just to make sure you can keep this tradition of illumination continues. Hopefully, it does; there is nothing more awkward than having to tell people that the light above their stove is out. Sure that shit is cute on television—in an Issa on Insecure type of way—but in real life, it creates more questions than can be answered and nobody is comfortable for the rest of the night. Trust me, I’m a blogger.
Anyway, I’ve thought long and hard about why we do this. For the record, I have no idea if folks in other cultures do this but I imagine the answer is yes; it’s a whole ass light above the stove that really serves no other purpose since most folks, presumably, cook with the lights on. I don’t know if maybe the light adds extra...seasoning? Spice? Angles for IG pictures? I really have no clue what purpose it serves other than to change the lighting in a kitchen that’s been cleaned at night since that light makes the kitchen look WAY cleaner than it is. Shit is serene.
Anywho, as I was saying, I’ve thought about why we, The Black People, do this and I’ve come to a very simple and bulletproof conclusion: it’s so God knows we’re done cleaning the kitchen.
Think about it: Black folks love a good non-Biblical “Biblical” saying like, “God won’t every give you nothin’ you can’t handle,” or more apropos for this circumstance, “cleanliness is next to godliness.” Did you know neither of those statements are in the Bible? Sure, you can make some inferences and some leaps and bounds, but mostly we just be saying shit. Cookie Monster be eatin’ cookies and Black folks be saying thangs.
Point is, because we all grew up both hearing and believing that cleanliness is next to godliness, we like to make sure God knows when we’re hitting the mark, hence the little light of ours sitting above the stove. Peep game, have you ever activated the stove light on a dirty kitchen? Or a kitchen where you’ve decided to wash the dishes and clean the counter the next day? I’ll bet no, because to do so would be outside the realm of what makes sense and also, ewwww. Nobody wants to see that shit. And do you know who be seeing in your house when you’re sleeping or awake? Santa. But also JESUS. Jesus knows which houses to go and check off his “they understood the assignment” list by who has the light on at the end of the night.
When you clean your kitchen and you know you did that shit, it only stands to reason to make sure that The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit know to fall through and check out your handy work—and there are a lot of homes to hit in African America so the only surefire way to make sure they stop through your house is turn the light on when you’re done. And as soon as you go upstairs and or in the other room (or talk to folks in the UPPPPPPPPPPERROOOOOOOM) God ‘nem fall through, smile and drop something that doesn’t make it unclean but makes you say, “you heard that?” to whoever else is around you (or nobody if you live alone; you still say it), while both of you debate who is going to sacrifice their life in case it’s a robber. In my house, nobody; if it’s a robber, they gon’ find me watching Harlem as I tell them to take what they want but leave the light on above the stove when they finish so I know they’re done.
So there you have it: we leave the light on above the stove after cleaning the kitchen so God knows to come through and check out your work and give you a checkmark in whatever ledger is being used to check things off for whatever purpose checkmarks are being used for.
If you want extra credit—which I get every night—sing the first verse of “This Little Light of Mine” as you turn on the light, and make sure to drag out the last “shine.” I hear they like that up yonder.
Now excuse me as I make sure the light above my stove is working so I can let it shine, let it shine, let it shiiiiiiiiiine.