Despite what you may believe, trust me, you have never truly seen a black person let go.
Sometimes, when we are beset on all sides by whiteness, drowning in the filthy American cesspool contaminated by lynching blood, face spit and white tears, all a black person can do is hold on.
The way we hold on is remarkable. The ability to keep our composure in the face of danger, anger or aggravation is perhaps the only evolutionary gift that white supremacy has given us. The sheer number of times we have managed to still our slapping hands and bite our tongues is an amazing feat in and of itself.
Perhaps we are the people who the scriptures promised would beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Because if our internalized rage ever reached its exploding point and black America truly let go, every plowshare would smell of stabbing and every pruning hook would be stained with throat-blood.
Nah...we don’t let go.
Although we have yet to reach our breaking point, even the most level-headed among us will bend every now and then. And for Alabama State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, her bending point came last Thursday when she unleashed the fury of a thousand black aunts on Alabama’s Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon. Givan’s epic, furious rant stunned and shocked her white colleagues, left her fellow black politicians unfazed and made her the envy of every black person who has ever wanted to go off in a staff meeting but knew their fragile white co-workers would probably call the police and have panic attacks whenever a negro looked them in the eye. But goddamn, Givan’s six-minute showout is a beauty to behold.
First of all, I should acknowledge that I have no idea what Givan’s initial gripe was about and—to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. Maybe Givan was reacting to a bill to reinstitute Jim Crow laws. Perhaps she was exasperated because someone did something white...again. (Which, I must add, is not a racist statement because, if you’ve ever been one of the few black people at your job, you know some people can sometimes be so...white. Basically being black and working in white spaces is like simultaneously being in solitary confinement and in the middle of a flash mob.)
Or maybe my pretend Aunt Juandalynn was just tired of holding on.
Anyway, here are the 10 greatest moments from Givan’s rant, in chronological order:
1. The dress
Sometimes, you wake up in the morning, get dressed and go to work knowing you’re looking good. I’m pretty sure Givan’s dress contributed 62 percent to her outburst because there is no way you’re going to talk shit to a black woman when she’s wearing the colors of the entire African diaspora. I’m not a religious person but I feel like the ancestors whispered to Rep. Givan’s spirit that she should wear that dress; because she was sharp. (When reading the previous sentence, one must raise their voice two octaves when they say “sharp.” And you have to hold it. “She was shaaaarp!”)
Although I don’t know the specific designer, I am positive I saw this outfit in a fall athletic collection. It is made for a sport that is a tradition in many black communities:
Wishing a motherfucker would.
2. The hand gestures
For the uninitiated, one of the easiest ways to measure the level of frustration a black person is feeling is to pay attention to their hands. Five seconds into the clip, I knew this was going to be good because Givan (We call her “Aunt Juanda” in the family cookouts I’ve imagined since I saw this showdown) effortlessly performed an arm sweep that went directly into a double point, which is an indicator that the shit might just go down.
Sister Givan then goes into a point-pull-snatchback-hold:
In terms of angry hand movements, this is second only to the legendary intermittent serial clap. (Little known fact: The move is named after LaKeisha N. Termitten, who invented the clap-talk in 1832 when she told slave supervisor Dwight Mann: “I don’t care what massa said, I’m👏🏾not👏🏾picking👏🏾no👏🏾more👏🏾cotton👏🏾today!)
3. “I refuse to stay on the plantation”
There is a lot of things many black women will not do. If you visited longer than 38 minutes, my grandmother would not let you leave her house without eating. However, in black parlance, the words “I refuse...” mean something totally different, especially when the person emphasizes the word “refuse.”
It is a marker of boundaries. It is a line in the sand. Not only does “I refuse...” communicate the unwillingness to engage in a specific action, but it also lets the person to whom they are speaking know not to even broach that subject ever again. Similar phrases include:
- “I know you didn’t...”
- You don’t ever have to worry about...”
- “Don’t let your wooden God or your cornstalk Jesus fool you to...” (This phrase may be unique to South Carolina or only used by a Ms. Dorothy Harriot, I’m not quite sure.)
- And the increasingly popular: “What you not gon’ do is...”
4. She lists the things she doesn’t care about
Whenever any person whose catfish recipe contains seasoned salt starts reminding people of things they don’t need, want or care about, that is a signal that you should start thinking about exist strategies (No, that’s spelled right. Don’t concern yourself with exiting. You should worry about existing.)
“Because I don’t need anything from the Republican Party,” Givan explains. “I don’t care if I don’t pass a bill. I don’t care...whatever. It’s fine with me.”
I would have gotten the fuck out of there.
When a riled-up person insists they are fine and they don’t care about important things, the next sentence is usually “I’ll fuck up everything in here” followed by them pulling out an abnormally large firearm. It reminds me of the scripture I learned as a child about the biblical hero Sampson.
And Samson Said unto them:
“I don’t need anything from Delilah. I don’t care about this ugly-ass haircut. I don’t care if I’m blind. I don’t care if people say I was on steroids. I tell you what... Let me lean on the pillars of this temple! I’ll fuck up every Philistine in here!”
5. The Speaker bangs the gavel
When Aunt Juanda referred to Republicans as her “cowardly” colleagues, the House Speaker banged his gavel and you could see Givan’s entire demeanor change. A minute later, just before McCutcheon called security, this motherfucker told her not to call him by his first name! If any of this seems weirdly hyperbolic for such an innocuous situation, then there is something you should know:
In Alabama state politics, there is an ever-present, intense racial dynamic that is always at play because every single Republican in Alabama’s state legislature is white and—except for one dude (Rep. Neil Rafferty)—every single Democrat in the Alabama legislature is black. It has created this tacitly accepted but unspoken understanding that everyone in the state knows:
In Alabama, Republicans represent the white people. Democrats represent the black people.
So McCutcheon wasn’t just trying to silence Givan because she had insulted his political party. He was banging his gavel because our auntie had insulted white people. (Not all white people. Neil Rafferty is cool, remember?) Givan, on the other hand, has represented Birmingham—the third-blackest city in America—for nearly a decade and she wasn’t having any of McCutcheon’s bullshit. Not today.
Not in that dress.
6. He turns her mic off
But it was too late. Givan’s rant obviously depleted her of the last few fucks she had to give. So she keeps going but she keeps using the turned-off microphone.
7. Her cousins try to calm her down
Notice how calm all the black people are when they try to lower her temperature. If you noticed, during all of this hullaballoo, even when they attempted to calm her down, none of Givan’s negro counterparts dared to grab her. They know this happens sometimes. Tolerating white people is an art and some days you literally just can’t. That’s why black people call in sick more often than white people. It’s partly self-care but part of it is that there are days when you can’t summon up the energy or the imagination to deal with whiteness just like some days writers can’t come up with anything to say.
It’s called White-ers Block.
8. The Speaker calls security. Givan calls Jesus
One way to know you are around original-recipe white people is that they always have managers, the police or security nearby. I honestly believe white people have secretly invented teleportation devices because of how fast the police, firefighters and ambulances arrive when white people are in dire straits.
For most of my life, I thought they were called “first responders” because they usually arrive so late that they are the first ones to say “I’m sorry for your loss.” But when McCutcheon calls for security, Rep. Givan gets Jesus on the main line and tells him what the security guard does not want:
“If security touches me, I swear to Gawd, it will be the worst time,” my mama’s play sister explains. “Because I’m sick of y’all mess! I’m sick of it!”
When someone who is black starts swearing to God, I don’t care what I’m doing or what I have planned, I cease all activities and throw up the deuces. Regardless of circumstance, I consider “I swear to God” the official benediction. Especially when they’re also doing this:
It appears that the House security is familiar with this concept because he immediately moves for a recess.
He knows Aunt Juandalynn ain’t playing.
9. She needed one more thing
Every black person in America knows exactly why Juandalynn “No Fucks” Givan went into the legislature’s choir stand (I’m sure that’s what they call it, right? ) to confront McCutcheon. She wasn’t threatening him. She wasn’t looking for a physical confrontation. She only wanted the Speaker to do the one thing we all want:
Say it to her face.
But he ain’t no fool. No one makes it to McCutcheon’s age without knowing not to confront an angry black woman. I bet he’s thinking: “Back in my day, we would’ve lynched you.” And by “back in his day,” he means two Tuesdays ago. But most of the Klan in Alabama was at a conference this week.
Instead, McCutcheon signals for more police to calm Givan down. But she quickly exited out of the back door as if she realized that the white people were coming or she left some greens cooking on the stove.
Also, Alabama has one of the lowest life expectancies in the civilized world, thanks partly to the health care policies of Juandalynn Givan’s
white Republican colleagues.
So no one really makes it to Mac McCutcheon’s age in Alabama.
10. Her apology
Here is where I fell in love with Givan and became her nephew, whether she likes it or not:
According to AL.com. Givan issued a statement that said she behaved this way because she felt like her Constitutional rights were being challenged. She apologized for responding in an unprofessional manner that did not reflect her “character or political office.” However, when issuing her apology, Rep. Givan made sure she let every single news outlet know one thing:
Givan said this afternoon that her apology is not directed at McCutcheon and she stands by her point that she had a right to continue to speak.
Thank you for holding on, Aunt Juandalynn.
Even if it doesn’t look like it...We know.