If you’re black and in America, there’s somewhere between a 100 percent and a 100 percent chance that the following has happened to you at least once. And somewhere between a 95 percent and 99 percent chance that it’s happened at least once this week.
You’re minding your black-ass business, living your black-ass life. You woke up just like any other day. You drove to work, and even got there on time! (Which you’ve made a point to do this year. Because stereotypes.) You had a decent lunch (General Tso’s shrimp and steamed kale. Because regular bowel movements), finished work early enough to have some time to go to the gym, and got back home, refreshed and ready to eat dinner and watch American Ninja Warrior on your black-ass couch. You had a mundane but perfectly satisfying day, and you reward yourself with a bowl of butter pecan ice cream to eat while watching American Ninja Warrior.
And then it happens.
Maybe you get on Facebook and see a high school teammate of yours respond to your status about #BlackLivesMatter with “Tell that to the thugs running Chicago.” Maybe you open up a newspaper and see a handsomely paid columnist’s piece justifying slavery. Maybe you accidentally click on Fox News, thinking it was Fusion or HGTV or some s—t, and hear Megyn Kelly pronounce “Obama” with the same disdain and annoyance overworked postal workers possess when you ask to borrow a pen. Maybe you decide to walk your dog, and walk right past that one white neighbor who always smiles at your dog but never even acknowledges you, like the dog is walking you. And maybe American Ninja Warrior doesn’t actually come on, because someone black and unarmed was just shot (again) by someone nonblack and “legally” armed, and another Ferguson, Mo., or another Baltimore is happening right now.
So now your perfectly black-ass day is ruined. Which is an inevitable surcharge of existing while black in America. Perhaps it won’t happen every day. Most days, actually, you’ll make it through your black-ass day relatively unscathed. But it happens enough to wear on you, and it makes you just not want to be around any white people at all. Not forever. Not even for the rest of the week.
But you know it’s just not particularly healthy for you to carpool with Katie or share an elevator with Tucker from accounting for the next 24 to 36 hours. Because if Katie or Tucker says the wrong thing about, well, anything, you might turn into Rasheed Wallace. And if you turn into Rasheed Wallace on Thursday, you’ll be job searching and/or at a bail hearing Friday.
Unfortunately, that’s not possible. Because you do have a job, and you do have to go, and there will be dozens of white people everywhere. On the train, in the rain, down the hall, at the mall.
But, I suggest we do make it possible. We make it so that this never happens again. That black men and women who’ve had their black-ass days ruined today don’t have to wander into break rooms tomorrow and overhear Madison from sales ask Spencer from marketing why “they” destroy “their own neighborhoods every time something like this happens.”
Paid time off, or PTO, is already a nationally recognized thing. So I’m thinking it wouldn’t take much for corporations around the country to give five additional PTOWB (paid time off while black) days to every black worker. That’s five days a year where we can stay home on our black-ass couches and eat our black-ass ice cream because America decided to go all America on us again and we just can’t be around any white people that day.
Of course, attempting to make PTOWB days a legal reality would face some pushback from those opposed to giving black people extra days off. (Like we didn’t earn them from 1600 to 1865, but I digress.) But here’s the beauty of it: PTOWB benefits everyone! Think of all the money corporations will save from decreased health care costs because the hypertension rate will go down 253,000 percent. Think of all the sensitivity trainings and seminars human resources people won’t have to organize anymore, leaving them more valuable time to do what they do best: play Trivia Crack and watch twerk videos. Think of how happy white employees will be when they don’t have to walk on eggshells the morning after a night of televised protests. And think of how invigorated black workers will be after getting to spend an entire day completely cloaked in safe-ass blackness.
This is a win-win, America. A slam dunk. Now let me go finish my black-ass raspberry lemonade in peace while you make this happen.
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Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas.com. He is also a contributing editor at Ebony.com. He lives in Pittsburgh and he really likes pancakes. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.