It is a pair of words that mean nothing when they are both looked at in isolation but mean everything when they are brought together in holy matrimony of Blackness.
Next to the infamous and embattled Black Card™, The Cookout™ is the ultimate determinant of coolness (aka Blackness or proximity to Blackness thereof). If you happen to make it into Cousin Dae Dae’s cookout on the merits of your own Blackness alone, you made it.
However, Black Jesus help you if you slip into The Cookout™…uninvited. You will probably be treated with the same ire and contempt that has been handed down by the likes the High Sparrow and the The Faith Militant Gang.
Yet, despite the reverence that The Cookout™ supposedly holds, it is safe to say that the security for it has been lax these last couple of years. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s simple:
White mediocrity has become a surprisingly sure-fire way to gain entrance into The Cookout™. And we need to talk about it.
Now, some may attempt to invalidate that former statement by calling me a dirty bast—liar.
But frankly, the proof is in the potato salad. Or rather, who we’ve been allowing to bring the Krogers brand potato salad (my beloved friend AJ gets to credit for that) all these years.
Justin Timberlake. Nick Jonas. Justin Bieber. Robin Thicke. Sam Smith. Adele.
These are just a few of the White folx that we, the denizens of the Black Community, allowed to slip through the cracks and be mistakenly presented with Black Cards™ and season passes to The Cookout™. I would also mention she who must not be named (aka the orange Twinkie with the bad Angela Davis wig), but I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
Anyhow, this is a phenomenon that I have seen addressed in passing over the course of this year (aka The Year of Black aka The Blackest Year That Ever Was aka Peak Black: Black Strikes Black aka Blackity Black: Electric Boogaloo). Some of us rightfully questioned how quick we are to accept any perceived kindness by a non-Black person/celebrity as GREAT—despite anything else anti-Black they have ever done— and throw “honorary Blackness” at them like the manager’s special bacon that expired yesterday. However, the nuances of this conversation usually were dropped in favor of pointing out how “talented” or even “attractive” the offending party/celebrity/person was.
I say “talented” because these aforementioned celebrities may be able to hold a tune or dance on beat, but they usually STILL pale in comparison to the actual Black people that we’ve seen doing these same things and yet.
Their cookout invitations remain open. Un-repossessed. Un-rescinded.
Referring to ascending order of “honorary Blackness”, we start with Adele. While Adele herself hasn’t done anything triflingly problematic to my knowledge, Adele has somehow managed to score a cookout invite, even though what she is doing is no different from, let’s say, Jazmine Sullivanor any of the Black R&B and Soul singers who came before her time.
And yet, because she has an okay singing voice, multiple media outlets were okay with calling Adele the “next Whitney Houston”. This, of course, is erroneous because there will never be “another” Whitney and even if I were to be generous in that regard, Adele is more up Celine Dion’s alley than anyone else’s.
Now, while plenty of us (Black Twitter) rebuked that flagrant declaration, a surprisingly large chunk of us didn’t see a problem with that and kind of just shrugged at it, saying that “she can sing good” in comparison to her tone deaf American counterparts.
That is a low bar.
And then there was Sam Smith. Similar to Adele but with much more [over]play and overratedness. And yet somehow, he showed up to the BET Awards like his dad was a lawyer and like his uncle owned the club. It took him commenting some fake deep mess about racism in Britain (something that is in fact well documented, especially after #Brexit), to finally get his cookout invite rescinded.
That is a low bar.
And then there was Robin Thicke. I had bad vibes about Alan Thicke’s spawn (I’m talking Littlefinger type of vibes) for a long time and yet, once again, because homie could carry an R&B tune on key, many of us just let this dude ride back and forth on his White mediocrity like it was Falkor from The NeverEnding Story.
That is a low bar.
And then there was Justin Bieber. Many of us fought valiantly against this recalled Golden Oreo’s horrendous campaign to gain access to The Cookout™. Many a Black radio station avoided his music like the plague and many more treated it like a musical manifestation of Cersei walking through the town square buck ass naked while The Faith Militant Gang rolled up behind her talmbout “shame shame SHAME”.
Of course, our efforts were not enough and soon, many of us were crying out in horror when we saw this dude flailing around at the BET Awards like some out of place Orc. After that event, someone managed to leave the gate open at The Cookout™ and Justin slinked in like one of the monsters from The Descent.
I personally do not recall anyone rescinding his cookout invite, but if I had to guess, it probably happened after The Shade Room put him on blast for sporting The Grinch’s fingers on his head.
That is a low bar.
And then there was Nick Jonas. While I formerly rocked with him since he was a [baby] Jonas Brother, I never thought this dude was “an honorary Black”.
But all of a sudden, when homie released a video of himself clapping in front of a Black ass choir along with the release of his allegedly “Black” ass album Nick Jonas, he was suddenly slapped with a cookout invite with the speed that someone would chuck some ones at a gyrating ass in a titty bar.
I always vetoed this invite just because of the fact that dude was clapping OFFbeat in that choir video (“honorary Blackness” aside), so for awhile, I was called a hater…UNTIL that not-so-lovely casting call for his summer tour video where he and his team had the nerve to request girls “mainly Caucasian” girls with “ethnic flare” and then had the unmitigated gall to spell “flair” wrong. THAT was finally the straw the broke the camel’s back.
That is a low bar.
And THEN…there was Justin Timberlake. While the dude makes my ass itch, I almost gotta hand it to him. He was on this “honorary Black” thing for a minute. He didn’t even have to slink into the cookout like Bieber did. He got that invite neatly in the mail and walked in with pride. He brought his Walmart, Great Value brand potato salad to the cookout with reckless abandon. He made it to the cool—I mean Black—table.
Apparently, being able to dance—a little bit—and sing—a little bit—was enough for him to ascend to White Jesus™ status.
This, of course, is what made his recent dragging post-Jesse Williams awesome takedown of White supremacy so interesting to watch.
After Timberlake invoked distant ancestor Calvin Candie with his “Oh you sweet soul” tweet and ascended to peak Chet™ with his “one race…the human race” tweet, Black Twitter emerged like Ramsay “The Other Other Bastard” Bolton’s bloodhounds and gave him what for.
And yet, some of us came out the woodwork to cape for him like he had singlehandedly renewed Young Justice. Like he came to our 8th birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese.
Of course, what made it more humorous or rather ironic to me is that he has never gone on record as doing anything particularly spectacular or dazzling for Black people. I have never peeped him saying Black Lives Matter. He never spoke about The Crack Riots of 1995 while sporting Allen Iverson braids. He never spoke about mass incarceration while rocking Ramen Noodle Waves.
And yet…the caping continued.
Somehow, we surpassed the lowest bar.
Normally, I wouldn’t dwell on it, but the dwelling is deserved because this is such a special case. Justin from House Timberlake is simultaneously the perfect union between White mediocrity and useless “allyship”.
The mediocrity comes from the fact that not only is he a low budget Usher who managed to get by way too easily on “Memphis Street Cred” and a shaky falsetto, but he also wasn’t doing anything more spectacular than, let’s say, Jon B.
The useless allyship comes from watching a speech as powerful as Jesse Williams’ and saying you are inspired but having a documented history of doing nothing “inspiring” on behalf of Black people. It comes from being in close proximity with Black people for your entire career but having nary a sliver of activism to show for it. It comes from having been a GUEST during the Janet Jackson-led Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, letting her be the fall woman for a salacious act that you BOTH partook in, leaving her behind to have a prosperous career at her expense, and then issuing a limp fish apology years later.
And yet, despite all this, this was the dude we allowed to come to The Cookout™. We allowed him to bring the Aldi’s brand potato salad. Hell, Cousin Dae Dae’s problematic ass probably allowed him on the grill at some point.
Of course, there is hope. We can fix this and we can fix this by beefing up security at The Cookout™. We can fix this by guarding our cookout invites like they are the last square of Granny’s baked mac and cheese. We can fix this by halting the mass distribution of “honorary Blackness” like it’s some kind of second runner’s up prize.
It’s 2016, y’all. The year of Black. And in the year of Black, we, the denizens of the Black community, need to stop inviting everybody to The Cookout™ (and frankly, our other sacred spaces) only to look dumbfounded, flabbergasted, and shocked and appalled when these same mediocre folx pop off on us.
P.S. I always liked JC better.
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