Let me “iterate” and reiterate: this article is not meant to offend, but rather to shed light on some of the outlandish things older Blackfolk say on the regular. And when I say “older” I generally mean our seniors (elders), though at times I’m speaking of any Blackfolk older than us (i.e. our parents at any age). Now, are some of these phrases and sayings funny? I think so. Are some of them offensive? Absolutely. Are any of them uncalled for? Some are, but others are on point and, dare I say, needed. You be the judge which is which. And please share any phrases I may have left out by forwarding them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. Descriptions of Other People of Color
If you know any Blackfolk over 70, you know our seniors have no chill. Their position is, they have zero Fs to give and will literally say anything, anytime, anywhere. And that includes the labels they use to describe various people of color, political correctness be damned. I can’t tell you how many times Black seniors I know have said stuff like, “This ‘mess-can’ I worked with on the job told me about a nice eatin’ spot” or “I bought a used car from this ‘chinaman.’” And yes, I told them (on multiple occasions), “You can’t say that. Those aren’t the appropriate names for those particular people of color.” But if you’ve ever tried correcting one of your elders, you already know how that went.
9. General Sayings
Black elders have some creative sayings for your ass. And it seems like they have multiple “words” for every kind of human interaction or circumstance. If you ask an elder about the truth or correctness of a particular statement or situation (i.e. “Did that really happen?”), they’ll probably respond with a question: “Is pig pork,” “Is money green,” or “Is fat meat greasy”? In other words, “Yeah, it happened, dumb ass. Why you even doubting me?” One they use when hearing BS is, “That’s a lie and the truth ain’t in it.” And they’re good for quoting old song lyrics. “Boy, you better straighten up and fly right.”
8. Comments on Appearance
The mothers of the church (not Black women who happen to be mothers, but those 70, 80 and 90-plus-year-old sisters who run everything from the deacon board to the building fund and the pastor) are legendary for commenting on folks’ appearance, especially the wardrobe choices of younger sisters. “I know Sister Sarah did not come into the house of the Lord wearin’ that. Mm, mm, mm.” And because they have no Fs to give, they’ll whisper it or purposely say it loud enough for “Sister Sarah” to hear. They don’t care. In their minds, they’re saved and sanctified, and have a holy license to “ill.” But Black women aren’t the only elders who will clown folk for their appearance. I can’t tell you how many times when I was a child whose hair needed combing, my dad would say, “Boy, yo head look like rat turds in a dresser drawer.” And this was long before he was a senior. He was just senior to me.
We all know Black parents who have used the classic line, “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out.” But that’s far from the only words of correction they’ve uttered throughout history. Another go-to is, “Chile, I’ll whip the Black off you.” And as a child, you’re sitting there thinking to yourself a few things. One: “Yo. Inappropriate.” Two: “How serious of an ass-whuppin’ is that where I get the Black beaten off me?” Or how about this one, often whispered in church: “If you don’t shush, I’ll slap the taste out of yo’ mouth.” And those words are kind compared to the ones uttered when an elder is through with you. In a moment of dead seriousness, as one of my football coaches addressed the team on the bus after a loss, one fool decided to giggle, and attempt to make light of the moment. I guess he forgot, this is Texas. And football losses are treated like a death in the family. So, when that one teammate let out a slight laugh, the coach, who couldn’t identify the culprit, said, “Whoever did that ain’t worth the sperm that brought’em here.” Damn coach. Tell us how you really feel.
This one here depends on the elder. Some will only use the term “cracker” when referring to white people, and will say it louder the closer they are to any “crackers.” These elders operate with no pretense, no fear. The decades of dehumanization have removed any desire in them to, as WEB DuBois says, “wear the mask.” These elder sisters and brothers have seen and experienced so much abuse and wrongdoings heaped upon them and their kin by white individuals and the larger white society, that they give less than two damns if their directness offends anyone. Then, there are those seniors who are just as demeaning when referring to whites, but do so in ways they might even think show some level of respect. They’ll say things like Richard Pryor (aka Mudbone) did when describing one of his former bosses: “He was good to work for… for a white man.” That slight pause, that hesitation, says so much. First off, it says that for the speaker of those words, it’s a rarity indeed to find a good and decent white man. Second, that hesitation, that voice inflection, suggests the speaker may be trying to convince themselves that this “good” white man is really different from the other 10,000 he has encountered in his days who weren’t so “good.”
5. LGBTQ Community
Again, our seniors often operate outside the bounds of “acceptable” speech and labels. So, when they’re telling stories to their family or friends, and they’re attempting to describe a member of the LGBTQ community, it’s rare that they’ll describe them as a “member of the LGBTQ community.” That’s too many letters. And our elders ain’t got time for all that. They’ll say stuff like, “You know. Michael Leroy, the sissy. The sissy. Live over on DuPont. ‘Round the corner from Aunt Clara.” And they’ll say it without an ounce of malicious intent in their body. But again, inappropriate.
4. Financial Status
At those larger Black gatherings (block parties, holidays and family reunions), whenever someone is pointed out as doing well because of the size of their house or the new-ish car they rolled up in, they’ll respond to the charge “Negro, you got all the money” by saying something like, “Shee; If I had your hand I’d turn mine in.” Now, I know you’re thinking, “That’s not offensive at all.” True. But that’s not the only finance-related saying Black old-timers sling. If they think something is cheap (i.e. of low quality), they may something like “That ain’t worth two cents in Chinese money.” Is that inappropriate enough for you?
3. The Opposite Sex
I haven’t been around a lot of elder sisters commenting on members of the opposite sex they find attractive, but I have heard my share of senior brothers share their opinions on some sister, whether someone in the present or recalling some old flame from the past, they think is/was “as fine as all-da-be-damn,” which is one of the things they say. But you can also hear them say “Good God-a-mighty. Lookie here. Lookie here. Gul, that mus be jelly ‘cause jam don’t shake like dat. Mm, mm, mm. I’d drink a tub of yo’ baff water.” Tell me I’m lyin’.
2. Trifling Blackfolk
Our seniors keep it pretty simple when it comes to describing trifling Blackfolk. They’ll offer up things like, “He tryin’ to put a five-dollar hat on a nickel head.” Or “They ain’t worth a nickel.” Why all the hate for nickels, I don’t know. But the most often used… “That ni**a ain’t sh*t” leads to the number one most inappropriate thing Black seniors say…
1. The N-Word
I’ve heard all the arguments about us claiming the N-word as our own, thus empowering it by removing its racist sting. I’m well aware of the supposed difference between “ni**ER” and “ni**AH.” I’m hip to the term “Negus” and its ancient meaning. Still, there are elders who view the N-word as a curse word with no equal. Yet, there are many other of our seniors who use it on the regular. But, it’s not just seniors who plaster our own people with a label meant to demean us and rob us of the awareness of our humanity and greatness. Members of every generation of us have become all too comfortable with a term: “Say ni**ah.” “Whattup ni**ah.” “That ni**ah ain’t got no sense.” Or the one we use when we’re frustrated with one of our kinfolk… “This ni**ah.” But yo, the term was literally meant to be inappropriate and to condition us to believe that at our core, we too are inappropriate, unworthy and less than. I don’t know about you, but I ain’t havin’ it.