Irony deficiency

Dec 4, 2002 at 12:00 am

The name of the Web site alone will snatch your attention: black

Oh, really?

The first time I heard about this rather quirky cyberspace way station was a little over a week ago on NPR’s morning talk program “The Tavis Smiley Show.” What I heard sounded pretty interesting, but there were other issues crowding my mind for attention at the time.

Then a friend referred me to a New York Times article under the headline: “Black-White Harmony: Are You Kidding Me?”

I figured I needed to check this site out. I confess I got a few chuckles while reading about an ultra-hip, ultra-liberal white couple named Sally and Johnny, the “authors” of the site (and the fictional creations of Jonah and Chelsea Peretti, white New York-based brother and sister satirists). Sally and Johnny are tickled pink to be accepted by their black friends. As they say at the very beginning, “We are well-liked by black people so we’re psyched (since lots of Black people don’t like lots of White people)!! We thought it’d be cool to honor our exceptional status with a rockin domain name and a killer website!! We hope you think we’re as awesome as the Black community does!”

Likewise, the couple’s black friends seem equally pleased that Sally and Johnny are “down” enough to really understand and feel comfortable with black culture. One of Johnny’s unnamed black friends, who is pictured along with several other deliriously happy black folks, says, “Johnny calls me da man! That puts me at ease. It makes me feel comfortable because I am Black and that’s how Black folks talk to one another.”

Not surprisingly, the site’s jabs at presumptuous white liberals has angered more than a few whites as well as blacks. “You are an embarrassment to the human race. I will try to not hold your behavior against all White people,” says one posting. Another: “I am black and I don’t love u, so fuck ya’ll.”

I can’t see what the fuss is about. This stuff is real mild. Anybody who can’t figure out that this is essentially beginner-level cultural commentary needs to get out of the house a little more. Oh, and while you’re out there, buy yourself a thicker skin. Trust me, you need it.

What amuses me about the anger directed here is what amused me back when those guardians of black culture, the tag-team Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, took it upon themselves to denounce the black-cast comedy movie Barbershop.

One Barbershop character rags on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as our very own Rosa Parks; the character is then dissed rather than applauded by the shop patrons. Or so I hear. I didn’t see the movie because I could tell it wasn’t my kind of flick. But if the depictions I read are close to accurate, all I can say is that brothers Jackson and Sharpton need to get a grip. After 300-plus years of slavery, Jim Crow, and some of everything else this country has had to throw at us, we can handle a few harsh jokes — even bad jokes — by our own on our own. I thought we hired the good pastors (we did hire them, right?) to put out the really big fires; yet here they are dousing a damned match that ain’t even lit.

If they keep this up, some satirist is going to put up a site called



Nobody believed me, but I can understand why. Nobody ever believes the kids.

But I know what I saw.

Christmas morning. Mom and Dad are sleeping the sleep of parents who have just finished the near-impossible task of creating an entire holiday season in one night — for the joy of one small child.

I know better than to wake them up. By now I’m old enough to where I can’t get away with the excuse that Christmas morning isn’t coming fast enough. So instead I wander into the living room to guess at the contents of the boxes beneath the tree.

That doesn’t take long, and I’m still painfully awake. I need something else to do. That’s when I decide to take a peek out the window — and that’s where I saw them.

They are right there in the snow, about five feet away from where my face is pressed disbelievingly against the coolness of the glass. I remember that the thin blanket of snow hadn’t been there the night before, and from what I can see not a soul has set foot in it — or driven through it — at this early hour of the dawn.

That is, except for the soul that made those small hoof prints. Yes, those hoof prints. The ones that are spaced fairly evenly apart inside what looks to be a set of tracks made by some kind of sleigh. The tracks — and the hoof prints — extend for about 20 feet or more away from the house before they … just … disappear …

I run outside in my pajamas to look everywhere for any other footprints, but especially for the footprints belonging to the prankster who almost certainly had to have been responsible for this Christmas morning surprise.

There are none. Everywhere I look the snow is calm and blissfully undisturbed. Except for…

Ignoring the fact that I am no longer young enough to wake up my parents and force them to celebrate Christmas at my earliest convenience, I dash back inside and begin to shake them. And shake them. And beg them. And plead with them.

“But you’ve got to …”

But no, they don’t. They have spent an entire sleepless night building a season just for me, so right now they simply don’t got to.

Which, of course, is why they never saw any of it except for the reflection that played upon the memory of my eyes. As the sun climbed higher the thin white veil began to melt away, stealing my Christmas surprise one snowflake at a time. When the architects of my holiday season finally awoke and drifted into the living room to see me still standing quietly by the window, all they could offer were indulgent winks and nods in response to my pointing finger and my insistent tale.

Sometimes the faded memories of fantasy weigh more on this life than the all-too-clear realities of everyday living.


Keith A. Owens is a Detroit-area writer and musician. E-mail [email protected]