Scene 1: Six of the eight members of the CFC gather in Atlanta, GA, birthplace of the collective. We are celebrating the launch of our book! We read selections from our book (available online and in fine independent bookstores everywhere) and chop it up with our local fam at Charis Books & More, North America’s oldest feminist bookstore. The conversation feels anointed like church, or, rather, like the non-denominational, secular Feminist Temple of Justice that we create in its place #shando
Scene 2: After this dope experience, a few of us amble around the corner for some grub. Our server is a brother who insists calling us “queens” in a way that is Notep-adjacent but obviously heartfelt, and so we continue to love on each other as we order lemon pepper wings and French fries. Another server, a white woman, bum rushes the table and questions whether the server can “handle us.” I look around to see if a table of bucking broncos has replaced the table of smiling, laughing Black women. Nope, just us. Brother server says, “I got this. I’m taking care of my queens.” Becky server says, “Are you sure? Cause this is a table of strong bitches.” There is a distinct pause between “strong” and “bitches,” in which the word “Black” hovers silent and lethal as a drone. Our server waves the woman away in anger. We turn to one another laughing in disbelief and weariness. “Did she just call us bitches?” we ask each other. Yes, yes she did.
Welcome to Trump’s/Obama’s/Bush’s/Clinton’s/Bush’s/George Washington’s America.
These days I have to laugh to keep from crying. Every time I turn on the news or scroll through my social media, I’m either filled with rage or despair. (Except when I go to Instagram which, for me, is thankfully mostly filled with pictures of babies and friends taking sexy selfies that they don’t want their coworkers to see on Facebook. ). Otherwise, it’s a nonstop deluge of Trump’s bad decisions and even worse hair, the weak, trembling chins of all his children of the corn, and a barrage of phone numbers I need to call and messages I need to give to my senators every day of my natural born life.
How do I respond to this?
I teach, I organize, I rabble rouse. I read, I write, I help raise consciousness—others and my own. I also spend hours laughing at and sharing petty memes.
Just call me Petty Douglass.
Reading the following in Vice the other day made a petty light bulb go off above my petty head:
“[Right now], petty is the word that’s out there,” says Anne H. Charity Hudley, associate professor of linguistics and Africana studies at the College of William and Mary. “[Now], it’s kind of a noun—it’s something you do. In [the way that it’s being used currently in] Black culture, it’s a state of being. You’re not being petty, you are petty.” Charity Hudley describes the state of “being petty” as a form of Black resistance, likening it to “throwing shade,” “reading someone,” even singing the blues. “[Petty comes] from a long history of Black verbal arts and culture in which things have a double meaning. It’s a way of doing or saying something that, because it isn’t an outward response, is less likely to [elicit a reaction that is] dangerous or deadly.”
Word. This is a longstanding Diasporic tradition. What Mother Zora called our “adornment of language.”
I already follow, read, and share Awesomely Luvvie, Very Smart Brothas, and any other smart, petty analysis I can get my hot little hands on. (Though you should know they are not as tiny as the president’s hands, for the record). And, I don’t know, they all bring me such great, great joy. I don’t want to quit them. And I won’t.
Case in point. So, last night, I, along with the rest of Atlanta, and all other decent folk, was up rooting for the Dirty Birds in the Superbowl. Generally, I’m not very interested in sports (except at the Olympics when I am rocking my black, green, and gold and rooting for Jamaica because we likkle but we tallawa), but I had to do it for the culture and support the Falcons. This was basically me all night.
But we lost and Drumpf’s BFF Tom Brady won because there is no justice. Then I remembered that Beyonce is having twins and I got happy again.
Don’t judge me. I need what I can to get by.
So, the next time you’re feeling petty in the face of white supremacy, don’t censor yourself. Just do it.
Always and forever,
Petty Sue (aka Crunkadelic)