White Noise

Son of Baldwin
Oct 7, 2016 · 4 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Hello, regarding last night. It’s extremely rude and inconsiderate to scream and stomp around your apartment until almost 2 a.m. My wife and I both have to get up early for work. A complaint has been submitted to the management. Next time, this will go straight to the police. Please learn your manners.

My homie Richard found this note on his door this morning, left by two of his white neighbors, complaining about the frequency of his voice and the timbre of his body. I think it’s emblematic of a historical racial and economic relationship.

One of the great divides, generally, between white people and black people (or the wealthy and the not wealthy) is noise.

White people hate our sounds and our volume (unless we’re singing for them).

This isn’t new.

This goes back to antebellum slavery when they outlawed drumming for it’s “disturbance of the peace” and its ability to communicate messages in a way they couldn’t decipher.

They tried to outlaw drumming in Harlem not too long ago.

What they want, despite whatever practical reasons they might hide behind, is for us to be as silent as possible so that they might avoid witnessing our joy and stay oblivious to our pain, while continuing to pretend that we only exist in the periphery. Quite frankly, they want us to be spooks.

That is, until they need our creativity, cool, culture, labor, or sex.

*Insert eye-roll, followed by a side-eye, sucked teeth, and a sigh.*

I get it. You want quiet when you’re trying to sleep. So that’s when you visit your neighbor, like any decent human being would, and have a discussion. The fact that they insulted his upbringing, engaged in low-key class antagonism, used the language of condescension, went straight to a complaint to management, and then threatened to call the cops?

That tells me that this is about more than noise.

This is what gentrification sounds like.

In any event, Richard responded to his neighbors with wit, grace, and aplomb.

File this one under “shade comes from reading, but reading came first” or “they fucked with the wrong one.”

Image for post
Image for post


To: The Passive Aggressive Neighbor & His Wife

Apartment 5J

From: Richard

Apartment 6J

Re: I’m Finna Tell You What You Not Gon’ Do

October 6th 2016

This letter serves a formal response to a note left by you expressing, in no uncertain terms, your intent to notify building management and the authorities of what you perceived to be the inconsiderate volume of my speaking voice in the evening hours of October 5, 2016.

First, let me be clear in addressing my lack of bother for your grievance and resolve to not be coerced to remedial action by your idle threats or seemingly pervasive white tears. I, the tenant of apartment 6J, having secured this rental property through earnings I made and credit I earned, have no inherent or expressly stated obligation to accommodate your hyper-sensitivities, or those of your spouse, when occupying my home. Though I empathize with the emotional distress brought on by sleep deprivation, citing my voice as the root-cause of your incapacity to attain restful slumber is both improbable and juvenile. Even in the off chance that my voice had been above what you consider to be considerate, the aggressive posturing of your note to address the matter was wholly unnecessary and, quite frankly, unproductive.

Second, your lack of both interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence reflects poorly on you as a neighbor, and frankly an American. As one of the only tenants of color occupying this building at full market rate, I find it personally abhorrent that you’d levy the threat of involving the authorities for an insignificant infraction such as the one you noted in your poorly written and ill-thought-out correspondence. As a Black man, I take these overt actions as a direct threat to my physical and psychological well-being and as an act of violence upon me (see attached list of the 821 men, women and children killed by police or in police custody to date in 2016). This threat cannot be taken lightly. To that end, I am submitting a formal complaint to both the New York City Police Department, the American Civil Liberties Union and the District Community Board so that they are made aware of your callous and irrational threats upon my person.

Lastly, I think it’s worth reminding you that you currently reside in Northern Manhattan, an enclave of ethnic and racial diversity that existed in community well before your gentrifying arrival. In the words of Robert Jones Jr., “one of the great divides between white people and black people (or the wealthy and the not wealthy) is noise.” Look forward to me continuing to make it at the volume in which I determine is acceptable.

Should you feel the need to threaten me again, please do so in person so that an amenable solution can be reached.

Kind Regards,

Richard Scott Brookshire III, MPA

Your #VeryBlack Neighbor


Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store