Ch. 9: Origin of a Blaxistential Crisis
Author’s note: this is the 9th chapter in the satirical memoir “Dungeons ’n’ Durags: One Black Nerd’s Epic Quest of Self-discovery, Racial Identity, and Crisis of Faith in Trump’s America.” Although many of the chapters work perfectly fine autonomously, some are best experienced with context.
If you’re all caught up, you can skip the “Previously on” intro. If you want to catch up before reading, start here.
Previously, on Dungeons ’n’ Durags…
My name is Ron. I’m a black man who has lived my entire adult life in a white world.
Up until November 2016, that was fine. Then the 2016 presidential election threw me for a loop. Friends I thought I knew were saying shit I never dreamed they believed, yet alone would say in public!
I had to speak out. The once nice, apolitical, Christian, “white safe” Ron had become the proverbial “angry black man,” calling white people on their privilege, fellow Christians on their hypocrisy, and causing a ruckus.
Television played a huge role in my life growing up. My single mom nurse used it as the classic babysitter for my brother and me so that she could catch up on sleep during the weekend.
And as we learned in the last chapter, all that TV watching led to a long string of crushes. From Darla on “The Little Rascals” to Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” to Jan Brady and especially Penny Robinson.
Just about all my TV crushes were beautiful, adorable, girl-next-door types. Who all just happened to be white. And that’s where our story picks up…
All throughout history are stories of heroes being visited by supernatural beings who provide wisdom, sage advice, guidance, or warnings. Scrooge got the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Moses got a talking burning bush. Luke got the Force-ghost of his friend and mentor Obi-wan Kenobi.
I got Sam Jackson. The Samuel L. Jackson! In all his glory as the hitman Jules Winnfield from “Pulp Fiction” — jheri curl, goatee, black suit, and all.
Remember that reference I made earlier about a little “Sam Jackson” on my shoulder telling me to just say “Shit”? Well, like a clichéd plot from an 80s B-movie, somehow or another, I actually conjured him.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “How cool! Sam Jackson is a badass!” Yes, he’s a badass. But it is NOT cool. I’m pretty sure Brett in “Pulp Fiction” was not happy to have his visit (considering he was shot to death). And while I’m pretty sure he wasn’t sent to literally shoot me, I am not entirely convinced his presence in my life isn’t to make me wish I were dead.
I have documented my encounters with him in this book.
I try to get the words in my brain to connect to my mouth, but all I can get out is…
Me:“You…you…you’re…”Sam: Yes. Yes I am.Me: But how is this possible? Where did you come from? What are you doing here?Sam: I’m here to help keep you on your path of enlightenment, Ronald. Or in your case, endarkenment. Think of me as your guardian angel.Me: That’s funny. I was just writing earlier in my book where I actually referred to you as a metaphor for the little devil that sits on a person’s shoulders.Sam: Angel. Devil. Spirit animal. Different cultures call us different things, but we all kinda do the same thing.Me: Hmmm? I’m not quite sure I would classify an angel and devil as doing the same thing.Sam: Really? One man’s devil is another man’s angel. What I am to YOU is gonna depend on a lot of muthafuckin’ things my brutha.Me: Okay. So, what exactly is it you do?Sam: Mind if I have a seat to rest my weary feet?Me: Sure. By all means.
I move my papers aside and Sam makes himself quite at home. He kicks his feet up on my desk and crosses them. He then pulls a boiled egg out of his inner pocket, peels it, salts it, then tosses the whole thing into his mouth.
Sam: Well, Ronald. I’m here…Me.Sam: Excuse me. But my middle name is actually Ronaldo. There’s an “o” at the end. That’s where "Ron" comes from. Ronaldo.
He raises his left eyebrow and gives me a sort of side-eye smirk. He swallows the egg, wipes his mouth, then proceeds.
Sam: Well, Cleve…
The fact that he switches to my legal first name immediately tells me that 1) he already knew my name and didn’t care, and 2) wasn’t amused with the correction.
Sam: I see that you are on a sort of personal, and dare I say, spiritual journey. You’re going through what we in the biz like to call a "blaxistential" crisis.Me: A blaxistential crisis?
He responds in the emblematic way of the perfect, hard-ass Sam Jackson caricature.
Sam: Yessir. You see, you’re struggling with what it means to be really “black” in America, and are reflecting on the many black sins you’ve committed in the past, with a hope of reaching Negro salvation here in the present by becoming a real, down-home, woke brutha ready to fight the racial oppression of our people and those that look like us — all living under the thumb of one orange motherfucker with a fucked-up hairdo.
He smiles, reaches into his inner pocket and pulls out a blunt.
Me: What makes you think I need a lesson on how to be "really" black?
Sam: Have you read your book Ronald? Goddam man. Like let's start with that list of bitches you just rattled off as all the girls you had the hots for.
Me: Whoa! Is that kind of language really necessary?
Sam: Nigga. I haven’t even got started. Now, what’s up with all the white girls?
Me: Excuse me?
Sam: You heard me nigga. You didn’t like no sistas on TV when you was a kid?
Me: Oh, yeah. Of course I did.
There’s an uncomfortable pause between us as he looks at me. I then look at him. He looks at me. He then takes a puff from his joint. Then responds.
Sam: Who muthafucka?! Shit! Do I have to drag it out of you?
Me: Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Well, um, Tootie from “Facts of Life.”
He starts to laugh that stilted laugh that comes when smoking a joint.
Sam: Ah yeah. She was kinda fine in those later years. She had some real curves on her. Not bad Ronald. Go on. Who else?
Me: Well, actually,I had a crush on her in season 1. When she was on those skates.
I smile and chuckle a bit as I recall some fond memories.
Me: Actually, it was so funny. My brother and I used to fight to see who could kiss the TV first when she was on screen.
My chuckling kinda dies off as Sam frowns and gives me a cross look.
Sam: That’s fucking adorable Ronald. Anyone else?
Me: Ummmm? Let me see.
I rack my brain trying to remember. For the life of me, I can’t think of any other black girls on TV I had crushes on.
Sam: What about Thelma from Good Times? I’m sure you had a crush on that fine sista.
Me: Huh? No, not really. Maybe because she was so much older.
Sam: Older? Nigga, didn’t you write earlier that you had a thing for Wonder Woman?
Sam: Well. She was a whole, old-ass woman.
Me: Oh yeah right, I guess I did. I don’t know, I just never had a thing for Thelma. I don’t know.
Sam: What about Penny from Good Times?
Me: Oh. Wow. Yeah. Janet Jackson! I totally forgot about her!
Sam: So, you did like her?
Me: Oh. No. I just meant, I had forgotten Janet Jackson was on that show. But, I don’t ever remember having a crush on her.
Sam: Okay, how about Dee from What’s Happening?
Me: Ummm? I don’t know? I guess not.
Sam shakes his head.
Sam: Man oh man. This is going to be harder than I thought. You didn’t like Janet from Good Times, but you liked Jan Brady? You didn’t like Dee from "What’s happening," but you liked Darla from Little Rascals?
Me: I didn’t like Penny from "Good Times" but I liked Penny from "Lost in Space?"
I chuckle at my attempt at humor.
Sam: What, is that supposed to be a little jokey joke?
Me: No, just trying to keep the mood light. Ha ha…
Sam: What about when you were in high school or college? You still watched TV then, right?
Me: Yes. Of course.
Sam: Okay. How about then? Did you even go for the light-skinned sistas like Lisa Bonet or Jasmine Guy?
Me: Well, by high school and college, I sorta grew out of having crushes on TV characters.
Sam: Oh I get it. Too busy having crushes on white women in real life, huh?
I just roll my eyes and say the best come back I can think of…
Sam: “Whatever?” Is that your fuckin’ come back?
Sam: Ahh shit. This IS going to be harder than I thought.
Me: What’s your point in all of this?
Sam’s laugh dies and his face turns into a scowl. For the first time I am genuinely afraid of what he’s going to do. I finally know how Brett must have felt in that chair in “Pulp Fiction” right before hearing Ezekiel 25:17.
I don’t feel any better when he gets up, puts his joint out on his tongue, sticks it back in his pocket and gets up in my face.
Sam: My point, Ro-nal-DOH, is origin stories.
I cock my head, a bit confused.
Me: Origin stories?
Sam: Yeah. You like superheroes and shit, right?
Me: Yeah, of course. Who doesn’t?
Sam: Millions of people actually. But don’t change the fucking subject. As I was saying, this is like your origin story.
Me: My origin story?
Sam: Yes. The origin of your disconnection from your own people.
He backs away and walks towards my computer on the desk. As he does so, he pulls another egg out of his pocket, peels it, tosses some pepper on it this time, and swallows it whole. With a full mouth, chewing and spitting bits of egg here and there, he continues.
Sam: Since man first walked da ert, women have been the soul and heart of every civilization and community. It is from the woman that man is born. It is from the breast of a woman that man gains his first bit of strength. And men have been chasing titties ever since.
He starts to laugh.
Sam: No, but seriously. I laugh but my words are straight up the real deal. Your connection to women in a community will be your connection to that community.
Me: Huh? Wow. That sounds very P.C. and pro-woman coming from a man who just a few minutes ago was referring to a whole group of women as “bitches.”
Sam: Nigga! You think I give a shit about a bunch of stank-ass white girls you had a hard-on for when you were 10? Open your eyes muthafucka! I’m trying to help you here.
Me: How is this helping me, exactly?
Sam: Because unless you recognize, acknowledge, and make amends for your sins, you can’t move forward. And right now, you need to confess.
Me: I need to confess?
Sam: Yes. This is your “Step 5” muthafucka, and I’m your sponsor.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about Sam’s reference to the 12-Step Program. I don’t really see how having a string of crushes on TV stars as a kid, who all happen to have been white, equates me with being an alcoholic.
He pulls out his joint again, lights it, and takes a puff.
Sam: You’re going to have the opportunity to admit your sins Ronald. As you do, I want you to just keep one thing in mind.
Me: And what’s that?
Sam: If you remember nothing else I tell you, remember this. There are two people in this world you can never fool. Yourself…
Me: And God?
Sam: No. ME muthafucka!
And with that, he vanishes a la Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat. His whole body goes, leaving just his mouth. He takes one more puff on his joint, blows out the smoke, and as the smoke disappears, so does the rest of Sam.
I take a seat and marvel in awe at the unusual and supernatural encounter I just experienced. Was it real, or imagined? Was Sam an angel or a devil, and how would I know? And what did he mean I’d have to answer for my “sins?”
I was about to find out, all too soon.
Ch. 10: My First Times All Have One Thing in Common
From crushes to kisses to you know what.