Stuck on Blacking While Black | Crooked Media
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April 05, 2022
Stuck with Damon Young
Stuck on Blacking While Black

In This Episode

Damon examines the idea of performing Blackness around other Black people with Lauren Michele Jackson and Terence Nance.

Transcript:
Sensitive Content: Hey everybody, just a note, this episode contains adult themes and language.
Damon Young: So in June of 2019, I was invited to New York City to perform for The Moth. The event took place at Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn. And between the ambiance, the predominately white crowd, and the fact that this happened at night time – and, remember we were in a fucking cemetary – it felt like a deleted scene from Get Out.

The piece I read added to that feeling. It was an altered version of the first chapter of my book – where I tell the story of how I’d never been called a nigger by a white person as a kid. But I wanted that to happen – just so I could beat them up, and then have a cool story about the time I whooped some white boy’s ass for calling me that.

Clip from The Moth: Even my sister, who’s nine years older than me, you know had this cool, I’ll call it a ‘nigger fight story,’ about a time she was in high school choir practice and this white girl in the band called her a nigger, and then my sister kicked her ass, and got suspended from school. And she was terrified that once my parents found out she had got suspended that she would get in trouble, but once my parents found out why she got suspended, she didn’t get grounded, she got butter pecan ice cream. And I wanted my own, you know, post nigger fight story ice cream party, polaroids, you know, clowns, a pinata, the whole shabang.

Damon: I chose that story because it was a challenge for me to perform it in front of that audience. But I’m actually more interested in another type of racial performance.

Later that night, I went to dinner with my homegirl Ashley. We ate at some spot in Brooklyn. The clientele was Black. And the staff was Black. And I felt myself shifting. I was uncomfortable on that Moth stage and around all those white people. But at that restaurant I felt comfortable again. So comfortable that I started to perform comfort. I sprawled across my seat like I was on my couch at home, I joked with the waitstaff and the people sitting at the table next to us like they were long-lost buddies instead of some niggas I just met.

It felt like what happens when you’ve been thirsty for a minute, and you finally get a glass of water, and then you take a gulp so exaggerated that you give yourself a stomachache.

So this ain’t the only time I’ve noticed myself doing something like this. I’ll be in a predominately white space, and I’ll subconsciously shift to a version of me that’s 10 percent less me. Not really to appease them, but to protect me. And then I’ll be in a predominately Black space, and I’ll shift to a me that’s 10 percent more than the real me.

So like, even the me that’s saying this right now, is a hundred thousand trillion times more concerned about how this will sound to Black people than how this will sound to white people. And so maybe even now, as I’m writing about racial performance and intra-racial code switching, it’s happening. But with all this shifting and performing all the time, who is the real me?

This is Stuck with Damon Young, where some of y’all just aint allowed to say a word I’m allowed to say. Nigga nigga nigga, nigga nigga nigga, nigga nigga, nigga nigga nigga nigga, nigga.

And today we’re talking about racial performance. And I think when we think about that, it’s often thought of in the context of code switching or other types of ways we act around people of other races. But I’ve always been more interested in intra-racial performance. Like the rules, the intra-racial rules that govern what we do, what we say, how we act, and how we engage with each other.

[Music Transition]
Lauren Michele Jackson: We all inherit race, we all have race given to us, which is to say that we don’t really have, I don’t have the choice of whether to be Black or not. Like when I walk outside, like, that’s not something that I get to choose.
Damon: So that’s Lauren Michele Jackson. She’s an assistant professor of English at Northwestern University and a contributing writer at The New Yorker. She’s also the author of the essay collection “White Negroes.” And I reached out to her because she’s always just had really interesting thoughts about intra-racial performance, on Twitter, and in her book. And I just wanted to see how she felt about this idea of performing Blackness while Black.
You know, there’s this conversation, ongoing conversations about like the cost of a code switching and respectability and all of that, and all of that, I guess, is centered on how Black people behave in white spaces or how, you know, we try to appease whiteness or try to apply some sort of behavioral deodorant to be more palatable to white people. But I’m more curious on your thoughts about intra-racial code switching.
Lauren: Mm hm.
Damon: Where we maybe have an expectation or have an idea of who maybe we’re anticipated to be within the community and perhaps that expectation isn’t a reality. And so we maybe adjust our behavior a bit to fit that expectation. Have you ever experienced that or felt that?
Lauren: I think I would have to say yes. Which is to say that, of course, of course it happens, or of course, it’s a thing. I think we do a lot of contextual sort of reading of the room and shifting accordingly, even in ways that, or especially in ways that aren’t as spectacular as the sort of code switching big sociological term that kind of implies that we’re like literally switching up our entire person to to fit different environments, which I think we do too.
You’re among your family and you maybe speak a certain way or hold yourself a certain way. You’re around, maybe extended family or you go to the church or you’re, you know, hanging out with your friends. It’s like, it’s very I think there are a lot of differences that are still within the universe of who you are as an individual. And I think you don’t maybe notice it or feel it. I think when you feel it is when you’re kind of in a situation where you feel like you actually don’t have the sort of necessary tools to conform to what this situation ought to be.
But I think in a lot of like Black fiction, be it novels or short stories or television or films, there’s that scene of the boogie Black person who goes to hang out with like the folk or whatever, and it’s like they’re at a party, I don’t know… I was picturing a party. I’m actually picturing one novel in particular. But like, I feel like this happens a lot where the person’s like, you know, they don’t have the slang or they don’t have the, they’re not dressed right or whatever. And like, we’re supposed to understand this as an instance of Blackness being multitudinous and like this person’s Blackness is not the same in this instance as the other people around them. Or if it’s badly done, it’s supposed to be understood that like, you know, there’s a certain sort of essential Blackness that this person does not have or something like that, like a Carlton instance or something like that. But especially when we talk about like cultural difference, which is not something I feel like we, I say we, but I feel isn’t spoken about or discussed as often, you know, we only discuss cultural differences among Black people when we’re fighting over, you know, how to cook whatever or anything, right?
Damon: Yeah, you know when we have these conversations is usually like this antagonistic sense or almost like a competitive sense, particularly when these conversations happen on social media. They become like, Oh, well, Black people from the South do this. If you put sugar on grits, or if you put salt on grits, then… and it becomes this like almost like this, like really like hacky standup skit that just recurs over and over and over again, where instead of the white people act like this jokes, it becomes Black people, Black people from the South act like this. Black people from the hood act like this.
When you were talking about just the movie scene, when you have the person, the Black person who enters the party and they’re like, boogie and their at this hood party and the camera shows them with a face, and like, just picking up like a, you know, like a 40. It’s like, what am I supposed to do with this, am I supposed to drink it? Or what is this? And it is almost as if they’re on Mars. But I guess the point that I was getting out with that is that even with those instances cinematically, it does feel like that happens or it has depicted more with Black women.
Now, Carlton is probably the most prominent example of, you know, of that sort of character. But when you were talking about movies, I was thinking, like my mind specifically went to The Best Man, and I’m thinking of Melissa De Sousa. I’m thinking of her. I don’t know why I’m thinking of her, but I’m thinking of her entering a room and just making a face, and how that character exists in so many and so many Black movies, like that specific character. And then by the end of the movie, she’s like, she either doesn’t change or she changes and like, gets like a light-skinned, you know, mechanic who saves…with the cornrows, the cornrow wig, the God-fearing muscular mechanic who, you know, who takes her hand and, you know, heals her of her boogie ways.
Lauren: Right. I feel like we’re cobbling together a whole production here between our both our imaginings of this scene in the movie that builds out of it. I think the thing about that sort of scene, too, is that in addition to presuming that the, you know, the protagonist, the one whose point of view we’re meant to empathize with, not only is it in assuming that they don’t have any Black family. You know, out of anybody, you know, Black people have the most sort of class stratification, like if you are a middle class Black person like you are more likely to know or have family who is working class, who is below the poverty level than, you know, your middle class white counterpart. So the assumption that, like working class life is like so foreign to a middle class person, a middle class Black person is like, again, that’s one of those fictions. But it also presumes that like the person going to the party or the function or what have you, would be hostile to, you know, the idea of being and folded into the scene and being an anonymous person or being part of the group. I think arriving at a party full of people you don’t know can feel very momentous. But also I think it’s just like, I don’t know, it’s not that it’s not that big of a deal. Like, you go, you grab like a cup. You drink a little bat, you’re like, Hey, what’s up? You find like your one friend, you were supposed to meet there. They drag you around, you know the music. Like they’re not going to be playing music that you don’t know, right? I don’t know. I’m just like talking this up to myself, it just gets more and more implausible, like the more you think about it.
[Music Transition]
Damon: I wanted to know. You know, we talked about just, I guess, the generalized idea of this intra-racial performance, but can you think of any examples of you doing it?
Lauren: I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, majority white town, one town away from where my mom largely grew up, though she was born and her family’s from New Orleans. And so like, I’ve had family sort of scattered throughout the U.S., you know, Great Migration, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
I remember going to my first funeral that I’ve ever been to, which is when my great grandmother passed. And so we flew to Boston, and that’s where a lot of my paternal family was and still is. And so it was this huge Black funeral. All these like, you know, cousins and aunts and great aunts, like all these people that I, you know, I never met or people that, you know, when you come up to them, they’re like, the last time I saw you, you were, you know, this big.
And I just remember we were on our way to the church and we were in this limo. And again, I was like, all these people who are my own age, but like members of family that are like, so extended, I just like never, never met them, never hang out with them. We were in this limo and we were blasting the Kanye West song The Lamborghini, Mercy..It’s Mercy?
Damon: Yeah. It’s called Mercy.
Lauren: And so blasting that in this limo on this way to this funeral, like in this car full of these people I never met, but are like my family. Listening to this song that, of course, I know very well. And I just remember it being like this most disorienting experience.
I don’t even know if I like said a word. I was just like, so quiet. I think I was probably just like, you know, whatever, laughing and, you know, taking swigs of whatever.
Damon: Mm-Hm.
Lauren: It’s just like it sticks in my mind. Like, I think I remember that more than almost anything else that weekend because it was like familiar sounds, unfamiliar environment to, you know, mourn a woman who I didn’t really get to spend a lot of time with. I could think of what, like the bad version of that would look like in a movie, which is like, you know, me reasserting my difference from these people. But it was actually a lot more, I’ll say, like ambivalent in that it was very comforting and also very alienating at the same time.
And so it was one of those things that did emphasize in some ways my distance from a certain segment of my family, but it also sort of reinvigorated the sense that despite difference, regional difference, cultural difference, whatever. It was like, we were all kind of sharing this moment. That seems like a very romantic, probably telling of something that was probably like, if I could like, actually watch it back, just full of like silliness and like nonsense or whatever, but like…
Damon: I mean, you were listening to Mercy. And you know, I, you know, I’m going to give Kanye the credit for bringing you all together on the song.
Lauren: Oh Lord.
Damon: But you know, you said a word while you were telling that story. Disorienting. And I think that part of it is so real because it can be surreal when entering a space, just trying to, you know, find whichever low frequency communication is happening to read body language to mine context clues and to determine like, OK, this is this is how I am going to act in this space today.
What I find myself doing sometimes is overcorrecting. You know, especially when there’s this whole fucking thing on, you know, being unapologetically Black and all this shit. And so like, for instance, I probably say nigga in my book 200 times. And there was an intentionality with that too. It’s like, you know what, I’m going to put this in here the way that I speak and white people, if they read it, they’re just going to have to read the real. And I’m not, you know, I’m not flattening myself, my identity, for nothing. But, I think that it was effective. But I can also see for, and particularly for a Black person who isn’t a fan of that word and a lot of it ain’t, that being distracting. Where you know, there is a level of performance with that.
There’s a T-shirt or sweatshirt that I wear that says Black as fuck, it says “Black AF” on it. And I used to love wearing it, like to the airport and just being, you know, having people, white people, Black people, whoever, come up to me and ask, you know, or Black people ask me where I got the shirt from. And then white people, white men particularly asking me, you know, what does “AF” mean? Is that like the Black, you know, an homage to, like the Black Air Force? Like, no, no, it means Black as fuck.
Lauren: Oh my goodness.
Damon: Oh, OK. And I feel like just that behavior, that overcorrection is just a product of just the anxiety of that disorientation, of modifying your behavior slightly and doing things that perhaps aren’t necessarily sincere, but they are part…like it’s not like you are, you know, completely just taking on an entire new identity or an entirely new, you know, language or dialect or whatever. These are things that are within the spectrum of behavior, you just bounce from, you know, from one end to the other end, you know, depending on the circumstance.
Lauren: If we could solve what, what I’ll call the problem of Blackness, which is like, and put borders around like once and for all, like what is and is not Black, I guess I wouldn’t need to have a job anymore because … [laughs] this just would not exist.
Damon: Me neither. No, I love that though, that point, because there is an economy around these conversations and that if these conversations no longer exist … It’s like, you know, what are doctors going to do if cancer is cured?
Lauren: Right. It’s the reason why passing narratives still hold such fascination in our culture because those narratives show how fickle and mutable something like Blackness is racially, culturally. It’s like the, you know, it’s like something. It’s like, you know it, it’s like whatever pornography, you know when you see it, you know when you hear it, you know when you feel it. You know, something can just like, you know, Blackness is like a feeling, like you sense it, like this thing is like, so Black, right? But then the second you have to elaborate on that, it’s like, what? You know, where do you go from there? What do you say?
Damon: Obviously, there are so many different ways to be Black or ways to, you know, to exist while Black. I mean, you just need black skin. That’s it. Black parents, that’s how you exist while Black. You have one Black parent. That’s the bar, that’s it. You just need one Black parent and boom you won, ok?
[Music Transition]
Robovoice: Thank you for calling Quaker Oats. Your call may be monitored or recorded.
Juliana: Hi, this is Juliana speaking, how may I help you?
Damon: Hey, Juliana, I want to talk to someone about grits.
Juliana: I am not the grits specialist, sir. We do have representatives that do answer calls about grits. But do you mind if I transfer you over to a representative to better assist you with this call?
Damon: Sure.
Juliana: All right, thank you.
Caleb: Hello, this is Caleb. How may I help you?
Damon: Hey, Caleb, are you the grits specialist?
Caleb: Yes, so I’d be happy to help you if you happen to have an issue with your grits.
Damon: No, no, I don’t have an issue. I’ve just been a fan of grits for like 35, 40 years at this point. And I wanted to know, I wanted to, I guess there’s a debate I’ve had with my friends about whether grits are supposed to be eaten with sugar or more savory with salt and butter.
Caleb: Oh, so I did want to thank you, thank you for being a friend. I am glad to hear that you’re such a big fan. And so generally a lot of grits recipes are on the savory side. You know, if you find that they taste good with sugar by all means.
Damon: Well, I guess, I also want to know, like when grits first came to market, I mean, what was, how were, what was the way that I guess the inventor of grits intended for them to be eaten?
Caleb: I can, I can look into this to see if we have any more specifics on like the overall history of grits, I would just want to place you on a brief hold.
Damon: OK.
Caleb: Thank you for holding.
[Hold Music]
Caleb: Hello?
Damon: Hello.
Caleb: Thank you again for holding, so I did some searching through our grits history and unfortunately we don’t have much history that goes back before the 1960s. So I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t be able to shed any light on any like kind of like original and anything before that. But I did, you know, I did look through most of our website and generally the recipes that we have involving grits, they’re almost entirely savory. So, you know, while I’m sure there are some people that you know, have found good uses for using like sugar or using something a little bit more sweet, generally I’m seeing for our recipe recommendations… And even with our instant grits, like the additional flavors we have, they’re almost, pretty regularly, you know, almost all on the more savory side of flavors.
Damon: OK, well, Caleb, I greatly appreciate your due diligence in finding this information out for me. Now, I will be able to, I guess, end some debates and settle some arguments with my friends.
Caleb: Damon, thanks again for the time to reach out to us and for being a fan and having a great rest of your afternoon.
Damon: You, too. You too. Thank you.
Caleb: Take care. Goodbye.
[Music Transition]

Damon: Can you just tell us who you are, what you do, and how you feel about grits?

Terence Nance: I just made some grits last night, wow, what are the odds. [laughs]
Damon: So that’s the homie Terence Nance, who’s the creator of Random Acts of Flyness on HBO. He’s also an artistic director, and a producer. And I just, I don’t know, I just wanted to talk to him because his work, more than anyone else I’ve consumed, explores what happens when the expected range of behavior of Black-maleness collides with the actual range. It’s not so much a paradigm shift, but a paradigm smash.
I know the answer to this question before I even ask, but I’m gonna ask anyway. Have you ever felt restricted racially? In terms of being or being able to be who you are, in terms of OK, I am this cisgender Black boy. I’m supposed to think this way. I’m supposed to act this way. I’m supposed to be this way. And so have you ever felt that? And if so, what did you do to, I guess, subvert that?
Terence: Restricted is like an interesting… Because my initial reaction to that was like niggas try to restrict me! But… you know, like, I don’t know how successful these niggas are. You know, I was kind of like, oh why am I activated by that word? Clearly someone was successful in, like, a different moment. And I want to prove to them that they have not, god damn, you know, that kind of thing.
There’s a dynamic in your book where you talk about going to two different schools.
Damon: Mm hm.
Terence: And I remember relating to that. I do kind of vaguely remember, you know, just fighting a lot. Like whenever I got to being around a lot of white people, it was just like, you know…It was like the literal KKK. Like, you know, like being in that dynamic. And just having to, you know, not having the witty comeback or whatever it was when they would say racist shit, just like going straight to the fight, you know. I think that has probably been, had a legacy in my, that’s probably just what restriction. I guess, that just fight back, that kind of impulse, just like I’m going to go straight to that moment. You know what I mean? It’s still present. You know, that stuff that happened when I was a child, you know?
Damon: So you’re speaking more of, like external restrictions and not internal. Mm hmm.
Terence: Mmm hmm.
Damon: Yeah, I think for me it was definitely more internal. And I, like I never really felt that at least when I was once I got like the high school or whatever, like around white people, like any performance, any pressure to perform, any sort of Blackness, whatever the fuck that means. And like and even, you know, there’s the whole stereotype that you see on TV, that you see in movies, that you read in literature about, you know, you grow up in the hood, and around every corner, everyone’s trying to get them to join a gang or sell drugs or whatever. And that was like, I’m not, I don’t want to minimize people. Like, if that was your existence, if that was your experience. I don’t want to minimize that. But that just, yeah, that wasn’t mine at all. Like the like the dope boys and hustlers and shit that I knew were like, yo, you need to stay the fuck in school, you need to keep hoopin and don’t hang around with us, stay in school lil nigga.
Terence: That’d be a funny movie, like a kid tried to join a gang, and gangs was like, nigga, stay yo ass in school.
[Music Transition]
Damon: I feel like there’s like this socialized idea of what the hood is like and what Black people who are in the hood are like. And it’s like that is just not true. Like even the shit about, you know, like grown ass niggas talking about how they were teased for talking white, you know, when they were kids. And it’s just like you were probably just teased for being lame, not for talking white, not for being smart.
Terence: That’s funny, because I think they like every time I’ve ever heard that experience, I was like, did anybody ever? But I do remember, you know, I had the type of parents, so I couldn’t say pee, I had to stay urinate, you know, like that was the prevailing mood in my household, like diction, you know, and the correct word. And I do remember talking differently than other people I was around because of that. But nobody from my memory had any kind of like that means whiteness in a way. But I think that there is a, to the point where I’m like, I don’t think that happens. But that is clearly someone’s experience because it was put on TV so much.
Damon: But the thing is, even though I didn’t experience that, I did experience like an internal restriction, I guess. And part of it, I guess it’s just my own angst and the neuroses that I’ve just always possessed. But I do think that I saw that, OK, there’s this expectation of how Black male, particularly Black male who’s an athlete is supposed to be. And I just felt like, you know what, I don’t necessarily feel that way all the time. So maybe there’s something wrong with my wiring or maybe I need to try to pretend or try to perform to fit this ideal. And I do remember, particularly as a young kid feeling that way and not even just a young kid, even even in adolescence and going off to college, still having that thing be a part of me.
Terence: So when you say that like there is an internal pressure to be a certain thing, what was, who was that person that you are not going to be able to be?
Damon: I mean, Billy Dee Williams.
Terence: Really?
Damon: I don’t know, I’m bullshitting because I’m not that old. Who? I don’t know, who was…
Terence: I remember at some point, you know, whatever like being an athlete growing up as well. I feel like there was a little bit of a pressure, this is a weird thing to say, but like Kevin Garnett, like somebody like Kevin Garnett. There was a lot of people around me, I feel like, who were kind of like Kevin Garnett, like the way, just really big personality, like, kind of funny, you know, just that like that kind of alpha, that alpha archetype of the tallest the, you know, whatever that is.
I was very quiet. I was almost defiantly quiet. I wouldn’t talk as a kid. I think it was like I went in the opposite direction, but it was still like an archetype I was going for in a way, you know.
Damon: What was the archetype?
Terence: I think at some point it was probably related to some sort of trauma related to like changing environments, going from being around you know, a very diverse environment, a lot of Black people, a lot of Latinx people, and then to an all white environment at school, I just stopped talking for a while. And then I think in the non-talking, I think I’ve found it to be useful. In some sort of way to, like, not be readable, you know. It’s like I don’t know exactly what it was, but I definitely let it persist past any concept of reason, you know, just like, you know, I’m still trying to work through what it was. But I was very, I was like, oh, this is my lane, you know, so I stayed in it.
Damon: Well that contrast, that I guess that alpha gregariousness of like of someone like Kevin Garnett.
Terence: It was definitely, it was the opposite. You know, I don’t think that was available to me, though, you know what I mean? Because it was partially, I come from a family of Kevin Garnetts. Everybody, my family is very like, it’s hard to get a word in, you know, in a lot of ways. So I think it was kind of like, all right. I can’t compete, you know what I mean? I’ll do the inverse thing. So I think that was part of it, you know, just trying to distinguish myself in some sort of way.
Damon: Yeah, you know, it’s funny, like the more you talk, the more I feel like some synergy or some similarity between how I was when I was a kid, because I also recognize, like I looked at that alpha gregariousness that I think is expected of Black males. And I looked at that as like aspirational. Right. But I also knew that, you know what, that’s just isn’t me. And although I was, I felt like some sort of some sort of FOMO, I guess, I think there was an intentionality with me being like, you know what, well, since I’m not that, I’m going to be I’m going to be the nigga that, you know, that’s laid back, that, you know, that has like a lot of inside jokes and people don’t even know what he’s laughing at half the time. I’m going to be mysterious.
Terence: Yeah. That single word answer type motherfucker, just the one word answer like, oh, OK. I feel like it’s a little bit of an internal external restriction because I do think it like, I’ve had the experience of being, working on a movie at a white company, working on TV showed a white company and speaking to a range of reference points that I know they find difficult to digest when they come out of my body or my experience, you know what I mean?
So it’s like if I come in with, you know, reference points that feel to them, like outside of the, you know codified concept of what, you know, Black men are interested in. And it becomes like, oh, this won’t be broad enough, you know, this will be too niche, this will be to this or that. You know, if I, you know, have a broad range of reference points which all of us do. You know what I mean? No matter who it is. So I think it’s like that is really present and it’s a day to day thing in my life. Day to day.
It’s interesting what people think of, not interesting, it’s white supremacist what companies understand to be palatable for rendering of a Black character, especially kids, you know. It gets really refined like, oh, Black kids they’re just into basketball and football and video games, play basketball and football on the video games. That’s about it.
Damon: And you were a Black kid. You are a Black kid, a Black man who’s also into all that stuff. Who also played football in college. Yeah, and did you ever feel any sort of, I don’t know, did you ever feel any sort of not in that conflict in terms of the expectation? Like, OK, you are this football player, you are this athlete, and so where the fuck is this shit coming from? I didn’t expect you to say this. You’re, you’re a football player. You’re a Black football player.
Terence: Not at that time. No, I think one that was pretty careful to, like, not say that outloud (laughs). Not lead with that. But, you know, one thing is that, like, if you’re not careful, the academic side will get determined for you. I happened to know better just because of, you know, who my parents are and just what they instilled. I just happen to know better. And I think, actually that created a situation where I was able to to like expose some people to be a little bit more self-determined, you know, around what they wanted to study and stuff like that, and I feel like that created a little bit of a, it was actually the reverse of what maybe you’re saying, because it was like my teammates were kind of like we should take these classes, like why am I studying to be a corrections officer, you know?
Damon: Alright man. Thank you. Thank you for this.
Terence: Yes Yes.
[Music Transition]
Damon VO: That Moth performance ends with me sharirng how I was finally called a nigger, when I was 17, by a Ricky Schroder doppleganger, while I was at a bus stop and he was speeding past in a car. The experience was so random and so absurd that I just laughed.

It was the last time I ever let a white person’s behavior affect how I felt about my own Blackness. At least I think I thought it was. Because the real me – the real anybody, the real everybody– is affected by other people. That’s just what it means to be human. That 10% less me around white people and 10% more me around us is a false binary. Because it’s all the real me. We all perform in some capacity. And I’ve been fortunate, privileged, to build and curate a life where most of my days are like me in that restaurant in Brooklyn. Where I’m not performing for anyone, but me.

I get why I do it, I don’t feel bad about doing it, and I don’t want to stop doing it. Yeah, I don’t think I’m stuck here anymore.
[Music Transition]
Robovoice: Thank you for calling Quaker Oats.
Robovoice #2: Your call may be monitored or recorded.
Danielle: Hello, this is Danielle, how may I help you?
Damon: Hey, Danielle, I would like to talk to someone about Grits.
Danielle: Oh, sure, you could talk to me.
Damon: Yeah, I’ve been a big fan of grits for a very long time and I just wanted to know if it was better to eat them with sugar or with salt.
Danielle: . I’m sorry.
[Music Transition]

Damon: Stuck with Damon Young is a Spotify Original Podcast from Gimlet and Crooked Media. It’s hosted and written by me, Damon Young.

Ruben Davis is our Executive Producer. Our producers are Ashley Velez, Morgan Moody, Carlton Gillespie, Priscilla Alabi, Stephen Hoffman, and Corinne Gilliard.

Mixing and Sound Design by Jesse Naus, Charlotte Landes, and Veronica Simonetti.
Theme Music and Score by Open Mike Eagle.

From Crooked Media, our Executive Producers are Tanya Somanader, Sarah Geismer, and Katie Long. From Gimlet, our Executive Producers are Rosie Guerin, Krystal Hawes-Dressler, Collin Campbell, and Lydia Polgreen.

Lastly, special thanks to The Moth. The clip in the episode was from a story told and recorded at The Moth Mainstage at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York in the summer of 2019.