There’s Magic in These Negros (with Ira Madison III & Shamira Ibrahim) | Crooked Media
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April 27, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
There’s Magic in These Negros (with Ira Madison III & Shamira Ibrahim)

In This Episode

This week on Stuck, Ira Madison III joins Damon to have a conversation about the “magical negros” trope, and consider some of the most well-known examples from the real and fictional worlds. Then, in Dear Damon, Shamira Ibrahim returns to Stuck to help Damon advise a woman whose husband has developed a problematic traveling habit.

Send your questions, confessions and/or conundrums in for consideration to be responded to on the podcast at deardamon@crooked.com.

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Ira Madison III: The Matrix is populated with Magical Negroes. There’s always a Black person ready to give Keanu Reeves advice. 

 

Damon Young: You could argue that, you know, perhaps that is the white utopic future. [laughter] You know, all of us are in prominent positions of power, but we all exist just to help out the white protagonists. Like, we could be leaders, we could be generals, we could be presidents, whatever. But our only purpose is to help white people have all the sex that we’re not having. Basically. [music plays] So welcome back, everyone to Stuck with Damon Young. [laughs] The show were the only Magical Negro that we believe in is Jesus. Cause y’all need get saved. So earlier this year, The Guardian ran a profile of Djimon Hounsou where the Oscar nominated actor lamented that his career hasn’t been successful as he believes it could have been. Of course, one of the reasons for this lack of success is the limited amount of roles that Hollywood makes available for Black actors. And one of these roles is the Magical Negro, a perpetually recurring trope in film, on screen, in literature [laughs] and politics, and even strangely, on our food. And to rank some of the most well-known Magical Negroes in recent American cinematic history. I’m joined by Keep It host and pop culture maven Ira Madison. And then for Dear Damon, the homie and cultural critic Shamira Ibrahim joins us to help advise a woman whose husband has a habit that makes restaurant servers extremely uncomfortable. All right y’all. Let’s get it. [music plays] Pop culture maven. Ira Madison is the host of  Keep It, which is also a Crooked Media podcast. He also just returned from Coachella, so he might be contagious. [laughter] Ira. What’s good? 

 

Ira Madison III: Hey. I’m excited to be on your new show. 

 

Damon Young: Thank you. I saw you were at Coachella. 

 

Ira Madison III: I was. I was. 

 

Damon Young: How was that experience? 

 

Ira Madison III: You know what. Everyone has asked all week, like, how was Coachella? And I’m like, I had a great time. And then they, like, lower their voice and like, it’s like they’re looking around conspiratorially [laughter] and they’re like, how was Frank? [laughter] And he annoyed  the fuck out of me. [laughter] But when doesn’t Frank Ocean annoy the fuck out of me? So that was that was a little bit more pressed that like because like Coachella, like sort of like, did a dip because of, like, the whole Frank thing. It seems like everyone else tried to step it up a bit more. There were like more guests who popped up for a weekend two. It seemed like I’ve missed out on a better Coachella weekend, but I had a good time. 

 

Damon Young: Was this your first? 

 

Ira Madison III: No, I’ve gone. This is my fourth time. 

 

Damon Young: Your fourth time. Okay, so you’re a vet. 

 

Ira Madison III: I went for Beyonce for the first time. That was the first thing that lured me to the desert. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Ira Madison III: And then it turns out I love it. So.

 

Damon Young: I saw a couple of days ago that Zendaya and Labrinth performed too, and I. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: I might have lost my mind if I ever saw that live. That would have been an unexpected loss of mind. Because I— 

 

Ira Madison III: I was sad about that. 

 

Damon Young: Neither of those two people are people that I would anticipate, you know, that I will put on the list of like people who I anticipate losing my mind for. But if I would have saw that live. 

 

Ira Madison III: Right. 

 

Damon Young: I would have. Yeah, it would have been a thing. They would have had to carry me out. [laughter] Anyway, speaking of, I feel like Frank has almost [laughs] in a way, become like a Magical Negro [laughter] this is the most awkward segue ever. 

 

Ira Madison III: I love. I love a segue. I love a segue. I love a bad segue. A good word out of an awkward one. [laughter] 

 

Damon Young: I mean, he’s maybe not Magical Negro, but imaginary friend. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Where if you tell people that Frank Ocean is your favorite artist, and it is almost at this point like telling someone you have an imaginary friend named, you know, Buttons or Knuckles or something like that. [laughter] You know, no one could see. No one else can see it except  for you, no one else can hear except for you. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. According to this definition I got online, the Magical Negro is a trope in American cinema, television and literature supporting stock  character who comes to the aid of white protagonists in the film. You know also possesses special insights or magical powers and have long been a tradition in American fiction. Now I’ve been thinking about Magical Negroes because that’s just what I do. [laughter] Spend my time thinking about Frank Ocean and Magical Negros. 

 

Ira Madison III: One of your favorite topics. [laughter] 

 

Damon Young: Yeah my favorite. Two favorite things. That’s deep in my bag in my wheelhouse. And okay, so what’s his name? That was Blood Diamond and also Amistad. 

 

Ira Madison III: Djimon Hounsou. 

 

Damon Young: Djimon Hounsou. Yes. He has basically made an entire career out of playing a Magical Negro. And there there’s a recent article where he expressed some reservations that he hasn’t been a bigger star. And it makes sense because one thing that is always left out of this Magical Negro definition is how. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Thoroughly and diametrically sexless they are. [laughter] Like Magical Negroes don’t fuck ever. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And so you have this beautiful man who was a model who still is extremely striking. You know, I’m thinking I’ve seen him in at least 15 movies, and I cannot recall a time where he’s had even a whiff of romance. Even a whiff of, like, a sex scene. In the movie. 

 

Ira Madison III: Hmm. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, am I. Am I blanking? Can you think of any time when he’s been depicted in that way? 

 

Ira Madison III: You know what? I can not. Actually, that’s not true. I think the one time he was seen as, like, a, ah, sex object was in Beauty Shop with Queen Latifah. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Ira Madison III: Who is the love interest in Beauty Shop. 

 

Damon Young: And it’s a Black movie, though. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a Black movie. 

 

Damon Young: Black movie, Black director. And it took a Black filmmaker to recognize like, yo, this motherfucker’s gorgeous. [laughter] Right. Of course we were going to make them, you know, we’re going to trade on the sex appeal. We’re going to make him an object of affection in this matter. But again, this the character is sexless. The character exists only for white people’s consumption or to advance the plot, the advanced agenda of the white protagonist. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And it’s not just a character that exists on screen or in literature. It also exists in real life. We have Magical Negroes all around us. So I want to play a game. 

 

Ira Madison III: Okay. 

 

Damon Young: With you today. We’ll go through a list of Magical Negroes. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And I’m going to name one. I promise you, the first one, I name is going to be a surprise. 

 

Ira Madison III: Okay. 

 

Damon Young: And then from that point on, we are going to decide if the subsequent Negroes named should be above in terms of more magical. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Or less magical than the first person I name. 

 

Ira Madison III: Okay. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. All right. Now, did you watch Mare of Easttown? 

 

Ira Madison III: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. Kate Winslet, Philadelphia area detective. Trying to solve some murders. Also, Jean Smart is her mom. It’s surprisingly funny. Surprisingly sweet. Really good show. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: It also had perhaps the greatest Magical Negro. In the history. Or at least in the 21st century. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: I’ll say that Kate Winslet has a daughter who is in high school. Her daughter is typical angsty punk, queer white girl, blond, whatever has like a pixie haircut is in the band. All right. And then I forget exactly how it happens, but she ends up either performing at a college radio station. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Or ends up meeting the deejay of a college radio station. And this girl, she goes by DJ Anne, and she is like a sophomore junior in college. Right. [laughter] She is a beautiful, popular, you know, funny, witty, basically the perfect person. And’s like, you know what? I am going to fall head over heels for this 16 year old white girl [laughs] from this fucked up family. Right. [laughter] I just. I just saw her one time, and she is going to be my girlfriend. I’m going to be obsessed with her. And then when the daughter was trying to decide about where to go to school, the DJ girlfriend gives her the perfect advice, like, you know what? Fuck your family. Go to Berkeley, don’t stay. I don’t, no. You know, we had this great relationship, this great bond. You don’t need to stay here with me. Go to Berkeley. Follow your dreams. Get the fuck away from these people. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. Yes. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: And it’s a character that combined the Magical Negro with the manic pixie dream girl. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. I think that was the first time I seen that happen too. And so, again, I feel like that she is pinnacle. Right. [laughter] But there are some contenders. Some contenders to overthrow. Let’s go through the list. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: All right. And these are Magical Negroes onscreen. And in real life. I left out the literary ones. So we’re just going to do the onscreen and real life ones. Okay? Ben Carson. 

 

Ira Madison III: Okay. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. What do we think is he above or below the line in his Magical Negro qualities? And again, for people, I’m sure everyone who listens to this is familiar with who Ben Carson is. But you might not be familiar with how ridiculous [laughter] Ben Carson is. For one, he sounds exactly like Kevin Costner when he speaks. They have the exact same voice. He also has a picture of Jesus in his house. But the Jesus looks like Rajon Rondo from that used to play for the Celtics has the biggest hands of any deity that you would ever see. And the picture has Jesus with like a loincloth. And he’s like, embracing Ben Carson from behind. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Okay, there’s enough. He’s ridiculous enough. But where do you think that he rates above or below this line? 

 

Ira Madison III: I think below. Ben Carson is not successful enough at doing much to be a truly talented, Magical Negro. You know, like he. He doesn’t have hands on the Book of Shadows. Like, there’s. There’s no magic. [laughter] I haven’t thought about Ben Carson in a minute. I do remember when he was getting his position in the Trump White House that I did tweet asking whether or not it would be in the House or the field. And that had me trending for two days in conservative news outlets. So you Google Ira Madison and Ben Carson [laughter] you will see that tweet. 

 

Damon Young: And I mean, the list of problematic Negroes in politics is vast, right? 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: But few match how absurd and ridiculous that Ben Carson is, right? 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah, he’s absurd. You know, he’s not like Colin Powell, you know? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Ira Madison III: Like he’s doing shit [?] like there are Condoleezza’s, there’s Colin Powell’s. But, like. But Carson is just like a comedy routine. 

 

Damon Young: [laughs] So because his magic isn’t effective. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: We’ll place him below. 

 

Ira Madison III: Even if you’re annoyed at, like, the Magical Negro character, like there’s empathy for this character from, like, the white audiences watching the movie, right? 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm. 

 

Damon Young: Like, that’s why their advice to the main white character is helpful to them. No one has empathy for Ben Carson. 

 

Damon Young: Touché, tou-motherfucking-ché. Okay, the next person we’re going to name is is another politician. Is Kari Lake, the politician [laughter] the election denier, from Arizona. And she’s like, she’s a double. She she is the rare double election denier. 

 

Ira Madison III: You a fool. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: Denied the election result. Wait no, she’s a triple wait no, she’s a triple election denier. She denied the election results of Trump. She denied the election results of the Arizona governor’s race, which she lost, and she denied the results of her DNA exam, basically, which everyone on the planet could see that this is a nigga, that she is [laughter] a Halle Berry from 1993 doppelganger, and she refuses. She has been cosplaying, as as a typical white politician, Karen, for as long as she’s been in the public eye, when we all can see I know a dozen [?] that look exactly like her. A dozen. At least. [laughter] Right. But the thing is she keeps losing because she keeps losing. I put her below that line. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Again, I mean. I mean, what do you think? Denying the results of three different contests maybe could push you over the edge in terms of magic? 

 

Ira Madison III: I feel like that makes her more of like a henchman. 

 

Damon Young: Hmm. Okay, I can see that. So we’ll place her below. Below Ben or above Ben? 

 

Ira Madison III: Below. 

 

Damon Young: Below Ben. And I think she stays there because she doesn’t necessarily acknowledge that she’s Black. And if there’s anything, you know, the Magical Negroes are very, very race conscious. If they weren’t race conscious, they wouldn’t be Magical Negroes, you know what I mean? They would have more agency and they would fucking have sex if they weren’t as [laughs] race conscious. 

 

Ira Madison III: Right. 

 

Damon Young: And so. Kari Lake. Yeah. I guess she rates below Ben. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. But also Kari Lake’s husband. He’s kind of attractive, you know, so she’s probably getting it. 

 

Damon Young: Does she have too much sex appeal even if it’s this chaotic— [laughter] 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Passing, inside the paper bag test, sex appeal. But she may still have it. Does that negate her from being a Magical Negro? 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm, yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Who we got next? All right. Morpheus. Morpheus from The Matrix. 

 

Ira Madison III: Hmm. Morpheus is great. 

 

Damon Young: Where do we place him? And also, do you watch John Wick? Are you familiar with the John Wick franchise? 

 

Ira Madison III: I love John Wick. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, his character, The Bowery King, is kind of Magical Negro ish. 

 

Ira Madison III: Oh. 

 

Damon Young: And that, too. Like, his only cinematic purpose is to help John. 

 

Ira Madison III: Hmm. And he just always playing with pigeons. Like the woman from Home Alone. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, like Mike Tyson. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah. [laughter] I have not seen four yet. But no, he is. He’s. He sort of plays that role. He plays that role in John Wick more than he does in The Matrix, where, you know, he’s at least got some other shit going on. But he’s very much that in Matrix too. He’s all sexless in Matrix. He’s just there to help Keanu. Actually, the Matrix is populated with Magical Negroes. There’s always a Black person ready to give Keanu Reeves advice. 

 

Damon Young: You could argue that, you know, perhaps that is the white utopic future. [laughter] You know, all of us are in prominent positions of power, but we all exist just to help out the white protagonists. Like we could be leaders, we could be generals, we could be presidents, whatever. But our only purpose is to help white people have all the sex that we’re not having, basically. 

 

Ira Madison III: Did Jada Pinkett get it on with anybody in Matrix two? 

 

Damon Young: Well, she was supposed to get I mean, I guess Morpheus was her ex. 

 

Ira Madison III: Okay. 

 

Damon Young: And she was with the guy who was the commander or whatever. 

 

Ira Madison III: It’s always an ex. Sometimes the Magical Negro has like an ex or something, you know, like it’s a Black best friend in a movie too. You’re either married and you never see them with their husband or there was like an ex that they have they are broken up with and they’re giving out advice to the white woman.

 

Damon Young: Why don’t the Magical Negroes fuck? I feel like I keep coming back to this, like, what is the relationship between the Magical Negroes and like this aggressive sexlessness that they all possess? 

 

Ira Madison III: It’s usually just because white films usually have one purpose, right? So if you’re like a hot to trot character. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Ira Madison III: Or you are a helpful aid, you know, it’s very one dimensional. So there’s not room for any other dimensions of, you know, you’re not going to see them having sex because that has nothing to do with helping somebody, you know. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Ira Madison III: If there was a movie about a white woman, you know, who needed help in the bedroom or love advise, I’m sure her Magical Negro would be a Black woman who’s, you know, always fucking a different man every day. 

 

Damon Young: Well, to that point, there is one Magical Negro that I can think of cinematic history who who actually is in service to white people. Mostly white people, because of how presumably adept he is at sex and at romance. And that’s Hitch. That’s Will Smith in Hitch. 

 

Ira Madison III: Okay. [laughter]

 

Damon Young: An entire movie was created for this [laughter] is when you create an entire movie around a Magical Negro, but you allow him to fuck or at least have the the veneer of sex. And allow him to a kind of embrace that a bit. So there is an example of that. There. And I think that I think that both Will Smith and Hitch and Morpheus kind of exist above the Siobhan girlfriend line. Right? Because they were effective. They were effective in doing what they were doing, you know, because I think that ultimately we have to be efficient. We have to judge, you know, Magical Negroes like, well, how well did you do your job? 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Ira Madison III: If you didn’t do your job well, then you know, you weren’t maybe you weren’t that magic. [laughter] Maybe you just had some spells. 

 

Ira Madison III: Just. Just a couple. Just a couple. Just like the the welcome to the Disney Channel wand. You know, you just got one of those, so. 

 

Damon Young: All right. Uncle Ben and not Ben Carson. 

 

Ira Madison III: Okay. 

 

Damon Young: But Uncle Ben from the rice. 

 

Ira Madison III: When I hear Uncle Ben, my mind immediately goes to Spider-Man, of course. But yes, there is Uncle Ben. There’s you know—

 

Damon Young: There’s lots of Uncle Bens. [laughter] I feel like there’s too many Uncle Ben’s. 

 

Ira Madison III: You know what? 

 

Damon Young: The rice man. 

 

Ira Madison III: That’s a top tier Magical Negro. 

 

Damon Young: Brings joy to white people. White families. His smiling face on the box suggests reliability. I think he also gave Tony Soprano an aneurysm in one episode where he saw a box of Uncle Ben’s rice [laughter] and fainted. All right.

 

Ira Madison III: It’s also like the white people looked so happy I’m like vintage Uncle Ben’s commercials. 

 

Damon Young: Oh, there’s never been a happier white family than the families in those commercials? Never, ever. Never been. 

 

Ira Madison III: The whole cooking crew are top tier. Okay. Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, the dude on the Zatarain’s box. 

 

Damon Young: Okay, well, let’s go. Mr. Zatarain. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah, Mr. Zatarain. And actually, you can’t even really see. I’m looking at a box now. At least of the boxes. I see. He’s always just like a shadow. And he’s also probably light skinned because he’s Creole. 

 

Damon Young: [laughs] Okay, well, that puts him at the bottom of the list already. 

 

Ira Madison III: [laughter] Also, I feel like Black people, you probably use Zatarain’s the most. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Ira Madison III: Like I’ve never been to a white home where they whipped out the Zatarain’s. But Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima. Absolutely. 

 

Damon Young: I feel like Aunt Jemima probably nudges out Uncle Ben just because I think Aunt Jemima has brought joy to more white people. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah, she has. They were real sad when Aunt Jemima had to, you know, pack it up. 

 

Damon Young: They were devastated. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah. And I was, like—

 

Damon Young: Devastated. 

 

Ira Madison III: I was like. I know some of y’all [?] white people don’t even have Aunt Jemima in the fridge. Okay. Me? When the Aunt Jemima was canceled, I actually did have Aunt Jemima in the fridge because I loved Aunt Jemima. [laughter] I had a fridge even though the last time I’d probably made pancakes was probably five years prior. Because I just feel like you always had Aunt Jemima in the house. 

 

Damon Young: Ira, we got to get you to upgrade to like the real maple syrup. [laughter] With got to get you to do that. And leave Aunt Jemima in the cupboard and we got to get you some real maple syrup. [laughter] And just a reminder, I mean, we’re ranking Magical Negroes, which is a cinematic trope but Magical Negroes exists everywhere. You know, they’re on our boxes of rice. They’re on our jars of syrup. But anyway, let’s get back to the movies. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Hitch was effective. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know, Hitch was an effective, Magical Negro who also fucked. Or there was also the implication that he was good at that, even though they didn’t actually he didn’t actually have a love scene or sex scene in that movie. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: It was PG 13. All right. Whoopi Goldberg. And I’m combining her characters on Ghost. 

 

Ira Madison III: Hmm. Oscar winning. 

 

Damon Young: Oscar winning. Right. She was great. Great in that movie, combining that with her recurring character on The View. [laughter]

 

Ira Madison III: Now, is she magical on The View? She’s mostly just angry. Angry, well angry at Meghan McCain. I guess she’s a Mag— She’s helpful in other regards to white women who watch The View, other days. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. I mean, you know, I’ll admit that I had to squint a bit to kind of nudge her in with The View. Now with Ghost it’s basically the definition of I mean, she was literally magic in that movie. But The View, you know, I’m just thinking, you know, you have this morning show you’re bringing joy to this audience that’s predominantly white women, right? You exist kind of as a foil for the rest of the guest who kind of bounced her sensibilities off of. But again, maybe she doesn’t fit the same way. 

 

Mm hmm. 

 

But with Ghost, she definitely fits. And I feel like her character in Ghost is basically the preeminent the prime, the Thanos. [laughter] Right. Of Magical Negroes. Like, I don’t know if you get any better, maybe Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty because he was literally God. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yes. Morgan Freeman in most movies, to be honest. Although I would say that’s really [?]. Because, you know, like most of the type, like I would give him Magical Negro status, when he’s like linked up with Ashley Judd, you know, like those are just two bad bitches solving crimes. [laughter] 

 

Damon Young: Was that the? I feel like that was the original title [laughter] not not Kiss the Girls, but Two Bad Bitches. That would have, that would have done much better in theaters. [laughter]

 

Ira Madison III: By the way, people want to talk about getting people back into the theaters, you know? You know, and we lost our way. You know what movies will get white and Black audiences back into the theaters? Older, Black, man. And a white woman actress that we all like solving some crimes. Ashley Judd. Angelina Jolie, Bone Collector. You know, like. Like give us those movies again. 

 

Damon Young: Who would be the equivalent today? Like.

 

Ira Madison III: Hmm. Maybe like a Jennifer Lawrence? I think we like her. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. So Jennifer Lawrence and. 

 

Ira Madison III: But Jennifer Lawrence or Brie. But I’m like, who is the older actor? I mean like anybody up in Black Panther. 

 

Damon Young: So like Forest Whitaker? Or is Forest Whitaker too old?

 

Ira Madison III: Maybe too old. You know, I’m thinking, like, Mahershala. 

 

Damon Young: Mahershala would be good. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm. Sterling K. Brown.

 

Damon Young: Sterling K. Brown would be perfect. 

 

Ira Madison III: Okay. 

 

Damon Young: But I think Mahershala also, though, actually I take that back. I think Mahershala is better. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Because Mahershala has more like a world wariness. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: And an edge to him that Sterling K. Brown just doesn’t really have. 

 

Ira Madison III: I was going to say Idris, but Idris is too much where like Idris would have to be the lead character who’s mentoring like, like the movie would be about him, you know? 

 

Damon Young: Okay, so Hollywood, make that happen. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah. Mahershala Ali, Brie Larson, or someone else just solving a movie about white girls getting cut up. [laughter]

 

Damon Young: This could be the sequel to Mare of Easttown. This could be the next season. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mahershala of Easttown. [laughter] 

 

Damon Young: Just make it like a True Detective. Just have a different cast every year. And this time it’s in Pittsburgh. 

 

Ira Madison III: Mare of Pittsburgh. I’d watch that. I’d watch the fuck out of that. [laughter] 

 

Damon Young: All right. Last one before we leave. Barack Obama. 

 

Ira Madison III: [sighs] This is a hard one. This a hard one Damon. Because what era of Obama? 

 

Damon Young: Oh, we’re talking 2007 hopey changey. 

 

Ira Madison III: Oh. 

 

Damon Young: Everyone’s rocking the Obama T-shirts. 

 

Ira Madison III: Then he’s the best to ever do it. 

 

Damon Young: Right. So you think he goes above Whoopi? 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah. Barack Obama is the best to ever do it. Okay. The [laughter] maybe maybe Will Smith, you know, is above him. But we got to see Will Smith have, someone have sex. Be sexy. You know, and be like we got to see Fresh Prince and Bad Boys, you know? So, like, there are more dimensions. I’m talking about the both of them at the height of their fame, you know, not post presidency, Barack, where everyone writes an essay about how they secretly hate Obama now. Or. Will Smith post the slap. I mean like you had people like you said rocking Obama shirts. I was in Chicago at the time. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Ira Madison III: Because I was at Loyola Chicago for undergrad. I was hugging random white people [laughter] in the park because I went to the I went to the park for his acceptance speech. 

 

Damon Young: Oh, wow. 

 

Ira Madison III: Like when he won. Like, I went down to the park and I was sobbing. I was hugging white people. I was in it. Okay. That was a Magical Negro for white people, but also for Black people at that time, too, okay, we fell under the spell. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, that night you might have me beat because that night I had my head out the window and it was like a parade was happening in the street. And I was screaming the lyrics to my President is Black. [laughter] But okay, so Barack Obama from like 2006 to 2008 is the greatest Magical Negro in history. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yes. And then whatever you feel about like the first presidency, you know, whatever. I think we’re still in the happiness, you know, like the sequel to that movie, the 2012 election. It’s a little rough, but he’s still got that same power. You know, it’s a good sequel. 

 

Damon Young: It wasn’t quite Godfather II, but it wasn’t Godfather III either. 

 

Ira Madison III: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. 

 

Ira Madison III: Like Scream 2. It was Scream 2, you know. 

 

Damon Young: All right. [laughter] Ira Madison, thank you for coming through. Appreciate it. Where can people find you? What are you working on now? What you got going on? 

 

Ira Madison III: Just listen to Keep It. Every Wednesday. I kind of have nothing else going on right now. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Ira Madison III: I’m finishing my book still. Then I’ll be like you talking about my book. 

 

Damon Young: I’m, no, you’ll be like, you are like me right now. When people ask what I’m doing, I’m working on some books [laughter] right? I’m doing a podcast and I’m working on some books. Right. So you’re already [laughter] you need to aim higher if you want to be like me. [music plays] Coming up next, is Daman hates. The part of the show where I talk about shit that I hate, because I hate a lot of shit. And then after that, dear Damon. [music plays] So I’ve never been much of a joiner. Like, I’m not a person who was in any fraternities. I don’t join any social clubs. I was in the Urban League of Young Professionals for a couple of years, but that was only because of Groupons and access to them. And so I don’t know. There’s a part of me that just doesn’t like doing things that everyone else is doing. And so when I left Twitter last year, it was just because I had spent enough time there. I felt like I had reached like a critical mass of like my engagement and my interest and my anxiety about posting. And it just wasn’t the space for me anymore. And so I was one of the people who left. I’ve been gone for about a year and a half now. And now. Elon Musk, whatever the fuck his name is, his fuck shit. Everyone else is leaving. I don’t feel like [laughter] one of the cool kids anymore because everyone else is leaving. One of the reasons why I wanted it to exist because I want it. I’m going from Twitter to be its own personality trait, right? But now, since everyone else is leaving Twitter because he’s fucking Twitter up or, you know, if it’s not my own personality trait, I’m like, swallowed in by everyone else who has leaving for just one reason. And he is not the reason I left. I left beforehand. I left because of the platform. It because it just wasn’t the space for me anymore. But now, when I tell people I’m not on Twitter anymore, they associated with the reason why everyone else is not on Twitter anymore. And I fucking hate that. [music plays] Up next for Dear Damon, we’re joined by Shamira Ibrahim friend, cultural critic. Morgan, the producer. What we got this week?

 

Morgan Moody: Dear Damon, my husband is genuinely interested in other cultures, languages and especially their food. He will often offer a guest or ask a server or employee of a business during a transaction, their country or language of origin. This makes me really uncomfortable, but I haven’t found an effective way of explaining why this is inappropriate. People are universally polite. They have to be. How can I make him understand how they might be feeling inside despite their polite smiles? 

 

Damon Young: Shamira. Welcome back to the show. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Thank you for having me. [laughter] I’m assuming we’re going in with the assumption that this is a white couple, right? 

 

Damon Young: Yes. Yes. I think that’s safe assumption to make that this is a white couple, although I have something on that later. But let’s start with that. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: I think that distinction matters to ask, though, because, for example, me as someone of international origin, right. Like when you ask somebody, hey, where are you from? Especially being from New York, that’s like a thing that actually is asked commonly, right? Like, hey, where are you from? 

 

Damon Young: Hmm. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Sometimes what you’re really asking is I’m from somewhere that’s not just America, right? And I see something of myself in you. Are you also from somewhere international? Do we have something in common? Right. You know, as opposed to. Well, hey, you’re exotic. I’m a fetishist. [laughter] Let’s be fetishists, and creep on you as voyeurs together, right? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: You know, that’s like just the nuance that I’m really trying to kind of suss out there, right? There’s a nuance to, hey, I’m looking for common ground versus, hey, I’m really just trying to force you to be peered at like a zoo animal, right? Like. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: Yeah, like that enchilada with spicy [laughter] and you also seem a little spicey. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Right. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: So. Where are you from? 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: You know, I really, really like to try my, you know, New York Times cooking subscription a lot. And so as a result, I’m really into Mexican food, right? 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. [laughs] Yeah, I mean, that’s important context to consider. Also, I think situation matters, like if you’re in a social setting where conversation is expected, like if you’re at like some sort of happy hour or some sort of mixer or some sort of cookout and you’re already in conversation with a person, then that sort of question is just more organic or natural. But you have the power imbalance of a server who is doing their fucking job and you just randomly ask them like, yo, where you from? And the thing is, in certain cities—

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Right.

 

Damon Young: —that could be a threat. Like that could be. Are you documented? 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Right. Also know that people are generally going to lie to you, right? 

 

Damon Young: [laughs] Right. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Like, for example, I take Ubers all the time. You know. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: People see my name because I haven’t bothered to change it, you know? And my name is Arabic, right? You know, and so there are people. Both people are of Arab descent as well as people who are just, I guess, Arab culture, Arab history enthusiast would be like, oh, that’s an Arab name. Are you Muslim? Are you Arabic? I am Muslim, Right. I’m not of Arab descent. Right. But sometimes I’ll be like, oh, no, that’s interesting. [laughter] You know, just because I don’t want to get into the conversation, I don’t I don’t feel like it that day right. You know, I don’t feel like having the conversation about, you know, exploring our joint heritages or for whatever reason, you’re that white person who took Arab studies in college. You really want to get into discussing whatever my heritage is, and I just don’t feel like it. So all of a sudden I’m a pretend I have no idea what the hell are you talking about that day, Right. You know, and that happens, right? That’s a general thing. My friends joke about the Somali surveillance state, right? You know where somebody will notice that your name is in Somali. All of a sudden, you pretend that you’re, you know, another East African country, right? Like, it’s just some people don’t feel like engaging [laughter] you on your terms. Right. Just because you want to be the person who—

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: —feels like you are doing something friendly. Right. Especially people who are from, like you mentioned, marginalized groups. You might think that you’re being welcoming, but to them, they just feel like they’re actually just being monitored or surveilled. Right. Like, they don’t actually feel like that’s a friendly gesture. They just feel like they’re being encroached upon. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: And honestly, the basic litmus test for that sort of thing is let them offer that to you first. Right. You know, if they speak a different language, are they speaking it in front of you? Right. If they’re not speaking in front of you, you don’t need to ask them if they speak a different language. You know, like if they have a different faith practice or if they do have, they offer that to you first. If it’s just someone who you’re literally having a transactional relationship with, you probably don’t need to go that far out of your way to even ask them such invasive questions. You’re literally having an interaction that’s so far as them trying to get their job done and go right [laughter] you know, you’re never going to see that person again. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, I feel like that’s the part that is the piece that really determines the tenor of the conversation and interaction, is this person is doing a job right.

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Whether it’s a server or someone at a restaurant or Uber driver or whatever, and they’re doing their job. They are trying to get you out the door as quickly and safely and as efficiently as possible. And again, this power imbalance where they don’t know where you’re coming from, they don’t know what your agenda is and asking this question and also how many times that day have they been asked that question. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Right. 

 

Damon Young: You know, I mean, how many times have they been asked, are they tired of hearing that? Again, it’s not wrong. In fact, it’s good to have a genuine curiosity, to have a genuine interest. But I think the thing that’s necessary and I’m not saying this person doesn’t have this, but they need to lean more on this, is a genuine empathy for how a person in that circumstance might feel. And I guess to answer this person’s question, this is one of those questions where the person could just say what they said in the question. It’s like, hey, this might make people uncomfortable. I would prefer that you stop doing this.

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Right. Yeah, I don’t even think you have to make it like, super deep or give some sort of like. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Great nuanced answer about intersectional experiences or whatever. Just, hey, you don’t need to do all that, right? Relax. 

 

Damon Young: Stop it. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Talk about anything else. 

 

Damon Young: You know, it’s funny, though, because, like, between this question and I’m just thinking of other circumstances where people that I’m with in social settings, particularly like at restaurants, have like kind of embarrassed me and maybe embarrassed is too far, but have made me kind of cringe a little bit. And there have been times when I’ve been like, out with my dad. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right, a restaurant and my dad has a habit of whistling. At people. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: [laughs] Oh, no. 

 

Damon Young: That’s just what he does. And he’s a loud like, two fingers in the mouth. Whistler. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Oh. 

 

Damon Young: That’s how he communicates with me. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Not the, like, 1980s New York taxi call, like. 

 

Damon Young: [laughter] It’s how he communicates with the kids. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: And so imagine, you know, you’re in a restaurant and you hear someone do that to a server. It’s like— [laughter]

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Not. I would say that feels racist, but he’s Black. So I don’t even know what to say about that. Oh my God. [laughter] Oh, no. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. And so it’s one of those things. I mean, have you ever been cool with a person who was a demonstratively and consistently bad tipper? 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Not a bad tipper, but really just abrasive to service people. Right. Like, it made me uncomfortable to the point that I had to be direct about it. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Like, just really sharp. Like the second something went wrong. Like it had to be addressed immediately and like, and like the tone immediately shifted in a way that I was like, listen. I get that there’s like a spot on your fork or your knife or whatever, and you have to have an address right now, but like dog. It’ll be addressed in 3 minutes. Like. [laughs] You know what I’m saying? Like that sort of thing. 

 

Damon Young: There’s no reason for you to sub Panama on this. You could just name him. [laughter] You appear to be talking about him. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: I actually was not. Funnily enough. [laughter] 

 

Damon Young: Just so you know. I’m fucking with. I’m fucking Panama our our friend our mutual friend. But. [laughter]

 

Shamira Ibrahim: I mean, in those situations, I tend to be the person who just quietly, like, handles my shit separately because I’m just not. I’m not going to go out and deal with that fiasco. Right. So I’ll I’ll usually address it with the server separately. But what I will say in like just response to the general question is the other part, if you want to get specific with your partner, is like even if you think you’re connecting with the person, like it’s really actually not for them, it’s really for you, right? Like, and I can speak as someone who is like from an obscure country or whatever, right? My family’s from a small country in East Africa, called Comoro Islands, like most people don’t know where that country is unless you have a really, really strong knowledge of the Swahili coast. Right. And so whenever people ask, oh, where are you from? I generally like head it off immediately, like you don’t know it or whatever, but all of a sudden everyone else becomes geography experts. But no, I have a really strong knowledge of Africa. I’m like, okay, sure, right. I’m from the Comoro Islands. It’s like, oh, wow, yeah, that’s near Ethiopia, right? No, it’s not right, you know? I mean, and now we’re doing this whole thing right where you want to play a trivia game with me, right? And I’m like, I wasn’t here to play Trivial Pursuit, right? Like, that’s not what I actually signed up for this conversation on. I actually just wanted to hang out at this goofy networking event. Right. But you wanted to prove your knowledge of African history, like so now we’re here doing this goofy thing. And so, like, that’s the thing that it tends to devolve into for anybody, even if you’re not necessarily from a quote unquote, “more remote country.” Right? You could be from anywhere. You could be from, you know, Mexico and someone’s is like, oh, yeah, I just went to Playa del Carmen last year. What the fuck is that to do with where the person’s from? They’re from Mexico City, right? Like. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: And that’s how people choose to identify or connect. And they’re going to nod and smile and be like oh that’s amazing. And in their head they probably would be like, you’re really goofy, right? You know, but they’re not going to be allowed to say that to you. And so it’s like that’s actually really not for them at all. No matter what you think it is, it’s really for you to feel important and cultured and as if you know things that you don’t know anything about that person really. Right. Like, you might think you know something, but it’s really actually in no way a tangible connection to that person’s little experience. 

 

Damon Young: Shamira Ibrahim, thank you for joining us. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: I mean, you know, I try. [laughs] 

 

Damon Young: You know, I appreciate the effort. I really do. I appreciate you coming through. I always it’s always a pleasure to be in the same space, to be on the same Zoom, to be on the same screen with you. What’s happening in your life? What are you working on now? 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Aside from evading my literary agent. [laughter] Cause I haven’t finished my book proposal yet. Oh, same as usual. You know, you can see me on these internet streets, publishing features. I just publish something for Huffington Post about Little Richard’s documentary, which is out now on Amazon Prime, spoke with Lisa Cortes, the director, about it, and took some time to watch it as well. I recommend people watch it also, of course. What about Swarm you that was a while ago. But wrote about that for BuzzFeed News rest in peace BuzzFeed News. Have a couple more things on the way, so keep a look out for that. You know, you can follow me on Twitter for as long as that exists @_ShamGod. I am on Instagram @shamirathefirst. I also have a Substack I’m shamirathefirst.substack.com. Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Did you buy Twitter blue? 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: Of course not. Like my inherent New York City stubbornness. Like I would literally rather [laughter] throw a dollar to the subway tracks than ever give Elon a dollar. 

 

Damon Young: All right. 

 

Shamira Ibrahim: All right. 

 

Damon Young: Again, just want to thank Ira Madison and Shamira Ibrahim. Great guests, great conversation. Thank you for coming through also just thank you all for listening. You could have been anywhere in the world. But you came. You’re here with me. So thank you for that. Thank you for supporting Stuck with Damon Young. And remember subscribe listen for free on Spotify there are so many buttons that you could hit on your phones. Just hit them. Subscribe. Listen, tell a friend and again, if you have a question, it doesn’t matter how obscure, how esoteric, how just insight baseball league that the question is just ask it. It doesn’t matter. Hit me up at deardamon@crooked.com. All right y’all. See you next week. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. From Crooked Media, our executive producers are Kendra James and Meredith Heringer. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing sound and mastering by Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music and score by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Gimlet and Spotify our executive producers are Krystal Hawes-Dressler, Lauren Silverman, Nicole Beemsterboer, Neil Drumming and Matt Shilts. Special thanks to Lesley Gwam. Follow and subscribe to Stuck on Spotify. Tap the follow button and hit the bell icon to be notified when a new episode drops.