ESSAYS | Lil’ Butler
There are people outside of my apartment—neighbors I do not know and will probably never know who are lounging in white lawn chairs in the hot late-afternoon sun, trying to make their pale bodies a darker color, which is funny when you think about it—how brown bodies are despised in this society, unless you are white and lying in the sun, waiting for those rays to have an effect on you. To change you. Brown bodies are valued only when the skin is really white. Brown bodies are not valued when brown is what the skin really is, when the brown body can never be not-brown. (Make your own crack at Michael Jackson here). I wonder why no one has ever considered white people tanning their skin to be a type of appropriation. Though perhaps someone has, and I’m just now catching onto this.
It is in this pool that is a few feet away from my second-floor balcony that children played in the water for six hours yesterday screaming “Marco!”, screaming “Polo!”, making me want to scream, “You dumb little fuckers! If you had implemented the fish out of water rule when you started, someone would have won HOURS ago!” I mean, really, you can’t not-use the fish out of water rule. Without it, and as proved by the kids playing Marco Polo for six hours yesterday, the game would go on for DAYS. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
But then I think about it, and I cannot remember if one actually “wins” Marco Polo, or if the game is just a continuous series of a temporarily blind kid trying to touch the other kids who hop in and out of the water, who are trying to deceive the temporarily blind kid of their position so they do not become the dreaded temporarily blind kid (little ableists fuckwads). And while they do not want to get caught, the non-blind kids still stupidly give their location away as they engage in the call-and-response trait of the game.
And I think of brown people’s history and tradition of storytelling and singing, and I wonder once again if white people (who have enough money to live in an apartment complex that has a pool) are appropriating another fact of people of color’s lives: the call-and-response quality of a storytelling tradition.
It may sound like I’m judging. Perhaps I am judging. Perhaps this judgment is incredibly hypocritical as I sit here writing this in my apartment that is part of an apartment complex that has a pool, and my long dreadlocks are waterfalling down from my head and brushing against my pale white skin. Perhaps.
But I was talking about Marco Polo and (possibly) appropriation.
Austin, Tx. Summer 2012. I am walking to a coffee shop when I hear a woman call out, “Marco! Marco! Where are you Marco?!?” And then a dog runs up to her and she says, “Good boy,” and I relish in the fact that I am now a witness to a joke her friends have probably made since she decided to name her dog Marco. “Dude, if your dog ever gets lost and you have to call for him, your whole neighborhood is going to be screaming ‘Polo’ at you!”
I did not scream “Polo” at this woman. Though I was tempted. And now I wish I had just so I could say I did.
And about dogs. This dog Marco was not a teacup Chihuahua and its name was not Jose, but I’m sure a teacup Chihuahua named Jose is somewhere out there, stuffed in a big purse with its head sticking out, a purse that some white woman has slung over her tan shoulder, a woman who thinks teacup dogs are cute and make excellent accessories, a woman who is probably trying to make a funny by naming her teacup Chihuahua Jose. Though, I do not know if dog names such as Jose, Felix, Selena, Tecate, or Cuervo are a type of appropriation, but if the dog is a Chihuahua then it is definitely a stereotype and most likely racist.
In 2006, girlfriend at the time and I are living in Chicago, and are walking to our apartment from the train. A black man is reaching into his van to grab a stack of newspapers which he will then deliver to the liquor store behind him. As we pass by the newspaper delivery man, he says, “I like good pussy and I like good weed.” Girlfriend and I continue walking and when we are out of earshot from the man we start laughing. “Word,” we say. We agree. Yeah to good pussy and yeah to good weed. We agree this man has excellent tastes.
There is a small sampling of some Eminem song mashed-up with some Yael Naim song on Girl Talk’s album Feed the Animals. This section of the mash-up is catchy and fun to listen to even though the lyrics are:
Get buzzed, get drunk, get crunk, get fucked up.
Hit the strip club, don’t forget ones, get your dick rubbed
Get fucked, get sucked, get wasted, shit faceted
Pasted, plastered, puke drink throw up, get a new drink
Hit the bathroom sink, throw up
Wipe your shoe clean, got a routine going’
Still got a few chunks on them shoestrings showin’
I was dehydrated till the beat vibrated
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