It’s a Black Thing
Why do blacks say, “It’s a black thing” in some situations when they give up explaining something to someone outside their race? What does it mean? Are blacks saying that whites can’t understand racial or other controversial things? To some, it seems somewhat racist for blacks to insinuate that some things are beyond a white persons comprehension. It’s a black thing relates to the differences between blacks’ and whites’ life experiences. Some variations reported to be “black things” are physical experiences while others are social. In this post, the physical will be discussed. In a future post, the social experiences will be discussed. “Black things” included in physical experiences are straightening combs, grease, neck nape burns, relaxer itching and burning, kitchens or naps, ashy knees and elbows and the now historic jheri curls.
The straightening comb, grease, burns and kitchens: The straightening comb is known to many older blacks as that iron comb with the wooden handle that sat heating on the stove to get to the proper temperature to straighten the hair. It was often accompanied by grease, which made the hair shiny. Unfortunately, the straightening comb often produced burns at the nape of the neck from the comb coming into contact with the skin while attempting to straighten “kitchens” or short super curled hair strands also called naps. Whites are often unaware of these terms since their hair is not normally spongy, super curly or nappy. Those whites with curly hair will often flat iron their hair, but this process does not combine the need for oil or grease, which is often washed from the hair daily.
Relaxer itching and burning: Relaxer itching and burning is another “black thing” with which whites are wholly unfamiliar. The relaxer is often called a perm or permanent. A perm for whites is the process of making the hair curly, however a permanent for blacks is making the hair straight or relaxing the curl. The chemical used for a relaxer/perm, for blacks requires the chemical to be in cream form, which is applied close to the scalp, but not touching the scalp. Oftentimes the cream will come into contact with the scalp and slowly begin to itch. If the product is not washed from the scalp soon, the itching will become more intense and will become a burning sensation. Unfortunately, this can lead to actual chemical scalp burns, which is very much a “black thing.” Since whites do not use the same chemicals or have the same experiences or burns, trying to explain the willingness of a black person to accept pain and scalp injury for the sake of straight hair, is often viewed as futile by blacks. Since there are no true comparable experiences, blacks simply state the experience is a black thing.
The jheri curl and jheri curl juice: Another hair related “black thing” is the jheri curl. Many younger blacks may not be familiar with the jheri curl, but it was like the white person’s curling perm. Michael Jackson had a jheri curl in his Thriller video, and it was very popular with that generation. It requires numerous little rollers and chemicals like a white person’s perm, but the jheri curl always had to be “wet” with curl activator. This activator would sometimes drip and stain clothes. Many referred to this activator as jheri curl juice. It stained pillows, clothes and was not very pleasant to the touch. This was very much a black thing at that time.
Ashy knees and elbows: The final physical “black thing” to be addressed here is the ashy knee and elbow. Many whites have the same dry skin, known by many blacks as ashy skin, on their knees and elbows, but the contrast is more noticeable on darker skinned people. Many blacks laugh at or tease other blacks about this light gray appearance on their skin. Many blacks use lotion on a daily basis to moisturize the skin to reduce the appearance of ashy skin.
Since blacks and whites typically have different hair types and skin color, these are some of the physical “black things” that blacks refer to when asserting that something is a black thing. There are other “black things” that people feel are unique to blacks. If you would like to share one or a few other “black things”, please add a post below.
Comments, Observations, Questions? Feel free to post.