Originally written 06/18/2008
You’re a white boy. You’re what other, more jealous white kids would call, in their snotty, mocking tone of voice, “down,” trying to use your slang to devalue what you have; The special gift, bestowed upon your lily-white shoulders by your melanin-rich friends who have deemed you cool enough to be worthy of such a treasure: The Ghetto Pass.
There are plenty of white kids who befriend black kids for the sole purpose of getting that Ghetto Pass. Like a badge of pride for a Suburban Social Butterfly, a hip-hop Boy Scout or Webelo, with a patch on his sleeve that says he managed to infiltrate another culture, like Elvis and Rob Van Winkle before him.
Those kids are chumps, and will never get their Ghetto Pass because inauthenticity stinks like overcooked ham. They’re Graymeat Whiteboys with a piggy, porky scent of desperation wafting off of them. You know em when you see em: They affect the blaccent a little too thickly, they turn up the stereo a little too loudly, they wear the clothes a little too baggy, hoping someone real, someone BLACK, will see them and give them the approval they’re looking for, because they don’t like how lame they are and instead of working on it, they’d rather steal some cool from the next man.
They want that ghetto pass for one reason and one reason only: The power the ghetto pass affords. That power? To say “Nigga” in front of a black person and not get your ass beat. Why do they want that power? Who knows, really? There’s a variety of theories. Maybe it’s just so they don’t have to look sideways when they’re singing along to NWA in the car. Maybe it’s the illicit joy in owning something you shouldn’t be able to have. The freedom to do Chris Rock’s “Niggas and Black People” routine word for word without shrugging and fading into the back of the room after the first few lines. The uncensored parroting back of all the cornerstones of a culture you might not truly understand, and only exists, in your mind, for your own personal entertainment, in a vaccuum, as a fertile soil for stand-up comedy routines and hip hop albums and nothing beyond that.
The Ghetto Pass is a tricky gift to handle. The people who understand there’s more to the Ghetto Pass than just being able to drop N words and not get rib-shots in return are the people who know the secret of the Ghetto Pass: Even if you get one, YOU DON’T EVER, EVER USE IT.
that’s Rule 1. The giving of the Ghetto Pass is symbolic. If you’re smart, you don’t ever use it. You don’t need someone to tell you this, you already know. Because you know there’s more to the culture you’re trying to misappropriate than just the blase tossing off of the word “nigga.” There is no ceremony, no circle of friends in hoods, carrying swords, in a candlelit hall with “Doggystyle” playing. There is no secret handshake or knowing nod during a bonding moment. It’s not Nolte and Murphy in 48 Hours. It’s not Pryor and Wilder in Silver Streak. It’s not even Smith and Damon in Bagger Vance. Most times you won’t even know you HAVE the pass until you misuse it and it’s taken away from you. And again, the only proper use of the Ghetto Pass is NO USE at all.
Rule 2. Even if you were to use your Ghetto Pass, say in an extreme circumstance, like say “And then Billy looked at Troy and then flat out called him a…a nigger” you immediately apologize. Even then, you make sure the only person you use The Pass on is the person who gave it to you. Because the Ghetto Pass is non-transferable. Black people don’t have some sort of Borg-like hivemind, white people. If you are given a Ghetto Pass, that information isn’t wirelessly transmitted to all of Black America upon reciept of The Pass. Martian antennae don’t protrude from the fro/rows/puffs/braids/dreads. You won’t be recognized on sight as an owner of The Pass. The Pass doesn’t afford you diplomatic immunity. It just means your friend is cool enough with you to know that you don’t think of him as a “black person” but simply a person, and thus, free to goof on everything that makes him a person, including his skin color from time to time.
Rule 3. Don’t acknowledge that you’ve got the pass. To call attention to the pass means you’re more than likely trying to misuse it. To shine light on your pass is to admit your friendship is less a friendship and more akin to a fraternity pledge. That when you get down to it, you think The Pass is justification for “I can indulge in just a little bit of racism today.” in the same way you do an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill to say “I can have a donut or two at work.” That you can say “Some of my best friends are black” in a totally straight face and all the sadness that phrase inherently holds doesn’t apply to you. This assumption would be WRONG, and as Sam Jackson once eloquently put it, when you make an assumption, you make an ass out of U and Umption. Put light on the pass and you’re simply letting people know how best to snatch it away from you because you’re undeserving.
Rule 4 Don’t act like you want The Pass. It puts undue importance on that aspect of the friendship. Like, what, you can’t be friends with a black guy unless it’s okay for you to say “nigga” in front of him every now and again? Huh? Is that all this is about? Yunno what? I was about to give you this Ghetto Pass, so you don’t have to be all lookin at me sideways when we’re in the car and N.O.R.E. is playin and you’re all sweating and smelling like hot dogs in the passenger seat with your pale ass, nervous as shit, and I thought you was cool in your mousy little whiteboy way, but I think you wanna say “nigga” out loud a little too much. So no, I think I’m gonna hold onto this Ghetto Pass right here. I’m gonna keep it real tight and cozy. You go ahead and you chew on that “nigga” you got waitin to come burstin out your mouth, okay? You grind that up between your teeth and you swallow that motherfucker down. I hope it tastes like chalk. Gritty, nasty, dirty white chalk all dusting up your throat. But dont’ think I dont’ still have somethin for you. You can get this dick. How bout that? That a nice consolation prize? Huh? Go ahead.
Rule 5. There’s no difference between “a” and “er.” The Pass does not recognize such a silly distinction. Even the word “Wigger” is suspect because you need to use the word “nigger” inside of it, and at that point you’ve broken Rule 1 which is, again, you don’t EVER USE THE GHETTO PASS. Mounting a defense of your Ghetto Pass should one try to remove it from your hands will simply result in your losing it faster and possibly more painfully. And the longer the justification/explanation of your improper use of the Pass (which is any use of The Pass) the more embarrassing and prolonged your Whiteboy Probation will extend.
So there you go, white kids. Never before have these secrets of The Pass been so explicitly spelled out. Put them to good use, kids. Honor the rules, and maybe then, a harmony can be achieved. I do this for you out of the goodness of my own heart, the pain of my own experiences, and the hope of a future where I don’t have to look at or listen to stupid fuckin white kids performing some sort of paleface minstrel show at the goddamn bus stop in the hopes some Angel of Being Down will descend upon them and bless them with ill-gotten authenticity. Fronting is, and forever shall be, frowned upon.
Got it, kids? Good.
Stay Black, motherfuckers.