back to the Black Table

Somewhere in America right now, a red-headed nine-year old with a paper route and freckles that only come out in the summertime is walking into a shopping mall to buy a doo-rag and a Snoop Dogg record, so he can stand in front of the mirror at home and practice waving his hands from side to side.

He is doing that because, like many white people, he really likes black people and he always has. In the 40 years since the end of the Civil Rights movement, white people have engaged in an awkward, passionate and tumultuous love affair with black people. Not all white people, mind you -- this is a gross oversimplification. But somewhere in America right now, there is a blue-haired woman at a wedding, old enough to have lived her life under Jim Crow, shaking her replacement hips to Earth, Wind & Fire.

Things are different now. But do these white people *really* love black people? Or do they just love black culture? Or what?

For part of the answer, we turn to the perceived expert on race: The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. And he said: "The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers." But he also said: "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

Okay. So, some white people are down. And some white people are trying to be down.

To study the difference, we attended the fifth-anniversary party celebrating the Cornerstone Mixtape, a near-legendary promotional CD given to media and radio DJs. The party was at LQLQ in New York City on a Tuesday night and the lineup included live performances from CL Smooth (oddly, Pete Rock was playing up the street), Black Sheep (yes, they're still together) and De La Soul, the pioneering rap group who made rap cool for white college kids. The white people were there. The black people were there. The music was tight.

We took some pictures.

You make the call: "Down" or "Not Down."















Answer Key.




  #1. NOT DOWN. She's jingling, baby, but she shouldn't go ahead, baby. Homegirl's overcompensating with accessories. She's got a purse, a drink, a big ring, two bracelets, big earrings, a pink belt, a shirt tied around her waist and a flower in her hair. And she's dancing.  


  #2. VERY DOWN. The pink shirt and awkward pose may scream "golf caddy" but the girl he's with has a booming system. And they were on the dance floor grinding like freaks to "Round and Round" by Tupac before anyone else did.  



#3. KINDA DOWN. Sometimes, B Girls come in odd packages. And while she may look like she's on the way to an Easter Egg Hunt, with her checkered pastel top, capri pants and high heels -- she was shaking it like a Polaroid picture, working the floor for a full hour before refilling her drink.



  #4. TOSS UP. The low-key head hodder in the scally cap could either be offsetting his burning white liberal guilt by respectfully appreciating the music, or he could be the kind of guy who can name every member of the Wu-Tang Clan, all of their solo records and side projects at the drop of a hat. Could go either way from the picture.  



#5. TOO DOWN. Seems down, right? He knows *every* lyric to this song and he's pointing. He loves this stuff. It's clear. The problem is that it's *too* clear and the overexuberance turns showy and by being overly down, he ruins his own down-ness. It's sad.


#6. DOWN? Not 100% sure this guy gave a shit as he wandered around the dance floor, dancing with girls, drinking his drink and generally acting like he didn't have a care in the world. Being down never even occurred to him. He kept it real.