Justin @ 'Hype Man' - I am that white friend
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
White rapper extraordinaire Pinnacle, master beat maker Peep One and professional hype man Verb are on the cusp of national fame. When a shooting happens in their neighborhood, the group is divided by priorities. Will it be fame or justice?
I am that white friend.
For basically my entire life, my friend group has featured me as the token white guy. My group originally consisted of one other white friend, several Dominicans, an Ecuadorian, a few Puerto Ricans, a Mexican-Jewish-but-more-Mexican and my best friend, who is Black. Since college, my friend group has expanded to more Dominicans, more Mexicans and one other white friend.
Now, what does this have to do with anything? The main conflict in Hype Man is Pinnacle’s refusal to use his whiteness to help advance the worthy causes of his non-white crew. So naturally, it reminded me of a story:
I must have been a sophomore in high school when this happened. Eh, I’m 80% sure on having been a sophomore. I was out with my friends, the Puerto Rican (Muffin Man), The Mexi-Jew (MexiJew) and my best friend (Little Fish). We were chilling out around Van Cortlandt Park, just kinda wandering on the pathways and fucking around. We threw some rocks in the lake and just talked about bullshit, you know? Behind the historic-museum-house thing, there’s a stairway that leads to this, like, plaza-ish area. I don’t remember why I stopped, but I was walking behind the stairs, maybe it was a joke? Maybe I needed to pee? Possibly, but I think I was literally just gonna fix my belt, cause it’d gotten fucked up when we were seeing how high we could scale up the trees (MexiJew won).
I didn’t see the squad car when it turned into the little plaza area, but they clearly thought: white kid + behind stairs + Jewish Riverdale neighborhood = pothead white boy.
So these mofos roll up on me and tell me to stand still, ask me what I’m doing, and I used the “needed to piss” excuse because trying to explain to this Bored Looking Officer and this Fat-A*s Angry Officer that I was fixing my belt, frankly, seemed dumber to me. They searched me, found my phone, my wallet, asked me my name, confiscated my asthma inhaler (I never got that bitch back, which means it’s probably sitting in some precinct if it hasn't been thrown out yet). They let me off with a warning since I did nothing wrong, just to not be a dipsh*t, basically.
I’m leaving with my boys, who were waiting by the fountain for me. Now Little Fish, my best friend in the world, Black as hell, always been a jokester, sees my white a*s coming back from being with them white officers and he decides to yell out:
“What just happened to you, Justin, that was RACIAL PROFILING! YOU HEAR ME? RACIAL PROFILING.” I love Little Fish with all my heart, but I never said he was playing with a full deck of cards.
Cops come on over. “Racial profiling?” said Fat-Ass Angry Officer. “I’ll show you racial profiling, get over here.”
We stopped. Fat-Ass Angry is insisting Little Fish come over to him. Little Fish does so, cracking jokes of course. Fat-Ass Angry tells me, MexiJew and Muffin Man to keep walking. It’s latish spring 2012, I’m a high school sophomore, and I’m a little shook after the police stopped me. I comply, and I make MexiJew and Muffin Man comply. I may be the token majority, but I am still the majority in the group. We keep far enough that I can watch what happens with my boy, in case something happens. They brought him over to the car, I heard ‘em yelling but I dunno what's going on.
At the time, I’m thinking, staying far away keeps Fat-Ass Angry from becoming Fat-Ass Pissed Off, which helps my boy get through this quicker. But, with the country as it is now and events that have happened since, I think back on that sometimes. I was making it easier for them to do something to my best friend, but I was just too scared to do anything...
Hype Man called that to mind, again, vividly. My boy Little Fish is in the Army now, but shit man, I wonder about that day and what the fuck might’ve happened. That's why Hype Man is probably the best show I’ve seen this year. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, it’s wildly entertaining, you will be asked to be loud and sing along and stand up. But, more than anything, it’s a wonderful reminder, as this year comes to close, that you can always do more. You can always help with the advantages you have. So maybe sometimes there are happy endings.
Tell us about your experience.
In the comments below.