‘Black Don’t Crack’ Isn’t Much of a Compliment
It’s more like a stereotype gift-wrapped with a bow
“Youth is wasted on the young,” some say. Thank God a little of it was left over for me.
I’ll never get tired of being reminded that I look younger than my middle age — if only that flattering observation didn’t come with a less-than-flattering racial qualifier: “Black don’t crack!”
Of all the hackneyed, ridiculous things to say, why do so many people still insist on saying it?
Aside from being annoyingly ungrammatical, it isn’t even true. Black does crack, as any Black person who has suffered from ashy skin with no soothing moisturizer on hand would tell you.
Oh, and we age, too. Some of us even show it. I’ll resist the urge to name names because this is not about hurling insults. And yes, for the most part, Black people do age exceptionally well.
I understand why “Black don’t crack” is a source of pride for many. Beyond its metaphorical value (we’d have to be an unbreakable race to survive what White supremacy has put us through), it’s also a small way of affirming our beauty in a society that worships White over everything else. So go ahead, look in the mirror, and say it loud: “I’m Black, and I don’t crack!”
I don’t need that particular brand of validation, especially from non-Black people. I’m all about the custom compliment, whether it’s about my physical appearance, intelligence, or my personality. When someone admires my being ageless and then assigns that quality to everyone who shares my skin color, it’s not really about me. It’s like raving about how sexy Black men are and expecting me to say thank you.
It’s also just another form of stereotyping. Why does race always have to be a factor for some when making observations about Black people? It reminds me of when a friend told me I was the only Black person he’d ever met who couldn’t sing. It reminded me of all the things White people expect Black people — particularly Black men — to be, aside from mad, bad, and dangerous. We should be good at basketball, dancing, singing, sex — and good at aging. That’s a lot to live up (and down) to. Why can’t I just be me?