The Awkwardness of White Joy

I’m glad you’re trying to figure it out, but where the hell have you been all this time?

Shane Paul Neil
Published in
6 min readNov 8, 2020


Photos: Shane Paul Neil

Four days later, the results were final. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were in. Donald Trump and Mike Pence were out.

I spent that Saturday morning sifting through the latest updates while watching the coverage and joining the chatter on Twitter (yes, the Black one).

When the news hit, I watched Black joy in the form of GIFs, memes, and clever takes. We laughed while embracing all of our pettiness, mocking the racist cartoon Trump and his MAGA supporters had become in the wake of their loss.

I watched the joy of Black women.

I watched the joy of Brown women.

I watched the joy of AKAs.

I watched the joy of women and men who attend(ed) HBCUs.

I watched a collective release. An exhale of the stress and anger that simmers and boils over from Black folks’ collective souls onto the collective conscience of America.

Black joy has flair. It has a style and a heft that reflects all the resilience necessary to survive often unhappy situations, and even pull happiness from them. Every smile and laugh is earned.

As news of Trump’s ousting spread across the nation, parties spilled into the street. Someone I know tweeted that it looked like we’d won a war. I replied that we had.

What I saw felt like the celebration of a victory not yet won by those who only just got on the team.

I watched clips of celebrations in Harlem and Brooklyn. The dancing and laughter in the streets felt communal and familiar; they reminded me of the block parties I grew up with where the neighbors would pull out their massive sound systems and grill jerk chicken in the street. (That’s a story for another day.)

I wish I could have seen it firsthand, but I would have to settle with spectating from my apartment in New Jersey.

As I watched, I got a text message from my ex-wife: “Have you seen the streets in town? They are packed. People have signs, and cars are honking up and down…



Shane Paul Neil
Writer for

Writer (duh) and photographer. Bylines @levelmag @complex @ebony @huffpo