A prologue to ‘The Mediocre White Man’
Had Miss Johnson known a white man would one day hold the deed to her house, she would have burned that bitch to the ground with herself in it and opened fire on any poor bastard attempting to come to rescue her from the flames. Of course, the white man holding the deed didn’t know that–not that it mattered.
Stephen invaded neighborhoods in the tradition of his Euro-trash colonial predecessors. He “discovered” places–places in which niggas already lived–and, the next thing niggas knew, streets had bike lanes. The same rickety-ass, government-neglected drives and parkways on which the block grew up riding, with no helmet or pads; the same gravelly, pothole-ridden boulevards, used to fuck up muthafucka’s vehicle alignment; the same glass vial and syringe littered avenues on which the war on drugs was waged–those streets–suddenly got smoothed over and tatted with bike lanes; white lines imposed on black top bodies. Such seemingly innocent additions were actually cultural carcinogens, harbingers of gentrification.
Near the beginning of the twenty-first century, the installation of bike lanes was an insidious marking of territory, a clear indication white folks were encroaching upon your block, which was a clear indication your black-ass was getting moved off your block, which was, in and of itself, a not-so-subtle reminder it was never really your block to begin with.
The exception to this rule was, of course, Miss Johnson who didn’t go “no-fuckin’-where.” She’d predicted this shit would happen; she’d witnessed once before the ebb and flow of white flight, and was determined to be a blight in her own neighborhood once white folks decided to make a comeback. She was not, however, prepared to withstand both the storm and white flight in tandem.
As late as the twenty-first century, prior to the Grotesque Wars, white folks were the majority power holders in pretty much every aspect of human existence; they literally got away with murder. In late 2005, following the devastating aftermath of a Hurricane called “Katrina,” Stephen–like so many other white folks–“discovered” the Lower Ninth Ward, a large collection of New Orleans neighborhoods heavily populated with black folks, in which was his first target of acquisition: Miss Johnson’s shotgun.
When I say “shotgun,” I don’t mean the primitive firearm–of which Miss Johnson had no shortage. What I’m talking about was a housing structure, aptly named because you could–more or less–walk a straight line from the front door to the back door, passing through every room in between, like buckshot through a barrel. They sometimes came in doubles. Hers was a single.
This single shotgun encompassed a great woman’s history, of which an outsider holding the deed knew nothing.
Beaten the fuck up by good ol’ American cruelty, Miss Johnson survived at the brutal intersectionality that was being a black woman for nearly seven decades at the helm of her shotgun. I say “her shotgun” because Miss Johnson didn’t rent. Renting, she said, was “some slave shit.” She was never rich, never got a driver’s license, but she was a hustler, and as soon as she could afford it, she owned her home. Home, she said, was an extension of herself, sacrosanct, to be guarded at all costs. In her eyes, an entrance without invitation was tantamount to rape, an act punishable by relentless single woman firing squad. She was, after all, the Shotgun Queen. “The Unfuckwitable,” she called herself. “I lost a leg but ain’t never lost a fight,” she reminded me, beneath her satin diadem, toting her imperial pump action scepter. Allowing forcible entry to go unacknowledged by the righteous voice of Saint Tubman–what she called her shotgun–was an unthinkable invitation for seconds, and ain’t no nigga reach for firsts without consent got an invitation for seconds. What they got was a fatal lesson in manners blasted into their torso.
This Southern Black Queen’s approach to life ensured her survival through no fewer than three major acts of American terrorism, including Jim Crow, Reagan’s Crack Epidemic, and the Prison Industrial Complex. Additionally, she survived Mister Johnson back in the seventies–though he was before my time. American racism and rape culture practically groomed Miss Johnson to endure Apocalyptic Orleans–though she would never live to see it.
Still, none would displace her from her home; not the police; not the government; not some pale-skinned cracker Christ; and especially not Mister Johnson’s black ass.
To be continued…