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/krō/ a large perching bird with mostly glossy black plumage, a heavy bill, and a raucous voice.

 

 

Stop Saying, "Big Black Guy."

Stop Saying, "Big Black Guy."

I've heard the phrase, "big black guy" used, predominantly by white men, as a seemingly universally accepted excuse for not accomplishing some goal, like getting into a bar or picking up a girl, i.e. "the bouncer was this big black guy" or "she was with this big black guy."  The big black guy represents an insurmountable obstacle. 

I say stop it because the only reason you are using the word “black” is to emphasize just how scary the person is.  Big guy is not sufficient.  You want people to know it was a super scary guy, a big - black - guy.  

Strangely, it is a phrase that is equally applied to big, small and moderately sized black guys.  I once heard a 6'2," 250 pound white man use it to describe a 5'9," 160 pound black man.   

This is a puzzlement to me.

So either you are saying that all black men appear physically big to you, which is symptomatic of a neurosis of black men that I am not willing to entertain at this point, or you are saying that all black men, big or small, are scary, are obstacles and that black skin itself offers reason enough to take another path. 

When used to describe a moderately sized dude, the word "black" is dog whistle for scary.  Think about it, you wouldn’t say a moderately sized guy of any other race was a "big (fill-in-the-blank) guy."  The word “big” is inappropriately inserted because it would seem and feel racist just to say, “the bouncer was a black guy” or “she was with a black guy.”  The word “big” is a little white lie that provides both an acceptable justification of fear and allows you to go on believing that you are not a racist.

The phrase tells on itself and it tells on you.

By using the word black to indicate that someone is scary, you are equating black skin with something to fear and perpetuating the fiction that all black men, regardless of age, profession, education, background, size, etc. are more dangerous than other men.  The blanket application, also perpetuates the notion that black men are indistinguishable.  This is part of the dehumanization and racial blindness that allows people to mistake 12-year-old kids for 35-year-old men. 

In short, use of the phrase signifies that you are a racist who is a real and tangible part of the problem and a contributor to the reason that cops are jumpier around “big black guys” (big and small, young and old) – so cut it out.  

Addendum: I now feel the need to offer something instructive, so here is a general working guide:

I can only think of two legitimate reasons for a non-black person to indicate a black person's race:

1. When it is pertinent to the story:

i.e.  "A black woman said I couldn't possibly understand her struggle as a double minority."  See that?  The story doesn’t make as much sense without the word black. 

2. When offering a meaningful description of someone:

i.e. "I just met this incredible woman and now she seems to have disappeared.  She is a beautiful, tall, slender, dark-skinned black woman, with short, curly hair and she is wearing a green dress.  Let me know if you see her." 

OR

To distinguish between two otherwise similar people.

i.e. There are two bartenders, similar build and height, wearing light blue shirts - one is white and one is black and your friend asks, who has your tab?  A: The black dude.

However, if black is not pertinent to the story or unnecessarily given as a descriptor with little to nothing else, i.e. I just got in a car accident with this black woman, you are being racist (particularly because you rear ended me). 

When black is used with nothing more, you are not trying to describe an individual you are trying to convey a negative stereotype about blackness. Okay, I think I’m done now.  Thanks for reading. 

 

 

Dr. Clarence Sumner Greene: First Board Certified Black Neurosurgeon in the United States

Dr. Clarence Sumner Greene: First Board Certified Black Neurosurgeon in the United States

Matthew Henson: First Man to Reach the North Pole.

Matthew Henson: First Man to Reach the North Pole.