(Remember, you can contribute to the recovery fund - I've got nothing to do the next two weeks but this.)

imageThis is a watershed year for both the black community and the Grand Old Party. The black community because it's looking pretty good that for the first time in American history, a black man will be president, forcing the rest of American society to treat a successful black man and a successful black family as part and parcel of American life rather than ethnically centered counterprogramming. The House of Payne presidency, this will not be.

It's also a watershed year for the GOP because they're now facing the undeniable obelisk that is the potential of a black person in an unavoidable position of power. There's no white manager to run to in order to get around the black boss, there's no burying falsehearted appeals to the black community to find someone respectable to talk for them in publications with proportional black readerships that rival the North Face catalog. The GOP, theoretically, worships executive power too much to completely disregard...

...Yeah, I don't believe it, either.

Anyway, with the potential of a black person on Capitol Hill that isn't a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, an easily-ignored lobbyist for the NAACP or wait staff, Republicans are in desperate need of a guide to dealing approaching and dealing with black people. Let this, my friends, be that guide. Approaching the Black Person

You see a black person across the room. It's not Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice, so you can't ask about Norman Schwarzkopf or give a furtive nod to your fellow closeted conservative followed by terse conversation about the same wedding you've been talking about since 2002. What do you do?

The first key: don't panic. The black person is neither natively violent nor natively angry, they merely seem so after watching local news. I would advise only watching the weather on the local news, and should you need to view a positive media portrayal of black people in order to smooth over your budding concerns, turn to...er...uh...buy a Morgan Freeman movie where he helps a white person accomplish something. Preferably one that's PG or PG-13. The last thing you want to do is scare yourself before you take this momentous step.

So, now you're about to approach a black person, likely for the first time outside of a forced social or commercial interaction. Don't offer them money for this, particularly if they're female and/or well-dressed. It sends any number of wrong messages, and may or may not result in your luggage finding its way to a Goodwill's donation bin. When you go up to a black person, approach them respectfully, with your voice at an even keel. They do speak English.

I understand that from years of watching Oz and The Wire (or, more likely, hearing your blue-state cousin's reports of said shows), you may be afraid of making direct eye contact with the black person lest you end up "shanked" or "splatted", as you've heard the lingo go. Do not worry about this - they're television shows, dramatized for maximum impact. I would advise not wandering into inner-city Baltimore on your first few attempts, however.

Look the black person in the eye, and introduce yourself clearly. Make sure that you know their name. In the case that you don't, respectfully ask what it is, and commit it to memory. Do not, however, call a different black person by that same black person's name, even if you're really, really sure that they look alike. After introductions are made, broach a conversational topic - the aforementioned weather always being safe (almost always - try not to make any comments involving heat and "the Motherland"), as well as such topics as sports, general news, common acquaintances, popular entertainment, etc.

Please keep in mind that the chances you saw them in a hip-hop video are infinitesimal, and better kept to yourself, no matter how much you think your new best friend is Nelly.

Groups of Black People

After you've made contact with a single black person, other black people may come around and join your conversation. "A-ha!" you say. "I watched National Geographic while I was tending to my hydroponic garden last weekend. I brought shiny beads for just this occasion."

Look, you idiot - this is why you're reading this guide. Keep the beads in your pocket.

"But they're a tribe!"

How would you feel if I thought every group of five or more white people was a soccer team?

"Theyre a gang?"

Just like white people, black people can converge in groups without violence or tribal dances bursting out. If you notice that the black people are merely converging or milling about near each other, they may be coworkers or friends. If you notice that the black people are standing in close physical proximity to each other and have shiny rings on their hands, resist the temptation to comment on their "bling" - they may be in a relationship or even married. If you notice that they are surrounded by smaller black people, many of whom may seem physically or financially dependent on their larger counterparts, they are not in some sort of symbiotic welfare relationship, nor are the smaller black people any of a number of small-statured black entertainers such as Emmanuel Lewis or Muggsy Bogues. These are children. And the older black people are parents, not baby mamas and/or baby daddies.

Touchy Subjects

As a Republican, there are any number of touchy subjects that you're going to find difficult to address with black people, due to your consistent and perpetual wrongness. These include:

  • Slavery
  • Lynching
  • Economics
  • Voting
  • Health and Healthcare
  • Black Republicans
  • Every Republican administration since Nixon
  • American History
  • American History X
  • The Celtics/Lakers Rivalry prior to 2008
  • The black person you had a crush on in college
  • Hockey
  • Cities
  • Rural Areas
  • Education
  • Affirmative Action
  • Talk Radio
  • Your new black neighbor

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but should any topic where you feel uncomfortable come up, always pursue the same strategy: apologize. You'd be surprised how much it works.

Further Questions

Right now, your Republican mind may be reeling from this influx of information, and I understand that you have any number of questions about how to behave. Here are a few more tips going forward:

- Avoid any attempt to seem "hip" or "with it". I will guarantee you anything you think is a relevant and up-to-date reference is, at minimum, five years past its sell-by date and primarily used by exasperated white teenagers communicating with their parents about their cell phone plans or homework or sex lives.

- Avoid fried chicken and watermelon. As delicious an idea as it might seem, save that for a later encounter, please.

- Avoid the addition of unnecessary suffixes to words. No matter how funny or how much of a bonding activity it might seem, avoid substituting the suffixes "-eezie" and "-izzle" onto words. You will fuck up in the process.

- Remember the Snoop Dogg rule. I'm sure that in the early 90s, Snoop Dogg seemed like a rather threatening black man. Rail-thin with a raspy voice and permanent scowl, he seemed like the vengeance of black America ambling its way into your children's minds. Now, he spends most of his time making Muppet videos for Sunday Night Football and working on new lines of energy drinks. Black people are safe...just different.