The Problem With The Hood Caroling in the ‘Burbs Prank
It was supposed to be a prank, but I really don’t find any of it amusing.
As the prank goes: five Black guys dressed in all black, like the Omen, walk up to house in a suburban, middle class and likely White gated community of Saratoga Woods in Louisville, Kentucky. They ring the doorbell (but not before planting a cell phone above the door) and wait for the occupant to the open up. She does, but when she sees the strange Black men hovering around her door, she shuts it quickly.
As the pseudo hip-hop beats traps on in the background, one of the scary looking Black guys reaches into his inside pocket. And we all know what that means?
No, he didn’t pull out a gun. That’s racist.
He pulls out a harmonica.
And then they start singing “Little Drummer Boy.”
That’s when the woman returns to the door, opens it and awkwardly smiles. She is in shock. They weren’t there to rape and murder or worse, sell her something. They were only there to entertain her with their fantastic ol’ Negro Spiritual-style singing. Boy, what a horrible person she is for misjudging their intentions.
The prank was orchestrated by notoriously corny prankster Tom Mabe who according to the Huffington Post is most virally know for another prank video in which he scared the bejeezus out of people by making them believe there was an escaped lion loose in a public park.
Mabe starts the Brothers Bring the Hood to the ‘Burbs at Christmas video talking about flipping the script on the popular string of pranks that involve mostly White guys going into predominately Black communities and picking fights with them before yelling “psych.”
Besides the prank on the woman, the Black acapella group also performed the stunt on another White family who stood in the doorway in pajamas looking uncomfortable as they patiently waited for the group to sing all three verses, the bridge and an assortment of riffs and runs.
The message, if you will, of the prank is to never judge a book by its cover. After all, just because five Black guys show up unannounced and unexpected at your door doesn’t mean they are there to rob you. If anything, they might bring you the gift of song, just like the lil’ drummer boy.
We are supposed to feel good and inspired by this lesson of racial harmony.
But quite frankly, I feel a little sick.
For one, the only folks in danger in this scenario were the Black men themselves. In predominately White communities where cops are regularly called on “suspicious” Black utility workers, it is no wonder they weren’t shot. White people’s fear of the suspicious Black person is a very real and dangerous thing. And it is nothing to either play around with or make light of.
Not to mention the Hood in the ‘Burbs video does very little to actually flip the script. In actuality, it validates everything that is wrong with the hood prank videos. After all, both videos are centered around what White people generally think about us and violence. In the hood prank video, the prankster antagonizes innocent Black people into violent confrontations as a way to thrill seek. And in the ‘Burbs, the violent theory is tested by getting young Black men to behave in a way that is contrary to what society, aka White people, expect from us.
But in both instances, Black people are being used as pawns to be victimized in order for White people to learn something about themselves. But what exactly do they learn?
After all, a White person can shoot a Black person for the crime of singing a song on the wrong steps and more than likely will never face any legal repercussions. Likewise a White person can legitimately get his or her behind kicked in a Black community and guess what? More than likely that White person will again get off scot-free while the brother or sister who was only defending his or herself, will get the jail time.
In short, whether Black folks are being provoked into violence or put into situations, which have a good chance of ending violently, White people still have the upper hand. So really, how does putting Black people in harms way in this revise version of the hood prank get White people to challenge their own privilege?
Also bothersome about the Hood in the ‘Burbs prank is that it is the worst form of pandering I have seen in a short while. It’s worst than the good police propaganda videos, which go viral after a bad cop has killed someone, usually Black. It’s even worse than the videos of this colorblind Negro doing spoken word about how he’s not Black or a label during a time when Black people are being killed for being labeled while Black.
In essence, we have a bunch of Black guys singing soulful versions of lily white songs for White acceptance. And with each and every “pa rum pum pum pum…” uttered out of their mouths, those men were basically pleading with the home occupants to please see our humanity. Or better yet, please recognize that we are not all bad. Or even better, please understand that we are all brothers and sisters who bleed red and like cheesy Christmas carols. Just like you.
What I got from the prank video is that in order for White people to feel relaxed and not be racist, we have to always be ready to entertain them. If only Trayvon Martin, Jonathan Ferrell and Renisha McBride knew the words to “Little Drummer Boy.”
And finally, the overall set-up in the prank video is kind of disingenuous. While we can logically conclude that the White homeowner initially didn’t open the door because of the race of the other men on the other side, we also can assume that she didn’t open the door out of a general and legitimate concern for her safety.
As a Black woman who lives alone, I ain’t opening my door for just anyone. I wouldn’t care if it is a brother, a White man named Sam or an alien. And I wouldn’t care if the brother, Sam and the alien got together and starting singing We Are the World with Michael Jackson’s hologram, I ain’t opening the door.
This is America and this place is pretty dangerous.
In short, I really wish White people would stop using us as props for all of their little performances and commentary on society. And I really wish that Black folks ourselves would stop signing up to be props for other people’s agendas. For real though, there really is no gain in it for us.