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No Props to Give

American rhetoric in black and white.

Jul 16, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 41 • By JOE QUEENAN
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At least half of the Pryor Doomsday Scenario has come to pass. In today’s world, young white people barge in and annex black people’s expressions all the time. This is sometimes done in an affectionately ironic way—“I’m down with that, mofo!” or “True dat”—because white boys never entirely forget where they pilfered these expressions from. But when middle-aged white people start tossing around these phrases, when the yammering nitwits on sports talk shows start doing it, it’s just sad. 

Kobe Bryant is not going to think Fred Steinhunker is cool just because Steinhunker gave him props. This stuff doesn’t make white people any more likable, and it doesn’t give them street cred. Black people know how white people operate: First they are mystified by an expression, then they start to employ it in a semi-parodic way, then they annex it, and ultimately they suck the life out of it. By the time middle-class white people get around to saying “word up” and “chill out,” those once-evocative turns of phrase are ready for the morgue.

I myself give props to those who have the authority to both give and receive props by never, ever letting the words “give props” pass through my lips. A middle-aged white man who uses the expression “give props” or “I’m down with that” needs to be taken out to the alley and worked over with a two-by-four. 

For best results, his assailants should open a can of whup-ass. A big can. I’m not being a hater or anything, but those are asses that need whuppin’.

Joe Queenan is the author, most recently, of Closing Time: A Memoir.

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