January is always a funny month at jerk chicken restaurants. For some reason, people are just hungrier for white meat with a little kick to it. A few weeks ago, I went into my favorite jerk chicken restaurant Fire Fowl and I saw an older heavyset gentleman walk in. He was slightly balding and had a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young T-shirt on. He glanced around awkwardly, looking bespectacled and Caucasian as he ordered the jerk chicken with rice and peas.
And then he sat down, took one bite and started to sweat profusely! Oh no, I thought. I could see him looking panicked and frightfully alone. Within the first few minutes, he was frantically gulping at his water. What could I do? Here I was, sitting in a booth with my tastefully tacky Izod sweater and my three seasons ago Beats By Dre headphones around my neck and here was this guy sweating through his hopelessly outdated shirt. Because I was directly across from this guy, I couldn’t help but stare at his poor pale out-of-shape man pain and it pained me.
Even though I had zero evidence, I could feel his eyes burning into my head as he stared at me calmly eating my peppered rice and peas. And I thought, what did I do to deserve this??? I became aware of my perfect mahogany skin and an ideal weight of 160 pounds as I continue to fork up the chicken. And I could feel his hostility, could virtually hear him shouting “Damn your Jamaican genes!” I thought about offering him a glass of milk, but…I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. So I turned away and deliberately avoided the eye contact that I don’t think I received but I’m pretty sure I received.
At the end of the meal, I went straight home and my eyes welled up with tears. Primarily the tears came from the burning sensation on my tongue, but there was also the guilt. The guilt! I thought of all the times that black people thoughtlessly oppressed white people. I thought of the pain white people felt when Macklemore was criticized for co-opting rap music and gay rights for a Grammy. I cried thinking of how I oppressed Miley Cyrus by complaining about her terrible twerking and use of black people as props. I beat my fists against my chest as I thought of how unfair it was that Lupita Nyongo stole that SAG award from a well-meaning white actress.
I’m sorry, you guys, I just broke down. Jerk chicken restaurants are a safe space for me and they’ve helped me through difficult times like when I skipped lunch and needed to get dinner before running off to do a comedy open mic. Now everything felt deeply suspect. Could I eat chicken again, knowing full well what my ingestion of it can do to the psyches of those poor defenseless white stomachs? I couldn’t believe that this is how it feels to get a glimpse of the spice-shaming that I put white people through on a daily basis.
I’ll still go to that jerk chicken restaurant though, but I’ve opened my eyes to the feelings of white people. I once was lost but now I’m found. In conclusion, America.