Dear Wannabes,

Can you survive as a Black person in America? You can’t. It takes a special skill to be amongst us. We have a set of rules to ensure you stay alive. Now I’ll try to keep it simple but pay attention because it’s death row out here.

Now ladies, sit up straight. Be a sweetheart, but don’t let them walk all over you. No short skirts unless you want to get raped. No long skirts unless you want to be laughed at. Love yourself, but don’t be too confident. Boys don’t like that. Don’t wear braids—too ghetto. Don’t straighten or curl your hair, heat damage. Also, leave it to the white girls. Don’t talk proper, you won’t fit in with the Black crowd. Don’t use slang or you won’t fit in anywhere else. Don’t let them kick in your DO NOT DISTURB sign. Give an explanation for everything. Don’t gain too much weight or you won’t fit in the white crowd. Don’t be skinny or your aunts will say, “I need to eat how you eat, so I can be skinny like you.” Make sure your butt is fat, so he’s not “washing dishes.” Make sure you wear red lipstick at fourteen (it’s a right of passage). Make sure you smile but don’t show your crooked teeth. Make sure you wear lashes. Make sure you wear wigs and weaves. Make sure your nose isn’t too big and Black. Make sure you let the white girls touch your hair. Make sure you make yourself available for white boys to “get the black experience.” Let them call you “Nigger,” “Negro,” or “Nigga.” Don’t let them disrespect you. I’m not being political; I’m just being realistic. Make sure you pay attention, it’s death row out here.

My boys. Join the football team. Join the basketball team. Don’t join the baseball team—that’s a white man’s game. Be athletic but don’t do too much. Get a haircut. Grow your hair out. Shave your beard. You would look good with a beard. Only date dark skin black women. White girls are less of a headache. Don’t go out at night. You should get out more. Don’t be friendly. Don’t be antisocial. Don’t share your emotions. Real men cry. Always be a man. Be more emotional. Don’t wear pink. Why are you always wearing black? Support your family. Be the head of the household. Don’t let yourself fail. “But you don’t know what I’m—” Shut up. I’m trying to save your life. Please, my Black men, pay attention because they will put you on death row.

For the girls. Look up to the City Girls, Megan Thee Stallion, and Nicki Minaj. Those are the only role models you can have. Don’t do research on your Black history, but know everything about your history. Don’t get offended. Take word punches to the face and the gut. Don’t protest. Don’t be a feminist. Don’t curse. Don’t learn how to spell or read. Don’t want more for yourself. Make sure you open your legs. Make sure you have a baby in high school. Keep your legs closed. Make sure you have a job. Make sure you have a deadbeat baby daddy. Make sure you get unemployment. Make sure you get your food stamps. Don’t be broke. Have a luxurious lifestyle. Don’t be Black. Keep your composure. Don’t die. Don’t stress or you will die. Don’t wear all black. Don’t wear white after Labor Day, you can’t afford it. Don’t talk back. Don’t stand up for yourself. Don’t walk away from a situation or you’re a punk. Don’t fight. Don’t mess up that pretty Black face. Only use shea butter for your brown skin. Don’t gossip, but spill the tea. Make sure you pay attention, it’s death row out here.

Be polite to the colonizers that lock you up, beat you down, take away your dignity. Look both ways before you cross their minds. Watch your back, everyone is against you. Everyone wants to touch your Black skin. If you’re in trouble, go to the police. Don’t go to the police unless you wanna die. Be a breadwinner. Take on everyone’s problems. Don’t have depression. Don’t be weak. Only listen to rap. The only thing you’ll ever be good at is crime. Go to college. Get a job. Blue collar or white collar? Who am I kidding? White collar is for the white man. Let women put their hands on you. Don’t hit them back. Stand up for yourself. Don’t do ballet or you’re gay. Express yourself. Don’t have a big personality. Like, don’t be a Black man! You’re gonna die! What don’t you understand? Even if you try, you’re gonna be tied. Why are you so quiet? Is it because they have your legs in shackles, hands in cuffs, tied to a chair, with tape on your mouth? Learn how to escape.

Y’all can’t breathe? Is it because they take away your right to speak? You can’t live on the edge because our life gets snatched away at the slightest inconvenience. You are gawked at as the monkeys at the circus. Laugh at, belittle, beaten all the time. Can they get a break? If they’re not stepping on your neck, then they’re shooting you. Please Negroes, don’t sign your life away. But if you don’t, then they’ll take it away. Your striking brown eyes have put the fear in their vulnerable souls. Make sure you’re into Black art, Black poetry, and listen to Erykah Badu. Don’t hit your kids, but that baby needs a beating. When they cheat, accept it. When they lie, stick by them. Because as a Black person in America, you can’t survive on your own.

Every single Negro in the world