As interracial dating, integration, and cross-cultural friendships increase, many people find themselves attending events in which they are the minority, and have no frame of reference from which to base their etiquette. In an effort to help bridge the cultural gaps we all have to traverse at some point, I have created a few rules for all my Caucasian friends who might find themselves at a black cookout.

1. You gotta bring something. One time, I went to a co-worker named Tom’s barbecue and brought a pasta salad. He looked at me like I had shit in the middle of his living room.

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At a black cookout (yes, if there’s more than seven black people there, the name automatically changes from “barbecue” to a “cookout”), only the meat and the grill is supplied by the host. Everything else is brought by attendees—and no, this is not “potluck.” Black people don’t do potlucks. Potluck dinners are for Caucasian bible-study meetings where one can bring store-bought dishes. Here, you either show up with a homemade dish, or they’re gonna look at you funny. And please don’t try no new shit like potato salad with raisins or vegetarian shish kabobs. If you can’t cook, or you don’t have all the required black seasonings, just bring some cups and napkins. Or LOTS of aluminum foil. I don’t know what the hell black people do with all the aluminum foil at cookouts, but they ALWAYS need more. I have long suspected that black cookouts were ploys by hosts to get free aluminum foil. In any case, you are expected to bring something.

2. It’s a cookOUT. Black people’s cookouts are outside. At the previously mentioned Tom’s barbecue, everyone mingled in his living room. I was nervous as fuck, because for the first hour, all I could think was, “These motherfuckers are about to have an intervention on me.”

You don’t go into the house unless you have to pee, which means there a few things you should bring:

1. A chair.

2. Bug spray.

3. Another chair (because someone is going to sit in your first chair when you go pee).

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3. Don’t arrive on time. If they say they’re going to start around 3 p.m., that means you can arrive around 4:47. CP time is a very complicated algorithm to figure out, but the published start time at a black BBQ is the time when they start thinking about preparing to get ready to almost light the grill.

4. Learn how to do the “Wobble.” Then consult a local ballerina/choreographer to add your own variation to one of the moves. I don’t do line dances, but I’ve noticed that white people feel SO included if they know how to do them. I believe line dances should be used by the United Nations to prevent war. You can’t be THAT mad when you’re adding your spin shimmy kick to the Cupid Shuffle.

5. Make friends. Here is a FOOLPROOF method to making a new black friend at the cookout:

1. Bring a bottle of dark liquor.

2. Keep it in the trunk of your car.

3. SOMEONE (usually Tasha’s new boyfriend) is gonna ask, “Way da liquor at.”

4. Wait. (I know you’ll want to rush up to him or say something, but ignore your white-people-timing instincts just this one time, and give it a few minutes.)

5. When he changes the subject, walk over to him and say, “Walk to my car with me.” He’ll know what you mean.

6. When you pop that trunk, you’ll have a friend for life.

6. DO NOT PLAY SPADES. Even if your black friend tries to teach you how to play. They’re gonna get you FUCKED UP. No matter what you do, don’t get on the spades table talking ’bout you “learned” how to play. You do not learn how to play spades. Black people just know. Like we just know how to do the Electric Slide or get diabetes.

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AND, if you mess around and renege, your partner is gonna give you the side-eye all night when they take those three books.

AND, you might get in your feelings over the shit-talking, because James is going to call you a bitch. He always does that.

AND, if your spades game is weak, no one is gonna want to be your friend. Not even Tasha’s boyfriend.

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7. Park down the street. Trust me, you don’t want to have to wait for someone to move their car so you can get out. Especially after your bitch ass let James them run a Boston on you. (See? I bet that offended you, and you probably don’t know what it means. That’s why you shouldn’t play spades.)

8. Don’t worry about the drunk uncle. You know how at white people’s Thanksgiving, there’s always that ONE drunk uncle? (Yes, there is a White Thanksgiving and a Black Thanksgiving. White people’s Thanksgiving has pumpkin pie and wine. Black Thanksgiving has pound cake and Crown Royal.)

Anyway, at black cookouts, ALL our uncles are the drunk uncle. Except Uncle Jerome, who is saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost. In fact, Uncle Jerome is starting a new ministry that confronts the evil of drugs and alcohol.

But if you take him to your trunk, he’ll have a nip.

9. For dominoes advice, please refer to rule no. 6. You know what I said about spades? The same goes for dominoes. It’s like spades with math. Most black people don’t even play dominoes as well as they think they do. And the shit-talking factor is even higher. James is going to call your mama a bitch. He always does that.

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10. Listen. As the evening progresses and the alcohol flows, it becomes more dangerous to be at a black cookout. We all know that white people get drunk and fight, too, (probably more than black people), but here’s the difference:

Black people can fight.

There is, however, a very simple and effective way to know when a black cookout is getting dangerous: the music.

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Music is not just entertainment at these gatherings; it is like the terror-alert warning system. The intensity of the music is inversely proportional to the danger it represents. Here are the Black Cookout Music Alert Warning indicators:

  • Pop/current music. If you hear the Weekend, 2 Chainz, or Fetty Wap, you’re pretty safe. That means the kids are around, and everything’s cool.
  • Old-school R&B. When Al Green or Parliament is playing, everything should be okay. Everyone is getting lubed up and eating, and Tasha’s boyfriend has been waiting on you by your car.
  • Old-school hip-hop. By now, only the guys are left. Mostly the drunk ones. They’re arguing about whether Rakim was better than Tupac, while Uncle Jerome is talking about Kool Moe Dee being the G.O.A.T. Shit is getting sketchy. You better get ready, because it’s going to jump off soon. The spades table is pumping, the dominoes are being slammed down, and then you lock eyes with one guy, and you can tell he’s thinking, “If James call my mama a bitch ONE MO TIME ….” Man, just start getting your stuff together and making your way to the car.
  • Gospel Music. If you hear we fall down, but we get up … run, motherfucker. Get the fuck out of there. Leave those camp chairs, and tell Tasha’s boyfriend to get the fuck away from your car with that screwdriver trying to break into your trunk.

Aren’t you glad I told you to park down the street?


Michael Harriot is a journalist, poet, and host of the popular podcast The Black One, as well as the cohost of The StayWoke Show web series. He’s on Twitter, Instagram, and michaelharriot.com, too. This article originally ran on his WordPress.

Gif courtesy Columbia Pictures.

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