Questlove On Trayvon Martin + The Psychology Of “You Ain’t Shit”

Questlove wrestles with the Trayvon Martin verdict

We originally included Questlove‘s soul-searching attempt to grapple with the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin in our Monday round-up of reactions to the unbelievable news. But Questo’s spontaneous rumination on the psychology of “you ain’t shit” has resonated so widely (including reposts on Huffington Post and NY and sparked so much discussion about the way this event is being internalized by those of us who’ve been watching–that we decided it needed it’s own url. Read on:

well….most of you read the book so that means you’re familiar with Rich by now. i just landed in the states and he was my first call. i was listening to msnbc on the radio, so this is the first time im getting real time reaction/news from an american source about the Martin case. im trying not to internalize this *feeling* and make it about *me*—but hey it is what it is, maybe i’m mellow dramatic—but all i’m consumed with is my positioning in life.

all the time i tell these cute self deprecating celeb run ins when i get a pie in the face moment. but rarely do i share stories of a more serious nature pie in the face moments.—-all i could keep saying was “thank god for my good fortune”—i can’t tell you how many times a year im in a serious situation only to hear the magic words “oh….wait…Questlove?—-hey guys its Questlove—we’re so sorry you can go”—mostly because in the age of social media most people are quick to dismiss my tales as #‎FirstWorldProblems—so unless its super major (did i ever FB the story of how the Buffalo DEA held me cause they thought i was a drug lord back in 2006?—multiply that scenario by a realistic 40—like 5-7 times a year a night ending in the words “thank god for that afro, we’d never have recognized you” happens to me.)

so a friend of mine sent me this apology letter. all the time i’m in scenarios in which primitive exotic looking me (6’2, 300 lbs, uncivilized afro for starters) finds himself in places that people that look like me aren’t normally found. i mean what can i do? i have to be somewhere on earth correct? in the beginning (let’s say 2002 when the gates of “hey ahmir would you like to come to…..(name swanky elitist place)?” opened. initially i’d say “no”—mostly because its been hammered in my DNA to not “rock the boat”—which since i wanna keep it real means not make “certain people” feel uncomfortable.


—i mean that is a crazy way to live.


seriously imagine a life in which you think of other people’s safety and comfort first before your own. you’re kinda programmed and taught that from the gate. its like the opposite of entitlement.


problem is i DO have desires to go to certain places and do certain things. and enjoy the perks and benefits of a person who works his arse off as much as i do. so i got over my hangups of not wanting to be the odd guy in the room sometime around 2007.


mixed results at best. some of it is “oh that wasn’t that bad”, some of it was “well…that was awkward….” (this is the prime reason i hate vacations. those that know me well and always ask why i never take them—main reason? i don’t feel like being the “odd guy out” at vacation spots—-hence that hobo journey of 2009 train trip i took was the best one i ever took. no scaring people on a train ride.


—anywho imma share a portion of the letter. i was explaining to a friend something i found troubling but managed to find humor in. my friends know that i HATE parking lots and elevators, not because they are places that danger could occur but its a prime place in which someone of my physical size can be seen as a danger element. i wait and wait in cars until i feel its safe for me to make people feel safe.—i know most of yall are eye rolling, but if you spent a good 3 months in these size 14s you’d understand why i take that position.


so here is setup.


i live in a “nice building”. i work hard. you know i work hard.—my logic is (naive alert in 5…4….3…2..) “well, there cant be any fear of any type in this building, you first of all gotta go through hell and high water just to get accepted to live here like its Dartmouth or U Penn. secondly there’s like 5-8 guards on duty 24/7 so this spot is BEYOND safe. like oscar winners and kids of royalty and sports guys and mafia goomahs live here. so one night i get in elevator and just as the door closes this beautiful woman gets on. because of a pain in the arse FOB card device you have to use to get to your floor it just makes it an easier protocol for whoever is pressing floors to take everyone’s request like you are at the window of a drive thru (what floor? “54…..82…….43……76……”) —so i press my floor number and i ask her “what floor ma’am?” (yes i say ma’am because….*sigh* anyway—) she says nothing….stands in the corner.—mind you i just discovered the candy crush ap so if anything im the rude one cause im more obsessed on winning this particular board than anything else. plus in my head “no way i can be a threat to a woman this fine if im buried deep in this game—so surely she feels safe”


so the humor comes in that i thought she was on my floor cause she never acknowledged my floor request. she was also bangin’ so inside i was like (“dayuuuuuuuuuuum she lives on MY floor? *bow chicka wowowowowwoooowwww!!!”)—like i was kinda happy cause as far as i knew—only 6 people occupied the 9 spots on my floor. so instantly i was on some “what dessert am i welcoming committee’ing her with?!”—anywho, the door opens and i waited to let her off first cause i am a gentleman (old me woulda rushed first thus not putting me in the position to have to follow her god forbid if she too makes a left as well (always in this position in dark hotel hallways—sandra bernhard will deny this til the cows come home but she was scared out of her mind the first night we accidentally met in a hotel in which i had the misfortune to be on same floor and having to follow her all the way down the worlds darkest art deco hallway to our rooms—we joked about it years later but it was tense)—so door opens and i flirt “ladies first”—she says “this is not my floor”. so then i assume she is FOBless (food delivery people often get wrong floors and we press them to right floors) so i pulled card out assuming she didn’t live in building to press her floor yet again….she offers “that’s okay”….


then it hit me…


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