The Barbershop Report


Finally tired of the increasing unmanageability of the too rapidly thinning, African curled but interspersed with myriad straight strands evincing the peek-a-boo genetic inheritance of my American native and White Irish roots, and more than a few not so easily hidden anymore greys, not too long but not short enough hair,  I made the pilgrimage that all men must invariably make to that hallowed hall of grooming known as the Barber Shop.

Stepping inside, I entered the court of all too familiar sights, sounds, and smells.  Alcohol and clipper oil mingling unevenly with the sounds of a too loud TV in a too small room; ancient swiveling chairs bought who knows when and for who knows how much; magazine pages crinkled with the handling and bending and perusing of too many hands flipping through pictures of cars and girls and sports teams; seats scavenged from some theater, the vinyl seats complaining with every shift of weight. This is the Barber Shop.

And it is here that one can glean from simple silence, the social, cultural, and political mood of the waiting clientele. Of all places in America, the Barber Shop is the most segregated; separated not only by degree of kink or curl but by chasms of tradition and culture.

Words spoken here are not softened for the ears of women or children or political correctness.  Here is raw expression.

So in I stepped and sat and listened, waiting my turn while CNN droned on and the “buzz buzz buzz” of the clippers barbershopcontinued, interrupted only by the occasional “click” as the barber changed the guard height.

“Man, what you think about that man yellin’ out at the President?”

“Aw man, he don’t know sh*t.  They wasn’t doin’ all that when Bush was in there.”

“Yeah, all them crackers out there protestin’.  They don’t know what the hell they talkin’ about.  Just mad that a Black man is in the White House.  That’s all that sh*t is.”

At this I sighed, daring not open my mouth to reveal that I too think the president is a liar and resentful that without saying it, I would be an ‘uncle Tom’ in their eyes.  And so I sat, grinding my teeth silently, flipping the pages of an ancient Vibe magazine with Obama on the cover, listening to the entrepreneurial barbershop owner whose very life and business is the embodiment of conservative principles put to work.

I wonder what he thinks about all the taxes he will have to pay to foot the bill for Obama’s government expansion.  This barber owns two shops and several businesses, AND rental property.  I wonder if he realizes he’s one of the “rich.”

“Yeah, man.  If you asked one of them crackers what was in the health bill they couldn’t even tell you.  They just mad Crystal-Barbershop-webthat’s all. Don’t even know what the hell they talkin’ about.  Just mad that a n*gga in the White House.”

“You right man.  Look, when he got in there he told them it was gone cost some money to fix all the sh*t Bush messed up.  Now they cryin’ about it.”

“Obama just tryin’ to do something, and them d*mn crackers don’t like it.”

“It’s just racism; pure and simple.  That’s all.”


By now it was my turn to sit in the chair and get my cut.

“Cut it low, but not tight.”

You want it faded?”

“Naw, that’s alright.”

I sat silently while the clippers buzzed.  We talked about my family.  My sister, my father, people the barber knew.

“Is that good?” he asked, holding up the mirror for me to examine my new cut.

“Yeah, its fine.”

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7 Responses to The Barbershop Report

  1. mainenowandthen says:

    I get a simple haircut (has to be, considering what they have to work with) from one of those shops that serves both men and women, so the conversation tends to be less “male-centered”.

    Now and then I get to listen to some partisan rhetoric that manages to do unwanted things to my blood pressure, but I tend to ignore it. No do I aggressively treat anyone to my conservative views. Same thing in bars (on my infrequent visits), churches and other public arenas.

    If I detect a friendly and/or supportive attitude toward conservative attitudes (or anti-administration leanings), then sometimes I will join in. That is a non-confrontational approach, I admit, but I would always prefer a reasonable, civil discussion to attempting to reason against blatant ignorance and/or partisanship.

    Works for me. Luckily, I have outlets such as this.

  2. I live in W.Va. typically a liberal strong hold. We voted for McCain over Obama which is unusual. When I talk to people from D.C. or other places they always say it’s because W.Va. is racist.

    I hate having to stand up against that but it’s flat wrong West Virginia may have it’s share of racists but I doubt those ignorant SOBs vote much. Instead we have the highest per capita in the military so we support a strong armed force. Obama was not to nice to the military. Second, our economy is based largely on coal mining. Obama doesn’t like dirty nasty coal. But nope we are racist and the military and coal industry don’t have anything to do with it. Just look at how few African-American’s are in this state. We must be racist it’s the only acceptable explanation.

  3. I just find it funny a person can call a bunch of people racists while at the same time using a racist term for whites.

    Pot, Kettle have you two met?

    • Hearing those sorts of racial comments are just part of the Black experience in this country. It is accepted largely without comment, though not generally in polite company. The overwhelming social pressure to conform, to not speak out, is stifling and destructive to the Black community in my opinion.

  4. BaldManMoody says:

    Very well written TBC – that would have been a tough conversation to have had to deal with. I was argued against by a black friend from Chicago on a client when I started arguing against Obama’s Constitutional views. He went on to say that they (the Framers) didn’t write his Constitution. I just left it there.

    On another note, I have found the best way to disarm people over the use of the term cracker was to embrace it. I just told all of my black coworkers at my last client (they were the ones that hung out with me most as I traveled) to all call me Cracka Ass Cracka. I could give two shits whether they said it with malice or not, but I know that we were able to have more honest conversations about race (when outside of the workplace) than I have ever had. Gave me a new picture of the problems of Chicago altogether as well – not just for blacks, but also whites.

    Anyways, I would prefer that all Barbershop conversations involve multiple Eddie Murphys discussing boxing, but that is just me. God, I miss 80s comedy movies – it is a genre unto itself.

  5. jodetoad says:

    I’m 57 years old, but have been taking some college classes. Your barbershop conversation reminds me of many I hear at school, all races. Mostly kids don’t talk to me, because I’m old, but they seem to feel free to say anything they wish in my presence. I could probably hop in and talk to them, but as their conversation is roughly 40% the F-bomb, 30% juvenile weirdness, 20% gossip, 9% false assumptions about the world, and 1% significant, it’s hard to think of anything to say.

    Guess the similarity is feeling like an alien, amongst my own species.

  6. Pingback: I may be conservative… but I’m still Black « The Truth in Black and Right

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