What is the Powder Room?

A Survival Guide for Americans of Color

In the wake of Ferguson, and Staten Island, and Cleveland, and Beaverscreek, I feel it is important to speak to the broader community of people of color in the United States. It is important that all of us know how to navigate our country safely.

The St. Louis Police Department offered their thoughts. And they're just precious. But then I thought about it, and a real survival guide is necessary. So, in the interest of public service, here are things we as people of color can do to live our lives in peace.


Don't interact with the police

Michael Brown interacted with the police. Darren Wilson says he was attacked by Brown, and witnesses say otherwise. Either way, there was interaction. And that spells trouble for us PoC. Eric Garner also interacted with the police. Again, this was a bad move. Interacting with the police and American law enforcement, and really any part of the American system has landed PoC in America in trouble for a long time.

Here are some historical instances, to help jog your memory:


Don't not interact with the police

So you might be thinking, well, I'll just not interact with the police. What could happen? John Crawford III didn't interact with the police though. He was shot, in WalMart. Tamir Rice didn't either. And we know he didn't interact with the police because there was no time for him to interact with them - they shot him before he could. Wouldn't even have been able to get the word "hello" out if he had tried.


None of these men and boys were police. You couldn't be faulted for thinking, then, that being police might be the solution. But let me give you my third survival tip.

Don't be the police

You might think becoming police and trying to change police culture from the inside would help. Lupe Fiasco has urged fans to do just that. It makes sense, in that "Be the change you want to see in the world" kind of way. Appeals really well to our sense of our own importance and our own individual ability to make a difference. Except that won't work either. Not with your coworkers attempting to intimidate you through racial terrorism. And if it's not that, it's you being the only indictable officer on the force.


So police are out. Interact with them, don't interact with them, be them. Doesn't matter. There's nothing there for us. But non-police people, we can count on them, right?

Don't interact with those who aren't police. And don't not interact with them, either.


George Zimmerman wasn't police. Neither was Michael Dunn. At least if they aren't cops there's a chance they'll be indicted when they hurt us, and maybe even convicted if we're lucky.

And there sure are a lot of non-police who love the police. There are nearly 105,000 likes on the Support Darren Wilson facebook page.


One thing all of these cases have so far is that they happened outside. So. I guess we should cover outdoors eventualities. If you're exhausted reading through the guide already, it's a lot more exhausting being someone who needs it. Plus, now we don't get to have fresh air.

Stay inside your own home

This is essential. Stay in your house. Being outside is dangerous. Even being at your doorstep isn't close enough to inside - just ask Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. So, inside, ideally with windows closed and blinds or curtains drawn.


There, you're safe. Never leave. If you go out there, you might be perceived as a danger to others. Hunker down at home and stay inside. You'll be fine. Order your groceries via Amazon because even the grocery stores aren't safe for us.

But don't stay inside

You might get shot there too. Even if you're a little girl (there was an indictment, but mistrials abound apparently). Big, small, male, female, black, lighter shades of brown, it doesn't matter. Inside the house is dangerous.


So, to recap. Don't interact with the police. Don't avoid interacting with the police. Don't be police. Don't go outside, but stay the hell out of inside. We have to be nonpolice who interact with our non-interaction with police while existing somewhere that is neither inside nor outside. Got it. I think. My brain's hurting trying to keep it all straight, but there's something it all has in common.

It seems like this hinges on living near other groups of people.

So, more survival tips.

Don't live near other people of color

White people love to tell us how places with lots of people of color are the bad area of town, how the crime rate is so terrible, how it's no good. In the spirit of interpreting this love of telling us we live in terrible places as well-meaning advice, we should try to live near more white people. What could go wrong?


Oh. What about an HOA? Oh. And the rent's too damn high, too. Well, never mind that.


Stay with other PoC and try to avoid white people

I mean, so what if we're ghettoized? It's not like that affects anyone poorly. But white people are unavoidable, and drive up your rent. On the other hand, Coolio makes a good point about ghettoization in a short spoken word piece set to music:

But don't rap about it, because that might also get you in trouble with the law.


Clearly, what we're expected to do is live away from society, like hermits. Or like people being deported.... Actually, it seems like we're expected not to live. We're expected to die, and the fact that we were not perfect is meant to make that acceptable. And it is to many who support the racist system that undergirds our entire society.

But there's one more thing we can do. One thing that can make it okay and make America accept us.


Look white

Wait, no. Looking white's not going to do it. Sorry, that's the wrong thing.

Be white

There we go. That's the money. That's what we need to do. We just need to be white. How hard could that be? It just requires us to find a cooperative white person who'll be nice enough to switch with us. Easy peasy.

Oh. So they like black music and Latin@ food and using Native Americans as mascots, but when it comes to actually being black, or Latin@, or Native American nothing. Thanks, Igloo.


So, surviving in America. It looks like we've basically been put in a position where we don't have any options. There is no surviving in America. America is dangerous for us. America doesn't want us to survive. America is choking us to death, one death at a time.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't breathe.

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