Why did that kid call me ‘sucker’?
BY JOHN W. FOUNTAIN email@example.com May 22, 2013 6:18PM
Updated: June 24, 2013 1:58PM
The kid set us up good.
He was a cute little tyke with an “S” for Superman carved in the back of his hair and wearing untied expensive leather sneakers as he walked into the coffee shop, clutching his mama’s hand.
A friend and I sat, sipping coffee and chatting when this little dude, about age 4, strolled by without a peep. Then, on his way out, it happened.
“By-y-ye By-y-y-ye . . .” he said in the cutest little voice that had me on the verge of uttering a pleasantry. Then he completed his parting salutation that, as it turns out, had been carried out with a carefully calculated pause.
“. . . Suck-errrssss,” he said, grinning widely, delivering a punch line like a seasoned comedian.
Our eyes widened.
“What did he call us?” my friend, a 200-pounder, asked, chuckling in disbelief.
We heard right. Little man hadn’t stuttered. His diction was perfect. “Suck-errrssss . . .”
His mother laughed, “Teeee-heeeee . . .”
Now, in my best Bernie Mac voice: “I’m sorry, America, but I wanted to grab the little punk and beat him ’til I saw the white meat . . .
“Don’t get mad at me, ’Merica. I’m just playing. But can y’all feel me?”
I might even have detected a little pimp walk in that little sucker’s — I mean, boy’s — step as he walked toward the door.
Stunned, my friend and I laughed. It was a first reaction, like when I first saw that Doritos Super Bowl TV commercial a few years ago: A brother arrives to pick up an attractive, shapely woman for a date and encounters her prepubescent African-American son, portrayed as an overprotective lil’ man.
After watching the man eyeing his mother as she sauntered toward another room — and after the man helped himself to some Doritos in a bowl — the young boy suddenly hauls off and slaps the brother, his palm clapping the man’s face like thunder.
“Keep your hands off my Mama!” the kid says, eyeballing the impotent grown man. “And keep your hands off my Doritos!”
I thought it was funny.
But “Blue Steel,” a 70-something-year-old regular in our morning coffee crew, failed to see any humor in a little kid slapping a grown man.
In his eyes, the commercial reflected a denigration of respect among the young for their elders. It was an indicator of a certain cultural decline, of just how far we have slid down the slope of disrespect — as well as a perpetuation of the stereotype of black men as being either weak or MIA.
I got Blue Steel’s point. And the more I thought about it, I stopped laughing. Still, the unsuspecting “suckers” comment from the knee-high lil’ homie the other day made me chuckle, but mostly left me shaking my head, saddened and troubled.
When we were boys, grown men were called “Sir” or “Mister.” Kids were taught to respect their elders, to stay out of “grown folk” business and conversations. We feared our parents until we learned to respect them.
Little boys didn’t aspire to become thugs. Didn’t dress like one. Or talk like one. And mamas knew better.
Mamas didn’t treat their little boy like a replacement “man of the house.” And whenever we crossed the line, Mama — or Daddy, or some other adult — set us straight, right then and there. For they understood that their future and ours was at stake.
I’m not exactly sure what to say to the lil’ sucker — I mean, boy — the next time I see him. But I think a good start, America, just might be introducing myself as “Mr. Fountain” and shaking his little bitty hand.