Self-proclaimed Wypipologist Michael Harriot explains exactly what is “Wypipology” and how it’s been all around us since the beginning of time. TheGrio Daily is an original podcast from TheGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified.
TRANSCRIPT: My name is Michael Harriot. I’m your favorite wypipologist. And I’m here every day to tell you about what’s going on in the village. But, you know, theGrio. We really do believe in diversity and inclusion, and that’s why we have white people Wednesdays. Every Wednesday, we dedicate to our favorite white subject. We explore the world that is whiteness. Because this podcast would never exclude a group based on color, creed or race, or how they season their food. We would never do that. And so today is white people Wednesday, when we explore what’s going on in the white jungle out there.
Today’s class is a class in wypipology. I know a lot of you have heard me call myself a white people. I just wonder, what does that mean? Well, today we’re going to explain that in a class called Wypipology 101.
I’m Michael Harriot, world famous wypipologist. And this is The Grio Daily.
I know you’re wondering what the hell is wypipology? Well, Dictionary.com and Urban Dictionary both define wypipologist as a humorous slang term for someone, usually a black person who studies white people or white people. White people, after all, do some crazy stuff in need of expert explanation. While Dictionary.com mentions who is responsible for coming up with this term? Some dude named Michael Harriot. They kind of got it wrong. Let me explain. See, I was raised in a majority black neighborhood and a majority black family. I do have an aunt named, Rebecca. So technically, there’s a Becky in my family. I don’t know how that happened. And I was home schooled. So basically until I was 12 years old, I was surrounded by blackness. And when I got into the American education system, my first teacher was a woman who lived around the corner from me named Miss Sellers. Ms. Sellers was a miniature little black woman who always smelled a little bit like cinnamon candy cane and openly prayed for her students after the Pledge of Allegiance every day. And in case you’re wondering, nope. Because of the public school system’s astonishing lack of anointing oil. I only pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ. My King of kings, Lord, Lord, the bright morning star. Oh, and Muhammad Ali. See, Miss Sellers. She had been teaching so long, but she also taught my mother back in the day before schools in my hometown were integrated. Now, I should probably mention here that my school district wasn’t integrated until 1995. So Ms. Sellers, she somehow understood that I was a fish out of water and she handled me with kid gloves. Now I want to say that it was because she noticed so much potential in me. But I mean, let’s be honest, I think it was because aside from my friend Monique, I was the only black person in her class. And Monique, she was a tomboy, new to the school, and she lived a block away from me. So we became like best friends. Now, Monique’s parents was in the military, so she had to go to a lot of schools. So she basically, like, guided me through the American education system because I didn’t know what I was doing. I was home school, remember? And we sat in the same role for every class, me in front and her behind me now at my school, instead of changing classes, the students, they stayed in one class all day and then the teachers, they switched classrooms. And Ms. Branson, a young white lady, she taught her social studies every afternoon. And Miss Sellers, she held down the rest of the subjects that even though other teachers came to our classrooms, you know, like the art teacher and music teacher, we were technically called Miss Sellers class.
So one day, as soon as Miss Brinson walked into class, before Miss Sellers even had a chance to leave from behind me, Monique mumble just loud enough for me to hear. Well, I guess it’s time to learn what it was like before black people found out about America. And so, you know, I had to crack a joke. I was like, you know, white people think black people were invented in 1865. And I don’t even know if Monique really got it, but she cracked up anyway. It was probably the words white people that made her, you know, giggle behind me. But Miss Branson she did not get it. She definitely heard it. And she says, “What did you say, Michael?” I was just like, clear my throat, you know, I was trying to think of something to say. And then I said it again. You know, white people don’t think black people were invented until 1865. Now. Because I had spent the first decade of my life in a cocoon that left me unaffected. By what? Because I’d never been concerned with whiteness. I never intentionally tried to make white friends as I know the white people. My real education wasn’t steeped in the narrative of white supremacy, the need for white people’s acceptance or assimilation, were concepts that had escaped my notice.
It’s not that I resisted them. Like I just didn’t need to know about white people in my existence. So the blood was draining from my face as she pulled out a discipline slip, as she accused me of using profane and inappropriate language. So you? Of course, I protested. I was two years away from my Holy Ghost eligibility, so I knew I didn’t see any demonic words. She didn’t even try to explain what I did wrong. She just started yelling at me, accused me of insulting the entire class, remember? Like me, Monique was the only black ones in the class. And then she demanded that I apologize. So I said, “Apologize to whom? For real, though I did say whom. I read a lot back then, so I did say whom. So I stood up and I said, like, apologize to whom? She said, to the entire class and me. Apologize to her. For what? Me? I ain’t even do nothing now. This is where my upbringing got me in trouble. See, in a world fueled by logic and science and facts and of course, the loving grace of Jesus. Miss Branson had formed a sentence I’d never heard before. Right. Like my mom, she always explains stuff to us. So I’ve never heard anybody just tell me to do something. Because I said so. Because she said so. Like it was the most absurd collection of words I’d ever heard cobbled together in a subject and a predicate, both like Who do you think you are? And Jesus, my mama. And then I refused, right? So now I admit this probably wasn’t the best tactic, but to be fair, my conflict resolution experience was, like, limited to I ain’t gonna do it no more when my mama started looking for her belt. Plus, this was the first time I’d seen a truly angry white person. So the fact that she was trying to beat didn’t even register to me, didn’t even raise any red flags. And then when….Yo. Ms.. Branson slapped me. I mean, she slapped me in front of the entire class. Now, wasn’t a slap, and it didn’t even compare to that time. My mom jacked me up in church because I had my eyes open during the altar call, but, you know, Ms. Branson she was a small white woman, so I wasn’t even mad or even hurt, which is why I had no idea why I started crying. I didn’t even know it was going on. I mean, I had taken a butt whipping before, but they always made sense. The class was silent. My chest, he. My eyes filled with water. And I tried to control my breathing. To stop my self from crying. That didn’t work. And then out of nowhere like Batman, Ms. Sellers appeared. She lifted me in the air by the seat of my pants. Now, look, I might not be remembering this correctly, but if I had to bet my entire 401k on this, I do have a 401k right. I can almost guarantee that my feet never touched the ground until Ms. Sellers deposited me outside the classroom. Now, wish I had a transcript of the eloquent speech Ms. Sellers gave me in the hallway at elementary school. But she told me about how I must tiptoe around the feelings of white people because they are white people, and they will always do what white people do. She perfectly explained that all of the homeschooling, all the holy ghosts, all the encyclopedia ingesting the knowledge of self, this nonviolent resistance, the grade skipping, the smart mouthing, the entirety of my life’s education, meant nothing if I did not learn that existing in America is a lifelong exercise in knowing what you can do as a black person in America. I wish I could see her exact words, but I can’t. Because for real, she didn’t say any of it. She just stood there. She let me cry. Then she handed me like a little, tiny, white handkerchief. And when I wait, it’s not for my nose to, you know, be like a little bit of snow, be coming up when you grab her. She crouched down beside me. She just leaned into me and she said, You cannot talk to them like that. I remember how she enunciated the two words separating them into isolated sentences. Can not. Who? Like I knew who she was talking about. And she said white people and she didn’t even hug me or say anything sweet. She just walked back into the building with me until we reached our classroom. And after we stood in silence, and the bell ring and we walked into the class and Ms. Branson walked out of the class. Ms. Sellers just watched quietly as I fulfill my side of our bargain. Ms Branson. I’m sorry I made that joke. That’s what I said. It was inappropriate and insulting to you, and it was insulting to my classmates. Now, in my head, I did it in exchange for Miss Sellers love and, you know, a couple of pieces of candy because, you know, the old ladies always get that dope, peppermint, that real strong, you know, extra peppermint. But I couldn’t understand why Ms. Sellers thought it was important for me to do this. But, you know, she got a good peppermint. It was the first time in my life that whiteness had penetrated my cocoon. So after school, like me, Monique and my sisters, Monique, brother Toni and a couple of other black people who went to the school. We was walking back to our neighborhood like on a black part of town. And, you know, just out of nowhere, I just said, man, Miss Branson and be trippin. Because I knew that Monique was going to talk about it. I knew that she was going to make some jokes. She didn’t even say anything because she was laughing so hard. I mean, she was laughing real hard y’all. Like, she could barely breathe. I mean, like, it was offensive. Like, I could’ve called the police she was laughing so hard. And then slowly, like, with, like, the skill of a griot, she started telling everybody how Ms. Sellers snatched me up like a puppy. Like what I said. And she started telling them how I got in trouble in class. And everybody want to know, what did he say to Ms. Branson And when it was like, I forget. Something about white people. It was like everybody stopped. You know how, like, on a movie, the record scratch and the earth stop spinning. Everyone in our little crew. Everybody stopped walking. Eyes got wide and agasp. Like, if I call Mike Tyson’s mama a bad word, they ask, like if I said it out loud in front of the entire crew, and I was like yeah. Before that day, people had only looked at me one other time like that. That time I told my mom that Jesus probably didn’t want us to go to church that much. But. For a moment. It was a hush because all my friends just stared at me. Then after a beat or two, Monique brother Tony broke the silence and was like, dang Mikey. That was stupid. And that was the moment I became a Wypipologist. See, I realize that most black people, especially ones who were raised like me, they all have a subtle deference to white people. Now, that’s not a criticism, because I know, like, that’s how black people survived for 400 years. But I realized that I couldn’t understand my place in society because I didn’t know anything about black people. And no one knows white people like black people.
[00:13:20] Wypipology is the anthropological examination of the customs and habits of white people. See, if you survive in America. This is my belief. For real. You have to know white people. And one of the things that I believe, too, you can’t understand racism. You can’t understand white supremacy. You really can’t understand America by studying black culture and black history because black people didn’t invent racism. White people did. Black people don’t perpetuate racism. White people do. Black people didn’t, for the most part, create the laws, the constitution, the traditions and the customs that govern our society. White people did that. And if you want to understand how that affects black people, you can’t just study black people. You have to study white people because they are the ones who created all of these disparities. They are the ones that created all of the things inside the system that we are trying to dismantle. If you want to understand how the criminal justice system work works, you can’t just study like the black people inside the criminal justice system. You got to understand why white people want us inside the criminal justice system. You got to understand why white people aren’t arrested even though they commit the same kinds of crimes. For instance, white people use drugs more than black people, but black people are arrested at three times the rate of white people for drug use. Why is that? Well, you can’t understand that by just looking at the people inside the criminal justice system. You got to look at the people who escape the problems of the criminal justice system and what makes them escape. Its whiteness. And that is why I’m a wypipologist, just because to understand America, to understand racism, to understand white supremacy, and to understand how this entire thing works, we have to dedicate ourselves not exclusively, but part of our education has to be in understanding why, when, where and how white people manipulate this entire system to their advantage.
[00:15:53] And as always, turn to your neighbor and say, neighbor, you need to listen to the Grio Daily. We’ll see you tomorrow. We out. Thank you for listening to The Grio daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download the grio app. Subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at the Grio.com. The Grio Daily Podcast is an original production brought to you by the Grio’s Black Podcast Network.