Black Encounters: What One Saw In “The Wire”


We are about to have a real moment right here. Are there times where you wish for just one day that you weren’t Black? That you could just paint yourself a different color and take a break. A vacation really, from the questions (What’s your hair feel like? Is that real? Can I touch it), the stereotypes (single-welfare-on drugs- mother, rapper, ghetto, gangster, loud), the news (Black Man Gunned Down….,Cop Shoots Black Man…, 40 Shots Fired at Black Man….,). Even little kids can escape it (You’re a cute little black boy, Oh my I love your puff balls).

I call these moments Black Encounters. For some people, upon encountering Black people or blackness, common sense, self restraint, and apparently judgement seem to vanish and are replaced with stupidity. And sometimes it is not always from non-Blacks. Just to be clear, Black Encounters can happen between other Black people too. Therefore, this is something that we definitely should explore. Get acquainted with. And in order to stay sane and promote healthy dialogues surrounding race relations, BW UNchecked will be posting weekly Black Encounters and encourage you all to share your own.

For now, I will share my latest. I love The Wire. Let me just put that out there. The characters (Avon, Stringer Bell, Omar, Greggs, Bubbles etc), the story line, the connections. Everything. In my opinion it is one of the greatest series ever made/produced/ directed. Therefore, I may be a little protective of any criticisms given but not in an overdramatic way.

I was in a semi-public space talking to two other women about must watch TV shows. Of course,  The Wire came up. The conversation goes a little something like this:

“Have you seen The Wire?” I ask.

“No I haven’t,” says Lady # 1

“Oh my God. You have to see that show. I love that show,” says Lady # 2

I nod in agreement.

“Just make sure you turn on the subtitles,” Lady # 2 says. (Question mark)

“They talk in an authentic Baltimore accent,” Lady # 2 says and then chuckles “I mean unless your a crackhead it will be difficult to understand.” (WHAT!!!!!!!)

A crackhead. A “crackhead dialect” is needed in order to understand The Wire. It was one of those situations that left me a little bit confused. I tried my hardest to remember a time when I needed to turn on the subtitles. I really tried to think back to a scene where there was a lot of slang. But my mind wouldn’t let my brain work any further than “subtitles” and “unless you’re a crackhead.”

To be completely honest, that comment  rendered me speechless. Not a single peep. And I am not one to keep my mouth closed. Especially if something was said or done out of line. Yet despite my “tell it like it is” attitude, she received one of my infamous facial expression. The one where my faces scrunches and wrinkles as if I just smelled the combination of vomit, feces, and hot dogs simultaneously. That was literally all that I could do at that moment (sigh). Because like someone told me, you can’t fight every single battle.

It is times like these, that I hate to be Black. I hate to be a Black woman living in a country with a Black president. In the end how far have we really come, if The Wire, a show that touches on racism, poverty, classism, corrupt politics, bonds, and betrayals, can be summed up as “subtitles and “crackheads”?


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