Cover Photo: One Black. student in a white. tee and jeans with curly, dark hair playing "Who's Afraid of the Black Man?" and trying to tag the white students playing. They're in a field of grass, most running away from the Black student and wearing white, blue, or Black shirts.
Illustration by Sirin Thada for Catapult

Wer hat Angst vorm Schwarzen Mann? or Who’s Afraid of the Black Man?

As a team of three, they have no choice but to help you catch the boys because even they know it is not safe for girls to be alone with a Schwarzen Mann.

Level Eins:

1. Gather six of your friends.

2. You are the catcher. You are always the catcher.

obvious reasons.)

3. Walk to the edge of the fields where the rapeseed blooms gold.

4. Call out (as loud as you can, as high as you can with the full force of the air within your lungs):

Wer hat Angst vorm Schwarzen Mann?

Their response: Niemand!

Und wenn er kommt?

Then we run away.

5. Now run! Knees up. Arms bent. Fists punch the air.

Repeat steps 3 and 4.

Rules change. Repeat steps one through seven.


Level Zehn

1. Wear a suit. The navy one tailored to fit your tall, sinewy frame. The one you wore to every interview until you landed your dream job at a hedge fund in Greenwich.

(She tells you it’s a casual dinner. But you know that you are the first boyfriend she will bring home since college. And though you have not asked her, you know after browsing through her social media that you are the first Schwarzen Mann she will bring home. There is no casual on this occasion.)

2. Inspect your car.

(Give them no reason to question why you drive the car that you drive. Jokes about being half Bavarian will not charm the Westchester County Police from seeing the part of you that really counts, the part of you that is not German.)

3. Drive three to five miles below the speed limit.

(Give them no reason to stop you.)

4. Take the exit. Make the left turn. Pull up to the stop sign. Lean over and kiss her.

(You are not sure if you love this girl—the one you met while shopping for cheese at the Grand Central Market one year ago—or if you are still in love with Francie. They’re similar in appearance. Ash-blond hair. Green eyes with flecks of gold. Athletic build. You remember that when you saw this girl, you thought of Francie. And you thought of the first time that Francie let you. And afterward, Francie whispered: “Ich Liebe dich.” And you replied with those same words. But this girl is different. When this girl says “I love you,” you let her words hang. And when you reply, is it a statement or a question?)

5. Sit up when you hear the siren. Place your hands on the wheel. Answer: “yes, sir” or “no, sir.” Hand him your identification.

(She defends you. She equates your driving record to your GMAT score. She equates your driving record to your job title. She gives the policeman reasons to (re)assess your value. But you know who and what you are. Ignore her. Do not move your hands from the wheel. Do not show your fear. Do not lose control of your body.)

6. Look down at the license he throws in your lap. He says: Next time you’re at a stop sign, Johannes, stop all the way.

Drive to her childhood home in a wealthy suburb you have never heard of. Ignore the demands from her father to file a complaint. For what exactly you do not know.

(Does it matter that you stopped at the stop sign? Does it matter that he spoke to you as if you were a child? Does it matter that you feared for your life?)

8. Sit at the table. Nod when her mother tells you about her hydrangeas. Nod when her father laments about his stock portfolio. Eat the cold chicken. Compliment her mother on the tasteless meal. Nod when they nod. Lift your fork when they lift their fork. Laugh when they laugh. Smile when they smile.

(In between bites of chicken, the “incident” has fallen in importance. They no longer care. Quantify the loss: 100 percent.)

9. Thank her parents for the lovely meal. (Repeat step three.) Drop her off at her apartment in Brooklyn.

10. Do not return her calls and texts. (This is easier than telling her that every time you think of her, you think of steps five and six.)

((re)Assess her value to you: 0 percent. This is no longer a question.)

Rosabelle Glover is a storyteller of Caribbean descent whose work examines race, class and ethnicity in America, Germany, and the Caribbean. She lives in New Canaan, CT with her husband and son.