When You Say, “Black Don’t Crack,” What Do You Really Mean?

Here’s Why I Cringe When You Say Black Don’t Crack

Sam McKenzie Jr.
6 min readDec 14, 2017


Photo by Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash

The other day, my partner and I were returning to our home after dining at a restaurant.

As we walked toward our house, we saw a home developer we know in the doorway of his latest renovation.

His assistant came to the doorway with a younger woman.

The developer’s assistant is an older Black woman.

The developer tells us the lady who just left the property is his assistant’s granddaughter and she’s 26 years old.

My partner and I were shocked. His assistant does not look like she’d have a 26-year-old granddaughter.

Seeing our shock, the home developer says, “Black Don’t Crack”

I cringe. My face contorts.

I’m speechless.

We walk away quickly.

When I got home, I asked myself, what is it about the phrase, “Black Don’t Crack,” that bothers me?

I’m not sure if it has always bothered me. I’ve certainly heard the phrase all my life.

I know it doesn’t bother some other Black people. Heck, Viola Davis has a show coming out called Black Don’t Crack.

And, I know there’s a biological basis for this stereotype because of melanin. I do get that.

But where did this rhyming phrase come from?

I’ve heard about the mottos of the past like, “Black is Beautiful.” Is “Black Don’t Crack” saying the same thing?

You know maybe some well-meaning, sassy-fierce Black folks invented this term. It seems like it’s always said as a sassy retort.

But if Black folks invented this term does that mean we should accept it?

Black folks internalize oppression too. People can pick up bad habits even from people who are supposedly free.

And maybe this is an example of how a person in a community can use a term but those outside a community shouldn’t.

In any case, given the world’s history with Blackness, I must question every assumption…