Talk Back

Tired of All the Bad News? Try This

The world is crazy.

White high school football players in Idaho accused of raping their disabled Black teammate. The monster babysitter who assaulted a baby, but can’t be charged because the baby can’t testify. Gentrification across the country making it financially impossible for young professionals of color to afford their childhood neighborhoods. Bill Cosby. Donald Trump.

There are days when the news can make you forget that Jesus commands us to love everyone. Don’t look for the loophole, either. We’re supposed to even love those who make us want to yank out our roots. Not easy to do when some days you run empty on patience and can no longer deal with people and their foolishness.

How do you know when you’ve reached that point? For me, it’s the rapid, back-to-back side-eye, eye roll, and teeth-suck. As these signs appear, I know it’s time to crawl back into my shell and escape the world.

Most of you are probably familiar with the side-eye and eye roll. For those who are unfamiliar with the teeth-suck, pull up a seat, and let me tell you its origin.

Way back when some of our ancestors were enslaved and couldn’t risk talking back to master for fear of, you know, death. Folks had to find alternate ways of expressing their annoyance, disapproval or disdain.

Enter Edwina Thomas.

Edwina was a midnight-black negress who came into the world howling, and struggled the rest of her life to keep quiet when displeased. Something she had to change after one too many whippings from the overseer of the sugar cane plantation where she performed backbreaking work.

On an especially debilitating day of clearing land for planting, Edwina found her aggravation level rising to match the scorching West Indies sun. Instead of her usual tirade of “this is some messed up bull,” she sucked air through her teeth through pursed lips while moving her tongue. Hearing the sound that sang her annoyance gave birth to what eventually became the Teeth-Sucking Revolution.

Will you find this story in the history books? Probably not. But the next time you’re fed up and disgusted with the state of the world, summon your inner Edwina for a good ol’ fashion teeth-suck. It won’t solve much, but it’s better than throwing your phone across the room in frustration. Because if you do that, you’ll be frustrated and out of the $120 it’ll take to fix it.


Michelle is a writer bred in Brooklyn. Come chat with her on Twitter @mmderosier or @authormcaldwell.