By Lacey Lamar
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Families may not always see eye to eye; we get on each other’s nerves, have different perspectives and lives—especially when we consider how we've grown up in different generations. But for the Ruffin family and many others, there has been one constant that connects them: racism hasn’t gone anywhere.
From her raucous musical numbers to turning upsetting news into laughs as the host of The Amber Ruffin Show or in her Late Night with Seth Meyers segments, Amber is no stranger to finding the funny wherever she looks. With equal parts heart and humor, she and her sister Lacey Lamar shared some of the eye-opening and outrageous experiences Lacey had faced in Nebraska in their first book. Now, the dynamic duo makes it clear—Lacey isn’t the only one in the family with ridiculous encounters to share! Amber and Lacey have many more uproarious stories, both from their own lives and the entire Ruffin family.
Recounting the wildest tales of racism from their parents, their siblings, and Amber’s nieces and nephews, this intergenerational look at ludicrous (but all too believable) everyday racism as experienced across age, gender, and appearance will have you gasping with shock and laughter in turn. Validating for anyone who has first-hand experience, and revealing for anyone who doesn’t, Amber and Lacey’s next book helps us all find the absurdity in the pervasive frustrations of racism. Illuminating and packed with love and laughter, this is a must-read for just about everyone.
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One night, a few years ago, my white, male friend was late for a date with his wife. So, he was driving hastily and blew through a four-way stop sign. Immediately behind him he sees flashing lights. He’s getting pulled over. He’s in a car with very tinted windows in a Black neighborhood. He knew the police thought they were pulling over a Black person. The cop gets out of the car, and right away, unholsters his gun.
Just a quick aside in the story—my friend is saying “unholstered his gun” in a way that leads me to believe that is not what he is used to when being approached by a cop. Fun!
My friend rolled his window down and stuck both hands out as the officer approached. When the officer gazed upon my friend’s lily-white skin, he instantly holstered his gun. The cop asked politely why he had blown through the four-way stop sign. My friend told the officer he had just finished coaching soccer for a neighborhood school and one of the kids had left his book bag at the school and he was rushing to return it.
Just a quick reminder that this is a lie.
My bud gestured to the back seat where his own backpack was. The officer asked for his license and registration. BOTH HAD EXPIRED.
Another quick aside to Black people to say, oh my god, you know that if your shit was expired you would not be going home that night. Except to your new home, JAIL FOREVER.
The officer says it will be just a minute and goes back to his car. My friend says he was gone maybe four minutes and returns and informs him that he really should take him in for the expired license and registration but instead, “I decided just to give you a ticket for both.”
I am not kidding when I say, I did not know they could just give you a ticket for that. This book is educational. The person writing it is being educated. My word.
So, the officer gives him two tickets and sends him off on his merry way. He arrives at his dinner with his wife and all is well. After a short time, he receives a call. It’s the damn OFFICER!!
And this is where this story enters a realm of whiteness that I have only imagined.
The officer starts off APOLOGIZING for giving him a ticket in the first place. The cop says, “I can tell you were only trying to help your community, and I feel really bad for pulling you over. Hey, just rip up your ticket and I’ll get rid of it on my end.” Can you stand it?! Not to put too fine a point on it but, to this cop, giving a white guy tickets he deserves is considered too cruel.
Guys. I frigging love this story. Now, this isn’t indicative of what you will find in this book, it’s just the story that shocks me the most. I mean, I know, I know, I know, but daaang. Just thought we should take a look at the unbelievable before we dive in.
This is the World Record Book of Racist Stories brought to you by the Ruffins. The Ruffins are the cutest family you have ever seen in your dang life! Mom and Dad are from Georgia and Virginia and they moved to Omaha because they were stationed there when they were in the Air Force.
I’m clearing that up because I don’t want you to think these two Black adults looked at a map of America and pointed to the dead center, and said, “There! This is the perfect place for our kids!” It was more of a “We’ve been living here for so long and now we are part of the community” type of thing.
So, this is the second book of racist stories our family has endured. For the first book, most of the stories centered around Lacey, and they were almost impossible to believe. Hence the title, You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey. But this book is gonna be a little different. Instead of just me and Lacey, there are stories about the whole family, all our siblings, and even some friends. We felt how great it was to air out our own dirty racist laundry and thought it would be cool to give other people the chance to do the same thing. And I think we are right!
Okay, so, we wrote this book for several reasons.
- People honestly thought we didn’t have more stories. So, it’s kinda like a dare.
- We like hanging out with each other.
- It is good for you to write these stories down and let them go. It’s pretty cool for a bunch of people to read them and shout into their books, “I know THAT’S right” or “I hate this! It can’t be true!” But even just writing them out gives you a second to look at and process all this stuff.
- We can’t let one of us write down these stories alone.
That is true! Because Amber would write everyone’s real first and last names, and we would get in trouble. I know you think she has common sense but she does not.
I honestly think I’m right on this one. I want everyone in this book to be put the fuck on blast! But I know that’s not allowed, so we don’t. So, if you feel like you recognize someone from one of these stories and their name is in this book, it is not them because I was forced to use a fake name!
Why are you acting like you have ever remembered a single person’s name?
Because I remember everyone’s name.
Okay. What’s the name of my child?
Point taken. Can you believe there’s enough stories for two whole books? I can! FYI: You’ll be able to tell the difference between this book and the last book. This one’s gonna be a bit heavier. A touch more serious. The reason for that is with the first book, Lacey and I got to giggle through silly racism stories, and it felt great. So, if the family wants to share their stories too, however they want to share, we welcome that. We want them to feel great and heard and blah, blah, bloo. There’s plenty of silliness, it’s just that the rest of the family is less likely to remember the funnier racist stories. They have not been keeping journals. But those terrible, scary racist stories? Maaaan, they remember those like a mug. So, to emotionally prepare you, I’d call this book fifty-fifty silly-scary racist stories. Okay? So, don’t come to me talking about “It wasn’t like the first book” ’cause you’ve been warned. It started with a white person story, for Pete’s sake. It’s gonna be a little different, okay?!
Soooo, what else do you need to know… My family is from Omaha, Nebraska, and Lacey still lives there. Racism is what you would expect in Omaha. There’re more Black people than you think but also those racists are bold as hell! I live in New York City now, and I work in comedy, so I do not have nearly as many racist encounters as my family does. But I grew up in Omaha so I get it. And we think it’s important to be able to say out loud (or write out loud) the racist things that have happened to you. It’s okay to call racist things racist, and it’s okay to be hurt by them. It’s okay to laugh at them, it’s okay to keep them to yourself, and luckily, it’s okay to put all of ’em in a book and put some motherfuckers on blast! Just kidding. All the names have been changed unless they’re our little friends.
Oh. And when you see Helvetica, it’s Amber.
And when you see Bembo, it’s Lacey!
As Lacey and I tell you our family’s stories, please remember that she is old and gross, and I’m young and beautiful.
Okay, so just right out of the gate, you need to know that Amber is a fool.
A beautiful fool. Breathtaking, really. Okay. Lacey, please stop going on and on about my severe case of the cutes! Are we ready to start this book?
Son of a Gun!
**approaches podium in a super-fancy ball gown**
Welcome to the World Record Book of Racist Stories Awards! We are going to be awarding some prestigious titles tonight to people who have really earned them. Now, what is a racist? Is it just a confused person who means well but blah, blah, blah? No. A racist is a turd.
Ooh! Quick sidenote: We will not be explaining shit in this book. So, if you want to know why we did what we did or if you want someone to explain what racism is, I cannot help you.
Ooh! Side sidenote: Some of you, as you read this book, will want us to lament about how sad it is being in this cruel world, and you’ll want to see some of that trauma porn-ish Black pain, but I’m sorry to report, reading this book will leave you unsatisfied.
Our esteemed judges, Mommy, Daddy, Chrystal, Angie, Lacey, Jimmy, and Amber have searched their memories to bring you the best of the best. These racists we’re honoring tonight have really applied themselves to their crafts. They’ve spent years preparing for these interactions. They’re excellent at racism. As they would say about us, it’s in their blood. First up, our award for:
Least “All Black People Look Alike”
I was once pulled over while entering a ramp to the interstate. There was no reason for me to be pulled over. I had done everything right. I was going under the speed limit. My tags were good. We all know why I’m being pulled over. It was the middle of the day. So, I was immediately less scared than normal. The cop approaches the car. Now, we both know he’s pulled me over for no reason. The trick here is sussing out whether he pulled me over because he’s angry and racist or just racist. The way he started talking to me let me know he’s pretty chill. As a result, I mustered up the courage to ask the officer why I was being pulled over. Now, that sounds like nothing, but the amount of courage it takes to ask an officer WHY you’re being pulled over is the same amount it takes to fight a bear because that shit could have the same result. I knew there was no excuse and that he probably wouldn’t shoot me in broad daylight. So, I ask him and his reply is, “We are just doing some checks in the area.”
What the hell is he checking on? Checking to see if my rights are still intact? THEY’RE NOT! Also, is this even a thing officers say?
Anyway, this guy asks me for my license and registration. I give him both. He immediately looks at my license and says, “This doesn’t even look like you.” I can’t begin to explain to you how this picture looked EXACTLY like me. I know what you’re thinking: Your hair was different. Nope! It was exactly the same. The license was old. Nope. I had just gotten the license a few weeks before the stop. I tell him, “Actually, I just got this license a few weeks ago, and it couldn’t look more like me.” He gives me a sarcastic laugh and “No it doesn’t!” Now, some days you have common sense but this was not me on this day. Instead of being quiet and respectful I say back to him, “Yes it does.” I don’t know where I got the bravery from but as he walks away he yells back, “NO IT DOESN’T!” So I yell back even louder, “YES IT DOES!” After about ten minutes he comes back to my car and says all of my information checks out, and I can go. As he hands my license back to me he says, “This picture still doesn’t look anything like you.” I say back to him, “Yes it does, it looks just exactly like me.” This is coming from a white police officer who works in a Black neighborhood, and he can’t tell if a Black woman looks like the picture she presents to him? How can he be sure he’s got the right suspect if he can’t match a picture with a face?! What the hell will this man do if he accidentally stumbles upon a missing child? Carry around the milk carton with him to prove to her she’s not the one who is missing? Poor hypothetical child.
The next day at work, I tell a white coworker that I was pulled over for no reason. He immediately tells me this just doesn’t happen and there is always a reason. I tell him about the whole exchange, and he’s shocked. This might be the first time he has heard a story like this from a person of color. He assures me that “doing some checks in the area” is not a thing. He looks at my license and all he says is “Wow, you may be right about that officer.” My favorite thing to do was to show people the picture and ask them if they could believe he didn’t think it looked like me. They can’t. Also unbelievable: Our third-grade playground back-and-forth of “No, it doesn’t!” “Yes, it does!” Ha, ha, ha! So lucky to be alive!
Worst Member of the ASPCA
I was working at a retirement home and a white coworker was trying to talk to me about race during the morning meeting.
Sidenote: Almost every morning meeting I have ever had is, at best, very bad. I cannot explain why this is the place for people’s racism to come out. I’m not a scientist, but I assume it’s because a lot of your racist coworkers wake up chock-full of racism and it has to come out early or else it puts their Black coworkers in danger of having a good day.
We have just had a very serious conversation about a resident who refuses to be helped by Black staff. This person does nothing but berate Black employees with racial slurs and sometimes physically tries to harm them. As I’m explaining how difficult it is to work with this resident and that several staff members are thinking about quitting because of him, my white coworker chimes in. I am not kidding you when I tell you this woman says, “I understand how hard it is being Black. Have you ever heard of the black dog campaign?”
Girrrrrrrrlllll, so you know about being paralyzed with fear? Well, at this moment, I am paralyzed with racism. I know exactly what this woman’s next words will be, and I know that they will be so racist that I’ll remember them forever. Yet I am unable to stop the impending doom (or rather, impending dumb). I’m trying to figure out who in the world I can call to bail me out of jail. Who am I kidding? My bail will be set too high, and I will spend the rest of my life in prison. Deep breath. This woman says, “You know, black dogs never get adopted so it’s very hard for them in the shelters because they are the first to be euthanized.” Please. In the name of sweet Black baby Jesus explain to me what this has to do with this conversation? We are talking about human beings and this bitch is like “all dogs matter.” Anyways, after she says that, I fight her, and spend the rest of my life in jail. Just kidding. But I wish I had.
Best Example of Why We Need Diversity Training at Diversity Training
This one is my favorite because I remember years ago when this happened and how hard I laughed. Lacey used to work with a man who was from a small town with absolutely no people of color, and it showed every time he opened his mouth. Let’s call him Chris. When Lacey first met him, he would often ask her if she would get him a coffee from the break room. Like he was in charge of her. He was not. Lacey would always say the same thing, “No. I am never going to get you coffee because I am not your secretary. I’m no one’s secretary. But if I were someone’s secretary, it would not be for you because you do not have one.” She had been at this company over ten years before he started working there and had never gotten anyone a cup of coffee. Chris would have to stay thirsty. For his first three months Chris constantly would ask Lacey about running track. Running track. Running. Lacey has not run since 1985. She does like to go to the gym, but she has always hated cardio. I mean hate it. She very does not run. If a bear was chasing her, she would lie down, sprinkle some salt on herself, and hand the bear a fork.
If I had to be bear dinner, I would want to be seasoned.
So no, she never ran track. He is shocked by this and keeps asking her as if she forgot! “Are you sure you never ran track? Come on, I bet you can run real fast.” Once they were all walking back to the parking lot and Chris says, “Show me how fast you can run: let’s race back to the cars. I know you must be fast, but I bet I can keep up.”
Oh, I remember that day! We had just left the building getting ready to go home. So I said, “Sure, let’s race.” He was so excited as he yelled, “On your mark, get set, go!” He took off running like a bat out of hell never looking behind him, and I turned around and walked back in the building. He still didn’t get the hint.
This is a thing some Black people have to endure when interacting with white people: they assume you are great at sports. Lacey asked him, “Why aren’t you asking anyone else in the office if they ran track? I think you’re assuming all Black people are good at sports. That’s ignorant. You need to stop asking me this. It’s making you look bad.” So that’s who we are dealing with here. THE STORY HASN’T EVEN STARTED!
Anyhoo, Lacey was at diversity training at work, and they were about to do a pretty common exercise. You know the one. Everyone is asked to stand in a line, and as certain life questions are asked you either step forward if you have benefited from your privilege or you take a step back if this affects you negatively due to race or socioeconomic background. As the exercise goes on most women and people of color are in the back of the room. But Chris is far ahead of everyone else when the exercise is over, meaning he is the most privileged. He yells out, “I won, I won! I won diversity training!” A human man yelled that for real. They all try to explain to him that this is not a game and that no one “wins’’ this exercise. This is to show how easy you have it in life and that you need to understand how white privilege works. Like a Will Ferrell character in a hilarious sketch, he talks over them the entire time, giddy as hell. He is too busy celebrating to listen. Then, and this is real, Chris goes into an acceptance speech about how his parents raised him right. And then, in a most unfortunate tangent, he blames people of color for not being respectful to police officers, saying this is why there are so many “problems” during police stops. This all took place AT diversity training. The trainer tried her best to explain it. He was not receptive. She never got through to him.
He continues to work there and nothing bad ever happened to him. In fact, there was a police investigation because there was a lot of money missing from the office. A lot of people thought Chris stole it, but there was no proof. Once the police got involved, Lacey just knew she was gonna get blamed because she’s so very Black. But she didn’t! Miracle! Chris, even though people thought he stole it, never got in trouble. He’s probably working somewhere right now challenging his Black coworkers to races. And, in a way, because he got to arrive with racist beliefs, and leave with them and a job, he did. He did win diversity training.
Most Frugal Racist
For “Most Frugal Racist,” it’s a two-way tie between “Salmon” and “That’s Thirty Dollars.” Here’s “Salmon.”
Lacey’s at one of her favorite fancy restaurants for her birthday. It’s her and about fifteen Black women. At the end of their long table there is an old white couple sitting at a table for two. They’ve already started their meal. They are so close to Lacey and her friends that they have interjected themselves into their party and most of their conversation. This is a dumb thing to do.
I know that we should have put an early stop to that but they were so fun and nice! You would have done the same thing!
You may have a point. I do like it when old people are fun. So, they all laugh and have fun together until the old couple gets their doggy bag. The food is wrapped in foil like a swan. At Lacey’s table, some of the people in her party were still waiting for their meal.
Our lawyers have reviewed this book and they ask that at this point, you reach out and grab on to the most stable thing near you.
This couple, you guys, this old weird ass white couple stood up and walked to the head of Lacey’s table to make a speech. They told them that they barely touched their extremely expensive salmon. They then did something unbelievable. They offered Lacey and her friends their leftovers. Now, that is already the worst thing on planet Earth but it gets even worse! They went on to say if Lacey and her friends didn’t feel like paying full price for a meal and wanted to save money they could BUY their barely touched salmon for a good price. BUY IT. Upon their saying this, Lacey’s spirit was knocked into another galaxy where it is socially acceptable to cuss out old people in public and she said, “You ancient raggedy fucks, how dare you try to sell us food you have touched. The level of clean you would have to be for me to take a bite of your food after you’ve eaten it does not exist. If you couldn’t afford to take your salmon home and reheat it later tonight, then maybe you can’t afford to eat here, bitch. I know we had a fun fifteen minutes sitting together, but now, I have to beat your asses.”
Okay that didn’t really happen but in my heart it did.
Then, her spirit returned to this realm where the entire table of her friends was laughing as the couple walked away because it was the looniest thing they had ever heard. Eating food strangers have touched?! There is no way that if they had been a table full of old white men he would have tried to sell them his discounted salmon. If this has ever happened to any old white men, please contact Lacey.
I’m serious. Please let me know the restaurant, meal, and price tag. I’m very curious.
Just for fun, here’s a list of people I will not share my food with for fear of catching their disgusting germs:
My own dang child
And here’s “That’s Thirty Dollars.”
One day I visited the Omaha Zoo with some friends. We decided to meet for lunch first. During lunch my girlfriend was telling me how one of her favorite parts of my book was how people always tell me how expensive things are when I ask for prices. Everyone at lunch could totally relate and we all had a good laugh sharing our “this is really expensive” stories. We arrive at the zoo and have a great time walking around, enjoying the animals and the great weather. When leaving the zoo, we decide to walk through the gift shop. I told my girlfriends that my daughter was just here, and I wanted to show them the big stuffed animal she just bought. I pull the huge stuffed stingray off the shelf and all of a sudden a small white child comes flying out of nowhere and yells, and I mean yells, “That’s thirty dollars!” I look right at him. He is holding a small toy, and his mom is standing behind him with her hands crossed and nodding her head yes, as if to say, Yes this is very expensive. He tells me he looked at the stingray but his mother is making him get the smaller, cheaper toy. I replied, “Yes! I can see that it’s thirty dollars because they put the price right here. My daughter just bought the stingray, but your toy is very nice.” I added that my daughter bought the stingray just so the mother would know yes, we can afford this. My friends say he was standing there, just staring so hard, waiting for me to put it back. I say I know, he really wanted me to put it back on the shelf. But I did not. I can’t explain the disapproval on the mother’s face of me holding that “beyond expensive” stingray. How angry she was watching me walk around the store with it still in my arms when she left. Wondering if I would purchase this stupid toy and start a stingray collection. Her son is very good at price-checking people, got to start them early.
What’s Wrong with You?
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
I will never forget the fact that this fool said this right to my beautiful face.
- "Thank you again to the Ruffin sisters for stuffing ten pounds of truth in a (funny!) five pound bag."—Tina Fey
- "A perfect follow-up to the authors’ You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey . . . The banter between the sisters is consistently funny, but the underlying social commentary remains incisive . . . An excellent look at lived experiences of Black Americans that should be required reading for all Americans."—Kirkus, Starred Review
- "Told with humor and headshakes . . . A great book to give someone who loves to laugh and learn at the same time."—BookRiot
- "To read stories you won't soon forget, told in a totally memorable way by some very funny and generous writers, check out The World Record Book of Racist Stories." —BookPage
Praise for You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey:
"The book is a portrait of one person’s struggle to maintain dignity, strength and self-respect when faced with injustices small and large—all told with Ruffin’s irreverent, sardonic style."—People
- “This timely and timeless book is hilarious, insightful, aggravating and comforting in equal measure.”—Salon
- "I dare you to read this hilarious and eye-opening book and not become obsessed with Amber Ruffin."—Mindy Kaling
- "A must-read that will have Black women feeling seen and heard, and will allow others to better understand the effects of racism. With YA crossover appeal, this is also an excellent choice for book clubs."—Library Journal (starred review)
- On Sale
- Nov 22, 2022
- Page Count
- 240 pages
- Grand Central Publishing