In Honor of Black History Month: Maybe It’s Time To Retire “The ‘Itis”


The 'itis caught Dave slipping.

Words by Tony Grands

The other day at work, I noticed a pack of my younger coworkers coming in from their lunch hour, giggling and laughing and talking about how tired they were after their meal.

And by younger, I mean about 10 to 15 years, so they’re not necessarily kids, but also not necessarily old enough to be familiar with all the idiosyncrasies and nuances and gray areas of America’s deep, historic culture. The kids, about five or six of them, looked like a Benetton ad from the 1980s, minus a Black kid. That will be an important factoid later on; remember that part.

“Whew, I got the ‘itis!” I heard one youngster proclaim. I leisurely lurched forward from my desk chair, and slowly craned my head to the right to make eye contact with the kid that said that. As our eyes met from halfway down the carpeted cubicle corridor, I just shook my head.

“I know right!? I need a nap! This ‘itis is nooo joke!” another one chimed in. Again, I turned my cabeza and fixed my gaze in their general direction. In unison, almost on cue, they began chirping about how the ‘itis was attacking them and it took every iota in my being not to shush them like 8 year-olds. Clearly these people had know idea what the term “itis” is short for. I chuckled. A couple of times. Like that old dude in the barbershop listening to you talk about something you clearly know nothing about.

I came up with an idea.

Rather than tell them what it means, which would just sound like second-hand folklore or country-spun urban legend, I simply asked if they knew what the “itis” was. The feedback was an umbrella response about how eating too much makes you sleepy. Yawn. I even gotta “Tryptophan” comment. I wanted to explain how Tryptophan’s not an ingredient in McDonald’s burgers but quickly remembered that they put all types of shit in their food. After their adorable chatter stabilized, I decided to redirect their focus to the Internet. Because this generation only believes it if they see itĀ online.

So they looked online.

After several minutes, their post-lunch buoyancy was replaced with real world despair and — as shown via their bleak facades — empathy, and as they put their smartphones away, I had a guy apologize to me. Though it wasn’t quite the 40 acres and the mule I was promised, I momentarily took a little power away from the term and that felt pretty good.

The term “itis,” for those that don’t know, is short for Niggeritis, referring to the belief that Blacks were lazy and needed to sleep after eating too much. Believe it or not, there is some truth to the stereotype of sleeping after eating too much (not the one about Blacks being lazy), and it is called Postprandial Somnolence, more commonly known as a food coma.

It may be time to retire the term “the ‘Itis.” Just saying.

In the meantime, enjoy this edutaining episode of “The Boondocks.”

Words by Tony Grands
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