Being given a pregnancy test EVERY time I go to see a doctor, no matter the complaint
Being sent home with tylenol when I was passing kidney stones
Being told the manager needed to be called
Being told not everything is about race
Being told as an educated Black woman I had nothing in common with Michael Brown, a thug
Being told that the African-American struggle shouldn’t concern me because my people were not forcefully brought here on ships
Being told that I was not “like them”
Being told (while on a school roadtrip) the bathroom onsite was out of order right before the key was handed to another customer who walked in after me
Being told (while on a school roadtrip) the icecream counter was closed for the day; a few minutes later one of my teammates returned to the van with a double scoop of fudge icecream on a waffle cone.
Being called the “n” word about a year or so into living in the U.S. The year 1998.
Being pulled over by 2 police officers in Houston for not having my lights on (before dusk) and cutting through a gas station at the corner of my apartment complex. The two then proceeded to call for backup because “looks like you are carrying contraband.” Having my car subsequently searched by four police officers and being handed $340 ticket for the alleged crimes.
Being watched suspiciously by a neighbor while watering the garden when I was housesitting for a white friend; 10 minutes later the neighbor disappeared and a cop appeared.
Being told to “calm down” when for all intents and purposes I am calm.
Being told: “whowee well aren’t you a very educated lady.”
Some things are more specific to being from “Ahfrica”:
Being asked how I came to the U.S. (do camels cross water?)
Being told my kind should never have been allowed in the U.S.; we are taking jobs from everyone else.
I could go on and the list goes on and will probably for my lifetime because that is what being Black, especially in the U.S come with.
These instances I listed are the ones that come readily to mind and the ones I’ve been mulling over the last two weeks since Ms. Bland’s death. This afternoon I spent time with my friend eL and got to really talking about race which I hadn’t done in a while. She hadn’t heard about this latest case so I filled her in best I could. We shared our various “memorable” race moments as we talked about Ms. Bland. What it came down to in the end was that, this daily S*** was tiring as f***. It’s the psyche damage that is done, that we settled on. I was tired of having to read between the lines when someone asked me the most basic of questions or requests. I was finding myself becoming more and more paranoid, but the more deaths there are, the more the paranoia seems warranted and for my safety. How tiring! With each Black body down for minor or no offenses the more meticulous I’ve become when I communicate with white folks, especially now that I live in a conservative small town. With Ms. Bland’s death now, you best believe I’ve got my turn indicator on for more than a few feet although it could be random as having it on for too long. Who knows! With Ms. Bland I am not sure of what randomness will cost another Black person their life. (or is costing as we speak; we must remember not everything makes the news.)
Another friend I was chatting with recently said I was a “triple threat” especially in this new town. Perhaps even quad or quint threa if we were adding attitude and beauty: I was highly educated, queer, and black. The truth is I have no business being any of these and that is some of what made Ms. Bland a threat. The way her death started by an escalation of simple events reminded me of a recent interaction.
My Love and I crossed back into the U.S. from Canada after visiting our hair lady in Montreal. The Border Patrol officer looked in the back of the car and asked so many unnecessary questions, but the remark that left me wincing goes something like this: “well aren’t you two just quite the educated ladies.” I could almost hear the sneer in his voice and I flashed back to what it must have been like in the Jim Crow/Civil Rights era: “Oh well if you two aren’t the most educated n-word I met! or “Ill be damned! Fellas, lookey what we gots ourselves here: some mighty educated n-word!” The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve speculated on how badly situations like these can go and how quickly they can escalate. Who’s there to stop him from interpreting my answers as sassy. He asked where we were headed. Then occupation. Then colleges, as if to catch us in a lie or to ascertain for himself that we were really qualified to be in those positions. Did the sight of us incite jealousy? Disdain? Did we irk him just by our mere existence? We had considerable access to afford to go across the border just to do our hair. He knew it. We knew it. My fellow blogger friend, Malaka wrote this suggesting what most of us already know: that Ms. Bland was the white officer’s vision of an “uppity negro” who failed to put her cigarette out when he commanded. She did not fumble and resort to the yes’m that he had perhaps envisioned as he threatened to light her up. This brings me back to my interaction with the Borer Patrol officer. How could I not have answered all his questions truthfully? I was on camera. It was/is a classic Catch 22.
Now all this could have been innocent. Perhaps he meant no harm; he was just curious, but I caught myself smiling extra wide and being more than my usual charming self ,and as I reflected with my friend eL this afternoon I realized that it’s the mental toll that this stuff takes on me that I am upset about. The second-guessing, the wide smiles even when I’m pissed, the trying-to-engage-you so I don’t seem sassy or uppity. This is what wears me down. There’ve been several wonderful pieces by friends over the last two weeks. Here is one I particularly recommend. Another one from another angle but nevertheless about the same issue.