Tag Archives: discrimination

Microaggression

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Microaggression

That thing that is a thing

That really isn’t a thing

It’s real in a scholarly article or

In a library database

But the minute the word leaves my lips

To describe how I live

It’s fake

 

Unreasonable doubt

 

Microaggression

Too vulgar for your after-school special

But not enough for a therapy session

Because there’s no cure for oppression

There’s no medicine for this disease

Even though I have symptoms everyday

Symptoms that you may not ever even see

That no vaccination or inoculation could

Ever prevent

This is a diagnosis; this is a dose of reality

My pain, my wound, my infliction, my condition – it’s there

Trust me

 

Blind faith

 

Microaggression

Is when you don’t like someone for no reason —

Wait, there is a reason, but it remains to be unsaid

Even though it’s in your heart and

All up in your head

But you can hear it if

You’re really quiet and you really listen

To your bias and to your intuition

Microaggression by definition is

Subtle discrimination

Every day, threaded

The fabric of this nation

 

Sight seen and unseen

 

Microagression

Is If I looked like you, I would have gotten the job that you do and

I really like your people, and

I just love their hair too

Can I touch it? I mean, is it okay with you? or

You’re my favorite friend of color, my brother

Who knows your truth better than me?

 

Microaggression

I find you in traveling lectures and

In fancy books by fancy smancy professors

But I see you more in the hallways

And in the mall

And at work and

At the bar and

On Facebook and

On the news

And in my neighborhood

And in my blues

 

Too close to home

 

Microaggression

But you go by another name:

The girl that sits next to me in class who

Covers her tests with her hands thinking

Her answers are the only reason I

Pass

Or the mother that grabs her child’s hand real tight

When I walk by at night

And in the daytime and

The co-worker who pretends to be my friend but

Soon as I turn my back, she’s criticizing me and the position

I don’t deserve to be in

Who’s who?

 

You’re with me everyday

Some of you I don’t even know

Yet and still, I know you better than I

Ever knew myself

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Trigger Warnings and Crooked Triggers

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I’m writing in a space where I’m the minority. Figuratively and literally.

I’m overhearing a conversation about trigger warnings or warnings before sensitive topics. A girl shares with her friends her disdain for her black African-American history professor. “She showed us pictures of lynchings with no trigger warnings,” she disgustingly exclaimed. She then equated this with this professor’s ability to teach. “I was like ‘you’re an educator, you should know that people are going to react differently to different things.'” She then advised everyone around her to not take her class.

I’m sitting here as my stomach is flipping and flopping. I want to scream but nothing is coming out of my mouth.

Trigger warnings. Masks. Excuses. Bullshit. Or whatever you want to call them. I want to call it what it is and enlighten them all. But then I’d be playing the victim, as folk say.

Because she’s the victim — or at least that’s what she wants to believe.

If the recent police murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and countless others ever since weren’t recorded, shared on social media and exposed to the public at-large, these unjust killings would have gone virtually unnoticed.

Did these victims of police brutality get a warning before they were shot to death by the very people who are supposed to protect them? Did Philando Castile’s preschool-aged daughter get a warning, letting her know that she would sit in the backseat of the family car while watching the passenger seat change colors as her father’s blood slowly stained it red, by way of a crooked, lethal trigger? Did she know ahead of time that she would carry the burden of consoling her mother, sitting in a precinct for 15 hours with no food and no water?

To be warned is to be privileged, and privilege does not exist in true victimhood.

“People have mental illnesses and traumatic experiences,” she said. “Why can’t they get permission to skip the class?” She asked.

Mental illness. If you were a person, I would feel the most sorry for you. Your name is misused and abused. People who suffer with you are being overlooked and people who want to overlook racial history use your name in vain as a beard to hide their deep-seated fear of the truth.

When I write about race, I am complaining.

When I speak about race, I am angry.

When she avoids addressing the ugly truth of the Jim Crow South and lynchings and race, she’s standing up for people.

God bless the black woman educator. I am she. She is me. A black woman who has worked her ass off to be finally granted the ultimate privilege of teaching as a student (granted, under an assistantship) at a university. A black woman who is employed to enlighten young scholars of all ages, colors and hues. A black woman who has more than likely fought through the wraths of racism, sexism, hateration, micro-aggressions and everything else in between on her way to the top.

God bless the victims of police murders and other unjust, racially-charged crimes against humanity. No trigger warning could ever stop a crooked trigger.

God bless those that suffer from mental illness. I pray that you feel as comfortable as possible no matter where you are or where you happen to go. If you know me, you know my mother is a therapist and if you’re suffering, I extend my hand to you with her services. But this isn’t about mental illness.

I want to talk about masks.

I don’t like them. I want to rip them off. All of them. I want the tape affixed to the masks to pull all the little hairs off the faces of the hidden. And I want it to sting, like nothing ever felt before.

This girl. She wants the mask to stay on. She wants to marry it and live happily ever after with it, ’til death do they part. This is the same girl that felt so compelled to prove to me how “down” for black folk she is when I first met her.

“My friends told me not to move here because they’re so many black people but I thought that was awesome.”

“A lot of the time I’m the only white person in my classes but that’s fine, really.”

“Where I used to live, there were white people everywhere and I just couldn’t take the lack of diversity.”

But she doesn’t want to address the plight of the people she claims to love so much?

She’s not alone. The masks are permanently congealed to the faces of many.

To the true victims: Don’t be weary and don’t be still.

But know.

Know your history. Know your right to know your history. Black people were slaves. Black people were lynched. Black people were systematically degraded by the rule of the law. Nobody can change the past. Too many people are doing too much to undo. Fight it. Always fight it in your own way. When I fight, I write.

And when the past constantly taunts the present by way of the school to prison pipeline, police brutality, racial profiling, a widening achievement gap and endless covert discriminatory tactics woven into the thread of the nation, you have no choice but to face history head on. It is your duty —

when you are a victim.

We are in a space where everybody wants to play the victim, but most are far too fragile for this line of work.

 

The Conversation 

Police brutality and the war on black men forces poetry out of my soul. It also forces hard conversations with the people we love.

I had to have

the conversation

with the man I love
I told him to just

Lay

Just lay on the ground

When they come around
As I spoke I felt that rope

Tied around my throat
And it hurt.
I told him to do whatever

they say

I told him to pray

While he lay

As I choked

on tears and pride
Two black men murdered 2 nights in a row in July

There’s no other option

The man I love
Has

Got

To

Survive
I had to have

the conversation
I felt him lose his patience

as fear consumed me

And there was nothing he could do about it
I felt him lose his power

While murderous thoughts devoured

my heart and my soul and my bones
Engulfed in flames

Set ablaze by the videos

On my social media page
I had to have

the conversation
“I’m gonna be alright” he said

And he held me tight

While I kissed his forehead
Then we said goodnight.
Each minute that passed while he drove home felt more like an hour
I lost my patience.
At least we had the conversation
But then I thought about

His dark skin

His boldness

His unyielding power

His smart mouth

His charisma

And his confidence
Yall know how a man is

He

Has

Got

To

Survive
There’s no other option.

 

Black People Don’t Tip (Part 2)

no tip for you Obama

Chicagonow.com

Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole story.

That’s how I left things off last time.

I still feel the same over a year since my first post on this “issue.”And today, an extremely rude and biased waiter learned that the number 0 doesn’t lie, either.

I went to eat at a buffet with my mother recently. The only reason we ended up at said buffet in the first place was because the Sunday after-church crowds prevented us from going to our first choice for lunch. We were starving after a lengthy church service — desperate times called for desperate measures.

We went into said buffet. We weren’t greeted but I asked the host about the price. He didn’t answer my question and led us to our table  — from his lack of understanding and his accent, I figured his English wasn’t very good and I let it go, although its an uneasy feeling eating at a restaurant and not having any idea what your bill may look like.

He took our drink orders. We both ordered water. He ended up being our “waiter.” Besides bringing the water that one time and taking our empty plates, we had virtually no service. It was surveillance that we had plenty of. The waiter kept circling around us. We saw him staring at us from other parts of the restaurant. Even when we were up at the buffet, he was right behind us, just lurking.

 Not only were we subject to surveillance, we were also forced to watch him properly serve everyone else around us. “How is everything?” and “Need another Coke?” were the questions coming out of his mouth, addressing all parties….but ours. As we, the only black people in the section and basically in the entire establishment, sat there taking it all in, we realized we were yet again being served the okie doke. The same bull I’ve dealt with at restaurants here and there my entire life.

Then it was time for the tip.

The tip I decided to leave, you ask?

0.

Some people I know tip high regardless of the service, because of the stigma and the stereotype that says black people don’t tip. They’re basically saying that even when we aren’t deemed worthy enough for adequate service, said waiter or waitress should be compensated as if he or she provided good service. To those that say that, I ask this: Why should we internalize their maltreatment? Why should we dehumanize oursevles along with all those racist waiter and waitresses out there who already dehumanize us? People who discriminate against black people in restaurants do it because they feel we don’t deserve to be treated fairly. Giving them a tip that they do not deserve justifies their actions. I don’t know about you, but I was raised to view myself just as deserving of decent treatment as the next person.

We left. As we both started to walk to the car, the waiter runs out the restaurant, following us. We were startled and a little taken back. He stopped us in the middle of the street. A walker-by in the distance stopped in his tracks to make sure we were okay. “You didn’t leave service pay! I need my service pay!” he exclaimed, directing his anger toward me. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe this classless act. To have the gumption to follow someone out of a restaurant for a tip? In a brief exchange, we told him our grievances. No refills. No service. Friendly engagement with all other tables except ours. “The nerve of you to follow us outside in the street and force us to tip you,” my mother remarked. He walked away, throwing his hands up in the air.

We were stunned.

We should have called the police. If we had men with us, it would have never happened. No more eating out. This happens a lot in this area. What a low life restaurant to condone chasing customers in the street. We should have. We could have.

These were some of the thoughts after the incident. I even thought back to when I paid for our meal. I realized I could have paid up front but he insisted on taking my money from the table. I guess he didn’t trust black money.

Out of such an unfortunate incident, I tapped into something very important: pride. Believe it or not, I was proud that I left no tip. I know they say black people never tip —  well, this was the very first time this black person didn’t tip. It was exhilarating, if I’m completely honest. It felt so good because I’ve been the type of person I called out earlier in this piece. The type to leave a tip in exchange for lousy service. This time, I stood my ground and valued myself over trying to debunk a stupid stereotype.

This whole tipping thing is a complicated schema. Its far from black and white, literally. The waiter in this instance was a non-black person of color. So were most of the patrons of the restaurant. Its impossible and extremely ignorant to think you can label an entire race or an entire culture. Also, we have to consider the plight of the waiter or waitress. We know they’ve dealt with ignorance from patrons of all colors, creeds and cultures. They may be defensive from prior experiences. And when it comes to buffet-style eating, tipping is tricky, as you do much of your own service.

Zero is a number, but does it tell the whole story?

Zero is the tip many believe all black people leave to their waiter or waitress. Zero is the quality of service we often get, simply because of how we look. Yes, this black person left zero tip, and she is prouder than ever for it. She has 0 regret. Maybe that sleazy waiter learned a thing or two from his zero service.

Why, yes, BLACK PEOPLE DON’T TIP WHEN THEY AREN’T SERVED.

I guess sometimes, numbers do tell the whole story.

Black People Don’t Tip (2014)

tipforsite

Picture this:

You and some friends or family go out to eat for dinner. After waiting for a table for however long, your party is called for the next available one. You are finally seated. Your throat is parched and you and the people you’re with are all ready to put those drink orders in. You look around at the waiters and the waitresses scurrying about, wondering which one will be taking care of you for the evening.

Five minutes pass, you start to look at your watch. You have somewhere to be after dinner, but you’re certain this meal won’t interfere with your plans. Ten minutes go by, still no waitress or waiter and the people that came in after you already have drinks and are about to place their food orders.

More time passes without any service. “Did they forget about us?” you wonder, even amidst the here and again eye contact some of the wait staff makes with you and your party. And amidst the laughter and jovial atmosphere of the restaurant, a half-enthused waitress with a fake smile dishes out the fakest greeting to your table. She takes your drink orders and goes into the back.

Several minutes later, you get your drinks and as you ask questions about the menu, her artificial smiles starts to fade and her she-can-take-you-or-leave-you attitude sets in. You’re ready to tell her a thing or two (if you know what I mean), but you don’t want to get ghetto and loud in the restaurant. You look over to your right, and the family that came in 2 parties after you is finishing their meal.

“If this food don’t come in the next few minutes, I’m going to miss out on my plans,” you think to yourself. You look around and see the other waiters and waitresses engaging in conversation with customers at other tables, looking lively and happy to serve. Your waitress is one of them. You look up and your food is (finally) at your table.

You eat in a hurry, trying to stay on your schedule for the night. You notice your mashed potatoes are a little cold. The manager is going up to each table, asking customers about their food and their experience. You wonder if you’ll literally be able to voice your complaint about your cold food, because your mouth is so dry. After all, your waitress never gave you a refill on your drink.

The manager walks by, skips your table, and asks the next table about their dining experience. You hear glasses clanging from the refills of other tables and as you look down at the ice melting in your empty cup, and as you begin to realize that the establishment has not deemed you a priority, the check is dropped onto the table.

Now you tell me, what’s that tip supposed to look like?

Often, black people are assumed to be non-tippers and are treated accordingly before they even get to the table…heck, before they arrive at the restaurant — which often translates to no treatment at all.

Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole story.

(2014; from the TBTB archives)

A Note on History

 

“…we shouldn’t have forces like racism and neo-colonialism direct our empathy for us” — Feminist Wire

But we still do. Because we are taught to. And it’s unfortunate that you don’t learn otherwise unless your family is conscious or you go onto higher education. I didn’t learn about the Black Panthers and all the good work they did until I took an elective history class called 20th Century US History in 11th grade. I didn’t learn about colonialism and imperialism in Africa — the institutional rape and degradation of a people and a continent– until graduate school. Up until then, school practically taught that Africa was to blame for all of her misfortunes. And not until this semester, as a doctoral student in an upper-level history course, did I learn that K-12 history classes are often the main culprits behind it all.

We learn that virtually no news coverage of a college massacre in Kenya that killed over 100 students is okay. It is taught to place more value on deaths in developed countries like France and the U.S. than deaths in smaller, less developed countries like Beirut. We aren’t born to naturally accept rights for animals over rights for black men and women unjustly brutalized by the police or children of color in U.S. cities being slaughtered by racialized gang violence and other insidious crime on a regular basis. We are born and then we are taught it all.
It’s a shame we live in a world where color, money and status are synonymous with humanity. It shouldn’t be.

But it is.

I was raised to value one person, one death, one travesty just as much as the next. I wish the world also felt this way.
But it doesn’t.
Racism and neo-colonialism still direct our empathy because our education still does.
It’s all taught.

You learn that it’s all taught as a grown up and you are now presented with a daunting task: to unlearn the entire world as you know it.

Neither a class nor teacher nor book can prepare one for such an assignment.

(photo: GMU History MA Program)

Cultural Appropriation and the N-Word

n word pic EDIT

Source: Flickr Creative Commons

“If the rappers can say it, I don’t understand why we can’t say it,” says a WASP man in the comments section of an online news article.

Cultural appropriation (when facets of an oppressed group’s culture are adapted by the dominant culture, and are essentially stolen from the oppressed group) is nothing new. Recently, Bantu Knots, an African hairstyle popular in the motherland and here in the diaspora, was featured on models in a Marc Jacobs fashion show. Afterwards, not only was he given credit for the centuries-old hairstyle, but they were magically renamed “mini buns.” And in cities everywhere, high-end restaurants on the “urban renewal” bus have taken slavery-era black/ modern-day soul food staples like chitlins, collard greens and other dishes as their own. Not only have these luxury eateries detached these foods from their cultural significance (slaves eating these foods because they were easy to access, simply because they were the scraps “massa” didn’t want – and turning them into delicious, filling meals for their families), but they have also attached a heavy price tag to them, claiming another culture’s food as their own and making a profit. Native American headdresses stripped of their meanings for fashion, large numbers of awards in rap and hip-hop (two music genres rooted in African story-telling and the African-American experience)  being given to people who don’t represent its cultural context and Halloween costumes trivializing cultural-historical figures (Middle Eastern princesses, East Asian warriors, etc.) are some other examples of cultural appropriation.

Clothes, fashion, food and music come to mind pretty quickly when thinking of examples of cultural appropriation, but what about words?

Like the N-word.

“If the rappers can say it, I don’t understand why we can’t say it.”

When a friend directed me to the comment thread, I knew what to expect, but I didn’t expect to see an adult ask such a question so honestly, so matter-of-factly. When I saw it, my stomach felt kind of weird – kind of like that feeling I had when I was younger (I was the only person of color in many of my classes) when a fellow classmate would comment on something (most of the time falsely) of African-American culture and add at the end “well my best friend is black” – as if that gives one a stake to some sort of claim…to an entire culture.

The N-word has an interesting history. I’m no historian, but in a nutshell, we can say that the N-word started as a means of oppression toward African slaves in America during the slavery-era. The use of this word, institutional degradation and involuntary servitude were all synonymous. This word was also the powerhouse behind the forced rape of enslaved African women including Mother Africa herself, the senseless killings of enslaved African men, women and children and in general, the dehumanization of all people and things of African descent. Some decades passed and the vile power behind the N-Word remained relatively the same, especially in the Jim Crow South.

In a nutshell, for the longest while, the N-word and its use left the African-American community powerless. But today, in many respects, that isn’t exactly the case.

Not just in some rap music, but for some African-Americans, the N-word has turned into a positive affirmation. A word used to describe a friend, a brother. For others, it’s still negative, but on their dime, not on the dime of another culture in an oppressive manner. This here is an acquisition of power, a seizing back of control that once wasn’t there. The taking back of a word a group of oppressed people once had no authority over, even though the word directly affected their own livelihoods, their lives and their deaths.

It’s one thing for an oppressed people to take back what’s essentially theirs, but it is a problem when a member of the dominant group – like the man who posted in the comment thread– someone still in this day and age with privilege and power no member of the oppressed group could ever attain (yes, even if he were president of the most powerful country in the world) – wants to snatch control away from the oppressed group just when it manages to muster up a morsel of agency over its enslaved past, fractured present and uncertain future.

It all comes down to power and control and in this country, some people want power and control so bad that they want ownership over words, even the words that don’t come out of their own mouths.

To the man from the comment thread and others like him: Next time you think about stealing ANYTHING from another culture, no matter who you are, what color you are, where you come from, or how much you may think you know, I can only hope you think twice.