I of course have to temper what is following this introduction paragraph by saying, I’m quite possibly one of the most open minded people you’ll meet. Religion, sexuality, race, culture, politics, whatever. I don’t have to agree, but I never judge. Because that’s not what I do. My openess has led me to be able to know and love all sorts of people, regardless of their color, sexual orientation, religious beliefs. And I’m proud of that.
And with that being said…
Please take a moment to try to feel me on this shit.
I was talking to a friend of mine today, J. J is a leggy blond I met at a random dance class one night. She’s sweet, she’s funny, she’s sarcastic, she’s smart. She has more than a passing affiliation with black people; she isn’t of the “I have a co-worker who’s black, I can’t be racist!” variety. She’s the “my best friend is black, my boyfriend is black, I grew up around black people because a black woman raised me” type. J is an anomaly; a Barbie doll who, if you listened to her talk with your eyes closed, you’d swear she grew up down in 5th ward. She’s unpretentious. She’s real. She throws down on some fried chicken. Her boyfriend is the blackest black man alive. And no I don’t mean he’s very dark skinned (although he is). I mean I had an hour long discussion with him about why the radical ideaologies of the Black Panther Party are necessary reintroduce to society in order to bring about revolution.
Yeah. All that.
Me and J hit it off right away. I joke with her all the time that she is my Black Lite; since all my minority friends are mostly in DC and Atl, she is my sugar free substitute. We laugh, she calls me a hooker. Life is great.
So today we’re talking and somehow we get off on the subject of so many sistas having issues with her dating T, her boyfriend. Personally, I’ve never taken issue with interacial dating as I am a poster child for racial mixing myself, but I know many black women who hate, get down right hostile at the sight of “a bunny with one of our kings.” (A direct quote from one of my more militant friends.) It irks J. She and T have been together for 6 years, and regardless of that many sistas still look at her and “reduce her to any regular ol’ white bitch lookin’ for a big dick.” (Her words; not mine.) I’ve seen it when we’ve all been out together; it’s not been pretty. The first time she and I ever went out together, this cat eyed bitch at Drink Houston got stupid with her and we damn near had to drag her silly ass across the floor cuz she got so disrespectful. J and I have had this conversation many a time and mostly, I just let her vent. It hurts her. And I mean it hurts her badly. To be so badly disrespected by anyone, but by a woman, and a black woman at that, a group of creatures she has come to “so revere and respect” (again her quote) as it was a black woman who took her in and raised her among other black women when her own mother didn’t want her, it cuts her deep. Like I said, mostly I just let her vent because I know what it’s like to be seen as an entity and not a soul (see archives: The Other Side of the Brown Paper Bag).
This convo eventually led into a convo about all race relations in this country (if you think racism is dead, I invite you to live in Texas for a year.) Somehow we got on the subject of the N word. Now anyone that knows me knows that I have no issue whatsoever with the use of the word. (Yeah I said it- and WHAT nigga?) I am one of those people that believes that it is not the words themselves that have power, but rather the intent behind their deliverence that determines how they should be received. But alas, that is a different post.
Anywho, she started telling a story about one time when she and T were out and how a particularly mouthy hood rodent got loud with them and called T a nigga. (It should be noted that T HATES the word; I respect that when I’m around him and try not to use it.) She was venting and somewhere around the middle she said something to the affect of, “I completely understand, you know, cuz my boyfriend’s black.”
Maybe it was because I been seriously on edge lately. Maybe it’s cuz I’ve been sick for a week or cuz I’ve just been feeling particularly ornery as of late. Whatever the reason, it stopped me in my tracks.
“I’m sorry… what?!?!” I asked all kinds of confused. She stopped and stared at me for a second. She looked like she was gonna open her mouth but I cut her off.
“You understand? You completely UNDERSTAND because YOUR BOYFRIEND IS BLACK? Oh, so you know what it’s like to walk into a store and have sales people follow you around, terrified you might steal something because SURELY you couldn’t afford to pay for it? You know what it’s like to have all of the hard work I did for get my degree discredited just because I got it from a historically black institution? You know what it’s like to get pulled over for bullshit like failure to pull out of an officer’s way so you can be questioned as to whether or not you’re running drugs for you boyfriend? Cuz you know all black girls are. (True story.) So because your boyfriend is black you know what it’s like to repeatedly watch opportunities go to someone else who isn’t black just because they’d make a better “image” for a company? You know what it’s like to have someone stand in your face and call you gal or nigga and get away with it because someone has always taught them that they’re better? You know what it’s like to have to work 10 times harder, 10 times longer to get even a third of the credit you can walk into a room and get OFF TOP because you’re a white girl? You know what it’s like to have to watch Latinas and random white girls make it fashionable to be “shapely” in Hollywood which is really just nice speak for having ass when FOR YEARS sistas were told they were too “ethnic” for roles? (I should take this time to point out that I am Latina so you ladies can hold your hate mail. Thanks.) You know what it’s like to watch my very existence be reduced to, at best, some oiled up video hoe, at worst, a caricature of some gum poppin’, weave wearin’, neck rollin’ hoodrat? You KNOW what it’s like to see every little white girl I’ve ever known at some point try to walk like me, talk like me, steal my swagger and then at some point try to put their stamp on it like the shit is original? So I guess since your boyfriend is black, you know what it’s like to be the strongest, most intelligent, talented, and most beautiful and yet still most undervalued member of society, right? You can CHOOSE not to let people know you were raised by a black woman around black people, but NEVER at ANY point can I choose to stop being one, nor would I.”
By this time her mouth was hanging open and she was blinking back tears. My face was red and my chest heaving. For a second, I almost felt bad. And then J said, ” You’re right. I have no idea.”
And then I exhaled.
And we sat down and talked, 2 women who are different, have had different experiences but certainly can relate on the level of what it’s like to be viewed as an entity, a caricature and not a soul.
If nothing else, I respect J more now. Number 1, because she didn’t run away after the scary black woman went off on her, lol. And number 2 because she was woman enough to sit with me, to talk with me, to ask me about my life and my experience, to be open to what it’s like to be me. She was woman enough to admit she was wrong, and not shy away from having a difficult, uncomfortable conversation so she could learn something.
And she got that from a black woman.