Ugh

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I decided to take a media fast.  I’m so over facebook right now with all the comments about the Trayvon Martin verdit.  All the ugly is coming out, and it’s not doing anything but making my head hurt.

Sure I’m happy the conversation is happening. . .I just wish there could be sensibilty in it all.  That’s all I want is some reasoning.  Can we just reason? 

I just returned from a very enlightening trip from Montgomery, AL.  I grew up there, and sure there is much history, negative history to be clear.  I have never visited the AL capitol or the first white house of the confederacy.  It’s only because of Yelp that I even knew the first white house of the confederacy even existed.

So I learned several things during this trip:

The downtown court square fountain made in France that’s so gorgeous that I have always admired was actually the site where slaves were auctioned.

The nice concrete area in the park I enjoyed as a child– it was actually a pool that was filled when segregation was no longer legal.  So, if Blacks had the right to swim, it just seemed more reasonable at the time to fill it with concrete and allow no one to swim.

This is the history of my birthplace and the place I spent my formative years. So, this verdict comes at a heavy time for me–just after visiting these heavy historical sites.  It is taking me some time to process it all really. . .

The thing is, I am a Black American and I live with this every day in this country.  So what does that mean, exactly? 

 While visiting Cafe TuTu Tango, a bunch of British guys from Wales, visiting for a golf trip, learned I’m from the deep south.  When they learned this, they were fascinated and wanted to know all about it.

In my mind, I’m thinking, “Why would anyone want to know about any of that?” But now that so many misguided opinions are running wild, I am realizing that maybe people really do need to know.  

I think becasue  Blacks have overcome so much in this country, it’s hard for those not close to issues to really understand the anger and frustration.

People get bent out of shape becasue it triggers thoughts of uglier times. Because we are still dealing with this.

Still.  

Because being Black is clearly still an issue–a problem.

Yes, I am fortunate to have grown up in a different time than my mother to have choices that were not available to her.  Sure, it’s awesome I don’t have to worry about not being served in certain stores as she once did. . .

But what I have experienced is more unspoken undertones that leaves one feeling less than, or even worse, invisible.  When people are constantly making inaccurate assumptions about you,  it’s unnerving and very frustrating to deal with, and very upsetting.

Here are a few examples (only a few):

I walk into a music store, and I’m immediately shown the Black gospel section, and I’m told that I probably already have the music of various choirs I have never even heard of.

I’m told that I really should look at banking at other nearby institutions because a minimum amount always needs to be maintained.  When I tell the banker I have no issue with this and she keeps pressing, I just get up and walk away.

While out shopping, a store associate shows every customer (except me), a different dressing area with no waiting.  And when I ask her about it she avoids all eye contact and shuffles about making up every lame excuse in the book.

Someone tells me, “You’re a good swimmer, for an American.”  For a Black American is what you really mean.

When I take a day off from work and decide to muck horse stalls at a friends stables, someone comes and asks me if I’m the farm hand. . .and then proceedes to tell me there are much worse things I could be doing  with my life.                  Yup.

And when I call out a Black person for discounting a White person simply becaue they are White, I’m thrown under the bus.

And because I’m not “Black enough” I’m seen as some freak of nature by some Blacks.

The clerk at the beauty store holds my $5 dollar bill to the light to make sure it’s real. Or even worse, another clerk falls over and knocks down an entire display of product because he’s bending over, almost crawling, trying not to be seen while following me throughout the store. . .

I could go on. . .but why?  

It gets old people.

It’s a heaviness I cannot describe.  I was talking to my brother about all this, and I know he understands. Honestly,  I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a Black male.  

My cousin noticed a woman dropped a $20 bill on the ground at a gas station.  He picked it up and walked over to give it to her–but she quickly jumped in her car, locked the doors, and sped away. . .

These are just a few random examples of a very long line of experiences I have had living in the deep south.

It’s something I cannot describe.  People look at you differently.  Words do not have to be said–you feel it.  It feels like your’e not free. . .because you’re not.  Always having to demonstrate you are worthy or ok, or safe.

While in Bama, I’m always finding myself trying to make others feel comfortable around me.  To make myself seen, because if not, you could just be there, and no one even sees you. Mind you, these are wonderful skills to have learned early in life.  I can insert myself in very unfamiliar circles and feel at ease. . .I have had plenty of practice.

Because every social situation growing up was uncomfortable for me.

I really don’t think anyone that has not lived it, or has lived it by proxy from those close to them, can ever really understand the heaviness–the implications of what being Black means in this country.

The frustration.

The anger.

When I moved to Orlando, I felt a freedom.  It’s like I can be more myself and the heaviness is not there. For now I’m in a good place.  I’m not saying Orlando does not have its issues.  After all, Sanford is only about 30 miles north of here.  But for me, it’s made a world of difference.

I’ve had no racial issues since moving here.  It’s like a breath of fresh air.  I think some of it could be that people don’t think I’m Black here. I wrote another post on that.  Sounds simplistic, but seriously, I have had many people seem really surprised when I told them I’m Black.

 Growing up, I believed my being Black was an issue–it felt kind of like a birth defect or something that you always had to compensate for somehow.  As I got older, I began to dismiss the incorrect views of others–it was their problem, not mine. 

 This is how I survived growing up in the deep South. I’m not the problem–they are.  And so I can dismiss their misguided states of thought and go on with my life. Ignore their ignorant comments, try to get a nugget of understanding in there somewhere and move on. So ignorning attitudes of others worked for me, and it worked because I’m not a threat to anyone.

I have that luxury because I’m female.  I’m afraid Black men don’t. 

 I was just at the post office yesterday, and an older woman came up to me and started speaking to me in Spanish.  She then started touching my shoulder as I was wearing a strapless dress.  

I told her I do not speak Spanish very well and asked her to slow down.  

She told me she likes my dark skin and that I’m beautiful.  I smile, happy that she sees me.  I understand her, even though we do not understand each other. 

My dark skin in Orlando is just the same as it is in Bama.  It’s not an issue–just as this Hispanic woman affirmed. . .

it just all depends on who’s looking.

 

 

 

 

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3 responses »

  1. Rhea,

    I’m very sorry that you have to endure such prejudice, profiling and bigotry. Your post has helped me to understand what you are going through as a black person in southern America and elsewhere.

    • Rhea: thank you for this wonderfully poignant and insightful essay. You articulated so well what most non-blacks – yes, even including Asians – cannot and do not begin to appreciate. Interesting timing that I should discover your blog a day after I came back from Memphis – Memphis in all its historic shame and glory. You might say, “but you were just passing through the airport!” Yes I was, but it’s symbolic, right?

      Plus, I met Jonathan.

      I was at the Sky Club, bemoaning a 2-hour delay, but at least happy there’s a place to ‘lay my head’, thanks to NW’s former presence there. Jonathan was one of the friendly people working in the lounge area, still working hard even though he spacious club was all but deserted. The Club closes at 8, but they extended the hours thanks to the delay. So I said to Jonathan “you’re going to get OT, aren’t you?” He smiled a crooked smile, and said, no, he’s salaried. We got talking a bit: he told me about his 4 kids, failed business, both he and his wife trying to recover from that, parenting challenges… We talked like we’re neighbors, and we might as well be. I would be more than glad to have a neighbor like Jonathan. He told me his oldest son, Keith, is now 14, and I joked with him that he’s too young to have a 14-y.o. son. He laughed and said he just might be older than me (he isn’t). It was a heck of a lot more enjoyable than Anderson Cooper reporting on Egyptians getting slaughtered.

      As I was leaving, I wanted to leave him with something meaningful. I gave him my copy of “The Crisis” magazine, which I’d finished reading on the way out already. He was surprised that I’m a member of NAACP, and then genuinely touched. I told him that he should share the magazine with Keith as well. Here we are, 50 years after 1963 – in all ITS shame and glory – and a lot of things have changed, but some haven’t. I told him to continue to fight the good fight, do his heritage and legacy proud, to exhort his son to do the same, so that all the blood, sweat, and tears of their forefathers would not be in vain.

      It was about as good as a 2-hr delay could get.

      • Wow,thanks for your comment. Sounds like you did have an enjoyable layover in Memphis. I actually really dislike layovers in Memphis, and will have one every week for the next 3 weeks. Sounds like making a connection like you did might be the best way to handle it.

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