On Wednesday night I had one of those very unpleasant experiences while commuting. Not sure if you’ve ever had one – the kind where at the end of a very long day of work and school, when all you would like to do is get home, take your pack off your back, remove your heels and your bra, get a beer… and exhale – and instead, you encounter one of those bitter, ignorant females whose behavior takes what was just a long tiring day and tips it over the edge into the abyss of “What the fuck?!?!?”
Yesterday morning during one of my favorite classes of this semester – a multi-ethnic literature class (you see where this is going, yes?) – a conversation was sparked that addressed whether responsibility should be ascribed to parents with regard to the names they give their children. Oh, let me be frank here… I am the one who sparked that particular conversation in response to one student’s outrage that black urban (is that redundant?) America cannot express their pride in their heritage as others (aka “white people”) can. That the ‘Sh-nee-quas’ of the world seem to be immediately discriminated against. Well, d’uh! I was off and running!!!!
Let’s address this – what is your opinion on this matter? Do you agree with the young man that an exhibition of pride should not only be allowed but respected; period? Or do you tend to lean more in my direction that yes, pride in one’s culture, background and heritage is a beautiful thing, but that that should be tempered with a very liberal dose of common sense? Seriously. Where do you stand? Okay, before you agree or disagree with either him or me, let me elaborate – not only on this topic, but also explain why I started this conversation with that little snippet about Wednesday’s shenanigans.
I got good and mad! And, I was (and in some ways still am) highly disgusted! To state it as plainly as I can, I am quite fed-up with having to be bombarded with all the hash tags and sound-bites that aim at insisting that ‘White America’ sits up, takes (positive) notice and begin to treat “us” blacks with respect. And here is why – because I want the hash-tags and the sound-bites to begin to aim themselves at “us” – insisting that we sit up and begin to treat each other with respect!! I have stated this before – I will begin to go after the “others” for better treatment when I am content with the treatment I receive from those supposedly like me.
The bullshit on my commute emanated from a black woman, who for whatever reason took one look at me and immediately fell in that “bitter black woman” stance – lips curled, face like she was sucking on a lemon and body as rigid as a boxer prepped for a blow. The eyes spewed hate. She then proceeded to refuse to condense both herself (which was considerable) and her belongings into the one seat that was allotted to her, so that I could occupy the other seat that my fare entitled me to. Ridiculous! I sat, because my 130lbs allows me to fit into tight spaces and also because I would be damned if I allowed her bullshit to deny me of what is my right!
But I admit her (and there have been so many other hers and his) behavior pissed me off to the point of resounding expletives. It rattled me; and not because it is unfamiliar, but because it is prompting me to denounce the entire culture. I am getting to the point of gross negative generalization. But my reactions aside for the moment, the sad reality is this – until Blacks can get to the point where they adopt the old adage, ‘Charity begins at home” we will continue to inhabit a space that has barriers. We truly need to stop looking outward to pinpoint what the problems are and begin to accept responsibility for our own damage and destruction.
Responsibility. When I presented that word to the class as it relates to what we name our children, it appeared as if they had never heard it before; some were outraged! When I tried to explain that taking the first few letters of your name and marrying it (because in many instances that is all that gets married) with a similar block of the baby-daddy’s name, well, all hell almost broke loose! Some were upset at my use of “Baby-daddy” and some said the responsibility is not ours to deny our heritage, the responsibility belongs to the world to change its perceptions.
Okay. I did not coin the phrase “baby-daddy” so I am unsure why it raised such a furor. I am frankly quite fed-up of people missing the forest for the trees. If I adopted their thinking, I could say, “I do not need to stop saying baby-daddy, you need to stop having them!” People the reality is this – the ‘Sh-nee-quas’ (and, I am not trying to insult anyone with that name; yall know this name has become the go-to when employing an urban message) of the world should absolutely not be eliminated from employment or global entry because of their name; but the chances of just that elimination happening are great. People whose names bear the flashing neon sign of their heritage may be just the ones this world needs to educate through their contributions, but hear me on this – we will not get their contributions if they do not have a voice. If because of an ill-advised name they are never given the opportunity that they deserve and that we can all benefit from, then who should accept that responsibility? Society or the parent? I do not care how much we shout that the world needs to change and broaden its sense of acceptance and tolerance, the reality is until it does, we will be wise to set ourselves and our children up in a manner that will allow for entry – placing them in a remarkable spot to execute said change.
Listen don’t get me wrong and don’t start with all that other bullshit, “sell out” that is not what I am advocating. What I am saying is that we do not yet inhabit the world we are entitled to and in order for change, we need to be smart. If a person opens their mouth and no one is listening, do they still have a voice? If we want to be heard, we need to plan, be strategic and stop deluding ourselves that what we do, how we do it and what we call it do not matter. They most certainly do. We do not yet live in the world we deserve. We may not ever get it. But while we move in that direction, let us use this time to plan ahead and let us give our children the tools they will need to flourish where they already are.
That woman on the bus took one look at me and hated my existence. I will not concern myself in speculation as to what her life is like in an effort to understand her immediate responses to me. To do so is not only pointless, but it is to also continue to perpetuate a vicious and unproductive cycle. I refuse to “meet her where he is” sometimes those of us that know better are called upon to do better. Her lips, face and posture denoted something extremely ugly; mine did not. I refuse to lend my support to any culture that promotes or allows that sort of demeanor or behavior. What she may have possibly (accurately) determined that my heels, dress and book bag meant which may be excluded from her reality is her problem; not mine. The reality is that as I do not know her struggles, her fight or her successes, neither is she privy to mine. Her assumptions as to “Who do I think I am?” will never begin to alter the reality of what it has cost me to be able to get to this place.
I get up and I fight. I fight in the way I can for myself, my child and the space I inhabit. I fight in the way I can – with these words – because thankfully I have a voice. I have a voice because way back when, someone was insightful enough to set me up in a manner that did not hinder my future. My name, my education, my upbringing all reflected their wisdom, desire and responsibility for and investment in my future. It did not deny my heritage. And, it did not change the color of my skin. Look at that…