I went to the grocery store today, as I do five or six days every week (when you have two teen boys, it seems that you are constantly running out of something). I found a parking space fairly close to the store, turned off my engine, and sat. I took the keys out of the ignition, placed them and my hands on my lap, closed my eyes, and let my head rest back. Though my windows were up, I could hear the sound of the metal carts shaking as they were guided over bumpy pavement and muted conversations from ladies walking into the workout studio next door. Fairly quickly, my car started to become uncomfortably warm, in response to the unusual warm November day.
I needed to get out of the car; but damn, I didn’t want to. Post-election, I don’t want to do what I’ve been doing for 11 years: going into the grocery store where there is a 99% chance that I’d be the only Black person in there (including the store’s employees). With my eyes still closed, I toyed with my keys. Maybe I just won’t go today. But I thought of my husband and many of my friends who woke up on November 9th and went to work in places where they are in the distinct minority. I thought of my kids, who go to a school that is a mere 3% African American. I thought of President Obama and the obvious look of disgust he wore on his face as he welcomed Donald Trump into the White House. I, of course, could go in this store and buy sandwich meat and orange juice.
But, damn, it took extra effort.
My interaction with White People right now feels like the morning after you catch your parents having sex —incredibly awkward—for everyone involved. You know that your parents have sex, of course, but it was NEVER anything you wanted to see. And then to be confronted with your Dad’s bare, hairy ass—on top of your mom—well, it’s just too much.
I feel as if I’ve just seen White folks’ pink, hairy ass—and it’s too much. As I like to say sometimes, “I’ve been Black all my life,” so of course I am not ignorant to racism. I was raised by parents who “schooled” me early on; I’ve been called “nigger”; been stopped for shoplifting; been ignored, stereotyped, and falsely accused. Hell, I was raised in Virginia, spent a good part of my time in Texas visiting my grandparents, and went to college in Alabama. I know good ol’ fashioned racism. Moreover, for most of my career, I’ve talked to people about issues of diversity in companies across the country. So, I thought I was a super-conscious, extremely “woke” sista, but I can now admit that I didn’t know how many White folks were racists, and even more — that I didn’t know HOW racist White folks were.
I thought most White people were simply, “I wouldn’t be happy if my daughter dated a Black guy . . . don’t have but one Black friend . . . am scared to walk out at night when they are around . . . own a house as far away from them as possible . . and only know about their music and sports acumen’ type of racist. ” I didn’t think they were, “I know that Trump is a fucking lunatic . . . may get us in a nuclear war and tank the economy . . . but I don’t care because he is going to make me feel like a king again” type of racists.
I didn’t know, but now I know. And I feel awkward around you because I look at you the way that you have always looked at my people, at least the males — with a lack of trust. Now that I’ve seen your ass, I don’t see you the same way.
And I can tell that many White folks feel awkward too. After all, you also now know that I know — that I’ve seen your ass. And you don’t know what to say.
So, most White folks bite their nails, fumble around and don’t say much of anything. They’d prefer to just pretend that nothing happened and to go back to “business as usual.” But c’mon White people, you know that we can’t really do that – at least not for a while – don’t you?
Unfortunately, saying something doesn’t make things better either. Just like it is after you’ve caught your parents having sex, whatever is said makes everyone even more uncomfortable.
In the days following the election, I’ve seen a lot of White folks desperately trying to communicate, “We aren’t all like that.” And I can understand why they would want to ensure that this sentiment is expressed. But it annoys me, quite frankly. First, Black folks know this racism-thang pretty well. Most of us believe that not everybody (although more than we thought) is racist, so please stop stating the obvious. Second, the minute a White person states this, the conversation and focus immediately goes to them, the White person. I have observed countless Black people soothing and reassuring White people that they know how wonderful and not-racist they are. Can we for a moment not just cater to the feelings of White people – but rather keep it where it belongs? Why does even our pain have to somehow end up with them being the victims—the ones who need care.
I’ve also seen multiple pleas for love and understanding. But if a White person didn’t cry out for love and understanding when President Obama and First Lady Michelle were being called Monkeys, I need for them to shut-up now. If they didn’t call for love when Trump called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers; when he repeatedly questioned President Barack Obama’s citizenship; when he said there needed to be a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S.; when he said that he is a ‘negotiator’ like the Jews, when he said that laziness is a trait in Blacks, when he urged supporters to beat up protesters at his rallies, I’m going to need you to shut the fuck up with your newly discovered cries for love and unity. Understand, there should not only be one group doing the loving and the forgiving. That’s no different than separate and unequal.
Also, the “just because I voted for a racist, doesn’t make me a racist” argument needs to stop immediately. You voted your value system. You ushered in hate; you ignored Trump’s racist, homophobic, and misogynist behavior over, and over and over again. At best, you sanctioned his behavior by overlooking it. It can’t be redeemed by favorable tax cuts. There are certain failings that cannot be outweighed by other qualities. It will never matter how great a football coach, defensive coordinator, philanthropist or neighbor that Jerry Sandusky was – he was a predatory child molester. Any good deeds cannot overcome the fact that he was a monster. Similarly, Trump is a racist and sexist xenophobe. You chose to vote for him. Own it.
So, what now? I got myself together and went into the grocery store and bought lunch meat and orange juice. It took me a little longer to go, but I went because life goes on. I’ve been Black all my life; Struggle isn’t anything new for my people. We are a bit shocked by what we have learned, but we will be fine. After all, WE aint’ the ones who got caught showing our asses.