I attended because three of my Sistas were the hostesses.
No one plans parties better than my friends. The venue, a fabulous house, was elegantly decorated with floral arrangements more majestic than those found in 5-star hotels; the food was catered by an African American catering company who has the unique skill of making country, Southern cuisine taste as good as grandma’s but look ready for a gourmet magazine photo shoot; the attendees were connected and respected.
But, I dread these types of events: the forced exchanges, fake smiles, the feeling that people are dissecting me somehow: what I’m wearing, how I’m speaking, and my “qualifications” to be there amongst them. This blog illustrates how my brain works: I’m typically not interested in small talk. What the heck do you think about this latest Trump fiasco? Natural hair? Women’s Day? Whatever. I want to engage—for real. I know, however, that type of conversation isn’t appropriate or usually desired by someone who has just learned and immediately forgotten your name; so I act my way through these events.
Halfway during my performance, a woman whom I like and have known distantly for approximately 10 years came up to talk to me. After about exchanging pleasantries about kids and work, she says to me with her hand on her chest, “So, your blog . . . ummmm . . . I read it sometimes. I like it but – ummmmm, wow — I just couldn’t say those things you say. I mean —don’t get me wrong – I sometimes think those things—but you just say them—like—you say them for others to see.”
Instantaneously, I felt like I do when the waiter comes by the table and asks if anyone wants dessert and I am the only one of my friends who does (coupled with a dessert cocktail); I felt like I did when I realized I left Bob (battery operated boyfriend) on the night stand at a hotel to find it nicely placed on a hotel towel by the cleaning lady; or when I run into one of my Bougie friends in Target and they have a cart full of business and cleaning supplies whereas I have half of my summer wardrobe in mine. I felt exposed, vulnerable, a bit embarrassed. I felt the need to explain.
And I did—explain; or rather a string of nonsensical thought bubbles popped out of my mouth.
The truth is, every article I publish, I am tempted to write an explanation at the start. What I want to say varies, but they all would say something similar to:
Dear Reader, I’m a good person. I love all people. I have friends of all races. I know some of the stuff I say sometimes may be jolting. I know that oftentimes it makes people uncomfortable. But that is my point. I don’t do it to separate, but to heal and bond. Sometimes we can’t deal with pain until someone puts words to it—like a song. Sometimes we can’t deal with problems, until someone says honestly and rawly what the real problem. My goal isn’t to be pleasant or to be liked; it is to be effective in inciting real conversations about real things that affect Black people.
I live in a county whiter than the guests at Ben Carson’s birthday party. I’ve been trained not to upset people; to blend; to be the Black person that White people find acceptable; to not do anything that could hinder me from getting or keeping a job. I don’t want to be viewed as angry or radical (‘cause I’m not either) and I know that because I often speak about race that I will make some people, particularly non-Black people, uncomfortable. As much as I sometimes dread those Bougie parties about which I spoke earlier, I certainly don’t want to get crossed off of the invite list because people worry that I won’t keep things appropriate.
I know my concern is common. I know this because of the lack of FaceBook posts I see from Black people when they are outraged about something happening in the Black community (they have White friends and co-workers on their page after all, so . . . ). I know by the conversations I have or don’t have at parties with diverse crowds.
Beatnik24 was my cloak. I didn’t want people to know who I was because I didn’t want to be judged, particularly based off a single opinion, a few articles, or just one facet of my personality. We all have friendships, sexual relationships and work partnerships without knowing the way people genuinely feel about some of the subjects that I write about.
So, the truth is, I am vulnerable, exposed; but I am no longer embarrassed, and not quite as scared (I supposed I’ll always be a bit scared) because I truly believe that we’ve got to get past the pleasantries to get to the solutions.
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.