Societal The Word 5 minute read

Impossible to Be Dependent and Free

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There wasn’t anything soft about my mother — except her arms — those, soft due to a combination of middle-aged fat brought on by a fondness of fried chicken and pound cake; and skin drenched for years in Lancome body lotion – which she rubbed into her pecan-colored dimply skin after every shower.  I sought them out whenever I needed comfort: I’d lay on them, knead them, press my nose into them so I could inhale her scent.  She wasn’t the type to give big hugs, or wrap her arms around me, but I found a way to be enveloped by those arms my own way.

She wasn’t the type of mom who wanted me to feel loved; she wanted me to feel prepared.  She wanted to know that if anything happened to her (like what had happened to her husband, my father, dying unexpectedly in a car accident) I’d be able to survive.  So, she never indulged in my whining.  “Ain’t no use whining, Randi.  This is the world.  What are you going to do about it?”

Every time I stormed into the house, slung my backpack or purse down-frustrated about some unfairness thrust upon me, desperate for her to participate in my pity party or to at least match my outrage, she’d flatly reply, “Baby, the world ain’t fair.”  When my master’s thesis advisor, on whom I was dependent to guide, review and eventually grade my master’s thesis said that “you know how you people are lazy”; my mother said, “well he’s been racist a long time.  You won’t be able to change him from being racist, so it seems to me that you better focus on  making your thesis so good that he can’t give you anything but an “A”.

I was raised to believe that depending on the world, on other people, on teachers or on employers to be fair was a fools errand and as reliable as a 1974 AMC Gremlin.  So it’s not surprising that I’m exhausted by all the talk around the latest abuse of Black people by a company.

What happened at Starbucks happens every day at stores, restaurants, airports, hotels and other establishments across the world.  Black people are insulted, given inferior customer service, and treated as suspects at such frequency that I bet that there isn’t one Black person who couldn’t relay a story of an organization’s recent  poor treatment of them.  IT is an unfortunate part of the Black experience, so ubiquitous that twitter has entire trends dedicated to Black folks relaying stories of humiliation when trying to board a plane with their First Class ticket.

It will happen again and again and again.  In response, should we protest, write, boycott?  Absolutely.  But in doing that, understand, that we are placing our treatment, progress, and psychological health in the hands of business whom have already shown us that we aren’t of particular importance to them.  We are expecting, not just a company, but every person (regardless of beliefs or background) employed by that company, to have a respect for diversity and inclusivity.

Doesn’t it seem to be a stronger, surer bet to bet on ourselves?  Aren’t you exhausted from reacting –every time something happens.  Isn’t it time for us to be proactive, to take our power back?

The focus should not be on Starbucks, and what they are going to do; but rather should be on us and what we are going to do.  Most likely, whatever Starbucks does will be inconsequential and fleeting.  Outrage will die; people will forget; until we react at the next offense. Nothing changes.  We just keep experiencing incidents that cause us to insist that organizations change.

What we are going to do so that we are no longer so fully dependent on the world’s kindness, fairness, dedication to change, or colorblindness (which is impossible).  I can no longer stand for us to beg for equal treatment; I want to see us going about gaining equal power.  Instead of being worried about how I will be viewed, received and treated in Starbucks, as a matter of principle I will go to the local Black-owned coffee shop—every day, all the time.  I don’t want to react out of anger towards White people or institutionalized racism; but act out of love of my people and an understanding that we must strengthen ourselves, our community.

Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.  Dependence on the kindness of all White people for equality is foolish.  Sometimes, you must take your own chance, and put your happiness and chances for success back in your own hands—where it should have been had slavery not occurred.  If I continue to place my happiness, achievement, and psychological well-being completely in the hands of White people, I can’t feel – and will never be – truly free.

Only we can save ourselves.

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