"I hate when black people use the race card." That was the statement made to me backstage when I was pushed aside by PR head HD, after I expressed my disappointment in being told harshly, "No you will not do your interview now, I'm on a time schedule and it will wait."
I had just told her I didn't mind waiting. The truth of the matter is, it's not what you say to me, but how you approach me. And I didn't appreciate how I was aggressively pushed to the side and how you shoved your "white" client before me in line. But I guess you assumed I would be accustomed to this sort of behavior because I am black. And since there are only a few of us here, you don't value my presence nor respect me enough as a human being to give me the courtesy one should get when you are trying to skip the line.
Even if you are the one who is running the show, there is a basic etiquette that one displays.
1. Identify yourself.
2. Ask politely and softly instead of demanding your way. It's more than likely that anyone with common sense will oblige you.
But the insults continued as she pulled in a light-skinned, light-brown eyed man of color to validate her point of "I'm not racist" while telling me, "I have five black employees in my office that work for me."
That statement coupled with that action speaks volumes!
But it troubled me for a very long time. Upset me in fact. And it forced me to start thinking about the very statement this woman made. Am I using the race card? Am I being overly sensitive? Why am I not letting it go?
Perhaps it is because too many of those incidents happen to set off the light bulb for me.
For instance, this past summer while I was in a particular store, Tango, I saw a white bag I wanted. I went in and proceeded to ask the sales person if I can get the bag in white, they said it is sold out. I then said, "Can I see the condition of the one in the window, I'm happy to make the purchase if it pleases me."
They said they couldn't sell it out of the window. I asked for a manager because it made no sense. The goal of all retail store is to sell. They disappeared into the back to "look for the manager" and returned saying he had said no.
My girlfriend approached me after finding her items, excitedly asking me if I got the bag. I said they were sold out for the season. Her solution was to take the one from the window. I proceeded to tell her they refused. She was visibly upset and said the ordeal was stupid. She went over to the sales person and asked for the bag in white. After they told her it was sold out, she said she wanted the one from the window.
They gave it to her.
Pointing to me, she then asked why they hadn't given it her friend? Stunned, they could only shrug and apologize uncomfortably.
Then there are the frisking of my Afro incidents at the airport. Again, my hommie couldn't imagine that happening until she saw it for herself. One day, on one of our great adventures, I decided to refuse to have then frisk my hair. I followed my bestie, whom happens to be several shades lighter then me with naturally straighter hair cascading down her back. Yes, she's white.
They were shocked and uncomfortable with my refusal to have my Afro patted down. They even offered to take me to a private room but I stubbornly refused, asking why they didn't pat her as well. Their only response was that it was standard procedure. Procedure from whom? Black women only? Or women with hair? Explain, I demanded!
I knew darn well I would not get a straight answer. To see the shock on my girlfriend's face was enough. She had now seen and could understand what I go through as a woman of African descent.
In my mind we are all equal. But in the eyes of the law and in my personal experiences, my people continue to be shaded by the color of our skin.
If my past experiences, which are direct reflections of my real life experiences, make you uncomfortable and you "Hate when black women use the race card" to cast a reflection on your racist, bigot behavior, then so be it. Take a long look in the mirror and ask what are you doing to contribute to keeping racism and bigotry alive? More importantly, what are you doing to change it?
Make no mistake. I have light skin (I have white cousins). And I understand it is not your sole responsibility to end the negative racism that has been made by all white people. I also must do my part not to perpetuate the stereotypes that run ramped about my own people. I must also stop insulting my own people, degrading my men and women and making negative racial comments when my people offend me because other races do the same things, too.
But the reality is blacks are not the lawmakers in white society. Even with President Obama in the White House we are constantly reminded that when or if something goes wrong it is under his black presidency.
Having a black leader, in my opinion, has done two things: showed we blacks what is possible and inspired us as a people to want greater -- to be hopeful. But I really feel we have false vision that racism is dead.
My children where painfully reminded of this with several killings of black men. Sean Bell for partying. Trayvon Martin for wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Michael Brown unarmed teen gets gunned down with his hands up, or John Crawford for playing with a toy gun in a Walmart store.
I doubt any of the parents are claiming their children are angels, without incidents of misbehavior. But none of these acts warranted their public death.
If other races (and I mean white children) were being treated and slaughtered the same way, I couldn't have much to say. But when all signs point to the constant imbalance treatment of one race -- well, if the shoe fits, wear it.
So am I using the race card? Not as often as you use it towards me to disrespect me, belittle me, undermine me, devalue me, look me over for promotions, raises, housing, employment, and basic human rights.
We won't talk about the insults in fashion when I am asked to not wear my hair in braids, dreadlocks or an Afro because it's not attractive, professional or fashionable. Or when for years I was made fun of for my full lips. Or even the latest, that my derrière was too big and inhuman.
But now that all of these things are part of a "fashion" statement your children want to adapt for whatever reason -- to defy you, upset you, and stick it to you, some genuinely like it and it's cool that they can capitalize on it. But it was "ghetto," "ratchet," and classless when we created it and rocked it. When we wore clothing with a certain look we looked impoverish. But when luxury designers put it on the racks, it's vintage and modern chic.
Remember when Carrie wore the name plate around her neck it became cool? Girl, I was rocking name plate necklaces, rings, door knocker earrings, and a gold pinky nail tip when you were trying to find yourself!
So please think about it before you try to check a black anybody about the race card.
And the next time you pull over "your boy," remind him that we have a nickname for people like him... it starts with "Uncle..."
But for now I will walk away from those sort of ignorant stereotypes and begin build a stronger community with those that are committed to up-building my race. I will remember the power of those that came before me, and the ones that are here with me now and we will be the change that they see in me.