All My Life I had to Fight
Oh you know…
Mrs. Sophia is home now and there are about to be some truths told and some discussions had. Mrs. Sophia is the collective 40+ Black Woman who has lived a little life, turned a couple of heads, kissed a few toads, had to tell some wrinkled old ass White lady in the store that she is not her errand girl or handmaid and will not be cut off or disrespected, and had to get into someone’s actual ass, like a baby mole, because they fail to get the message… I AIN’T THE ONE!
Imma be all over the place this time, cuz this is an all over the place kind of conversation. But bear with me, because I guarantee you are gonna wanna shout, do a praise dance, sit in silence, and plan as my girl called it “a pajama and bonnet caper” all at the same time after you read some of these stories I’m about to tell you. So let’s jump in the deep water.
• • •
A girlfriend of mine sought my counsel (I’m kind and smart, but twice as ignorant and very liable to choose violence… in other words, very wise counsel) because her Black child’s predominately White school decided it was a good idea to take a trip to Monticello and Jamestown. Wait… one second. Monticello, the place where Thomas Jefferson owned 600 slaves that does tours of slave quarters. The same place he impregnated his slave, a woman he OWNED, who was not considered a WHOLE HUMAN, Sally Hemmings, with six children. A place where young Black girls were enslaved and raped. THAT place. And Jamestown, the site where Africans stolen from their land were sold to White plantation owners who enslaved these people in what turned out to be hundreds of years of violent servitude. We have primarily White teachers taking their White students and a handful of Black and Hispanic children on this trip down fucked up memory lane. You wanna beat them over the head with your privilege?
I have been to Monticello, now I hear that now they are much more forthright about Jefferson’s slaveowner history. But it’s been clear… the slave cabins are still standing. They talked more about his china service than the very real historical implications of this plantation. So my friend was concerned about how these teachers were prepared to have discussions about slavery in Monticello and Jamestown and asked such questions to the teachers and staff promoting the trip… and she was ready to scrap if the answer was wrong. Cuz this is often our lives. Taking responsibility for educating clueless White people on how their actions, choices, decisions have racial implications and moreover exposing to them how unprepared they are for the ricochet. Be clear its not always a contentious conversation, but we go into it ready to pounce. There are just some fights we shouldn’t have to continue to have… but yet ALL my life I had to fight.
• • •
Another friend of mine moved her family to take a position that promised upward mobility, greater responsibility, and support in meeting her professional goals. Not very long into her position, she realized that while she was extremely qualified for the role, they had hit the jackpot by hiring a qualified, Black, female for this job. So many tokens earned off the one hire. And like a company that lack diversity and inclusionary policies, she soon realized she had jumped in a chlorinated pool of White tears and privilege. But Black girls put on a swim cap and a one-shoulder ruffled one piece… and swim. So after being questioned by one of her colleagues to the point of harassment, she had to “per my last email”, “to reiterate” and “kind regards” her way to Human Resources. If “Get this bitch the fuck off of me QUICK” was a person….
Understand… I can get her off of me, but neither of you will like how I do it. This is a professional environment, and if you want to keep this Eames chair and Steelcase desk you paid a thousand dollars for from sailing through the hallway at her big ass head, I suggest you be the one to remind her of where we are. For many Black women in the corporate space, the expectation to keep quiet and tolerate discrimination and bias; being overlooked and underpaid; having folks think they can touch or comment on our braids, natural hair, or African wax print blouse, or for that matter any parts of ourselves, is still a power play. But we often out work these clowns and are more educated and experienced, and know we can take our talents elsewhere… so it’s in a company’s best interest to ensure it’s slow are made fast and those of limited intellect are made whole. I mean there is always the parking lot… cuz All MY life I had to fight.
And just so we are clear, this is not necessarily a White v. Black issue, but a Supremacy & Privilege v. Black issue. There are some real self-hating Black people who align with the discrimination and anti-Black tactics in the workplace (and out). One of my former co-workers was often commented upon by a jealous hating ass Black woman in a management position, about her body. Sis is thick like Luke dancers, and this woman would ask her about having work done, what undergarments she wore, why her body was shaped that way, and why her clothes fit like they did. “Why is your body so big and your stomach so flat?”
See… I can’t even put into words how magnificently I would have burrowed myself so deep in her ass she’d have been defacating dance videos, candy corn, J. Alexander crab cakes, and Jordans for three months. But alas when this same old miserable cow attempted this line of similar foolishness with me, I let her know all bets were off in your neighborhood Spartan store… and there was nothing but space and opportunity outside the company gates. I was prepared to make her pay for all the Africans who sold slaves off the coast of Congo, and each of the “my name is Toby… the first time” slaves who readied young Sally with a lemongrass bath and a starched yellowed petticoat to Jefferson’s liking. While White folks are lynching us in the streets and in our homes while we sleep or watch tv, often there are a few folks that look like you who try to hang you by the rope they are dangling from. But nope… you can’t take me out. All my life I HAD TO fight.
• • •
So here we come full circle. As much as you shouldn’t try me, my kid is a war you don’t want… and don’t let it be a race war, I’m playing whack-a-mole with a frying pan. My kid had to be about five and his teacher, a substitute, called a group of Black boy children being a little disruptive… but it was KINDERGARDEN so there’s that… thugs. Yep, you read it right. THUGS. I picked him up, dedpite bring under the weather, and he told me immediately upon getting in the car. So I slid into a parking space, got my blanket and my box of tissues, and we proceeded to her classroom where I went off for for every wronged Black student since Ruby Bridges.
I inquired whether calling her, she was Arabic, brothers terrorists would be acceptable, or whether talking to her with a stereotypical “hiyact” or “ach” attached to English words would be offensive… as I sneezed, collected snot rags in my palm, and swaddled myself in the Spongebob blanket. She didn’t say much, and the couple in the room with us were chuckling when I was serious. I reminded her that boys and girls, young little ladies and young lads, or descendants of African Kings and Queens, was to be the extent if her name calling. She remarked she hadn’t said it to my son. “They are ALL my sons!” I exclaimed. Listen, I won’t bring you none, but don’t start none either! All my life I had to FIGHT.
Fight for respect from old, racist, crotch rotted Millys. Fight for my people against Donald and David and their lynchmob of good ole’ boys. Fight against Candaces and Condoleezas who were live and in living color Pecola Breedloves secretly hoping for blond hair and blue eyes to the point of being cultural turncoats. Fight against Karen and her group of Susans and their fragility and tears, while siccing their racist hounds upon us. See while fighting for a seat at the table or for the capital to buy our own table, against racism, for diversity and inclusion, against the “strong, Black, invincible” woman trope, we still gotta knuckle up against other humans. It’s exhausting, we tired. But trust, while my sister is about to go in with a hot 16 on dat ass, I’m always there to be her hype man, repeating the last word of every sentence, to let folks know, “Mrs Sophia home… and things are gonna change round here!”