Being a smooth caramel Werthers Original amongst a bunch of tic tacs fucking sucks.
I’ve said a million times that I grew up in a white suburban community, always the only one. Sometimes I liked it, I like being the only one, chosen, unique, rare. I hated it for the same reason.
Imagine being followed through Doc’s and Super H and the old Walmart on 91st and Memorial because you weren’t recognized yet. Mama told me that the first years of us living in Bixby was just that; being followed through stores.
Imagine old people stopping you, asking to touch your hair, and them saying in front of you like you can’t even hear that you’re pretty for a little black girl. Imagine believeing that it’s a compliment. Or having to accept that it’s the best compliment you can receive. By the way, for some unspoken reason, apparently we have to let you touch our hair.
There’s an implication behind it.
My parents grew up in North Tulsa and made the decision to raise the three of us thirty minutes south of all my cousins and those thirty minutes were two different worlds that I am uncomfortably squeezed between. They wanted us safe, they wanted us away from drugs, and they wanted us in a great school district in a nice house. Guess what, my brothers weren’t always safe, I bought my drugs from white kids, some of your sons, but I love where I grew up.
I remember hearing my parents discuss random encounters they had with white people, some often negative, some positive. They sat us down to watch Roots, The Color Purple, Malcolm X, and we listened to all things black music. They didn’t want us to forget what used to happen and what can happen to us. They would always protect us, and part of their protection was reminding us constantly that we lived in a very nice house surrounded by a snake pit. Some won’t bite, some will; some bites are poisonous, some aren’t. Either way, they feel entitled to bite, will if they feel like it, and there’s very little we can do about it aside from steer clear.
I’m not afraid of being bitten, never have.
I became a snake charmer.
By the time I was ten, I knew how to make people feel comfortable around me despite my dark skin that DOES sunburn so stop asking, my kinky hair that stayed molested until I grew the voice to make it stop, and my ‘sassy’ attitude. I learned quickly that most old white people liked my imitations of black actors, so I created a spot on Bill Cosby impersonation that has obviously evolved to a very, very dark joke at this point.
I’m not sassy, I’m dry and sarcastic like my Daddy, have a silver tongue like Mama, and have read enough books to know how to be profane without using the go-to words my inner dialogue learned by the time I was seven.
Now that I have children of my own, I find myself aware of the anxiety involved with sleepovers. My parents lost sleep allowing me to be a regular kid, staying the night at the homes of parents they only knew from softball. They made me watch A Time to Kill and explained to me that if something were to happen to me, the only justice would come from them so to always come to them before the police.
Yeah, any of yall’s parents talk to you about this? By the way, I remember every last one of you guys who told me that your dad said you couldn’t stay over at a black person’s house. TWO neighbors down the street living across from us, coincidently living across the street from each other had daughters who weren’t allowed to play with me because I was black. And we are Facebook friends.
I had to learn super early in life that people just don’t get it and I have to accept it.
Then there were the parents who accepted me as their own. There were WAY more of them. I sat with families when their Granny died because she was my granny too. I sat with my friends when their parents announced their divorce, because I was their kid too. I got grounded with my friends as well.
Not all people are bad, and that’s why I’m not so bitter, or as bitter as I could be. I am loved by so many people and always will be. I’m rare, I’m special, unique. My college instructors see that, and have supported me in ways beyond their job descriptions. They remind me to keep writing, and I’m forever grateful.
But what about those who people don’t see what they saw in me? What about when being nonracist becomes harder than it usually is?
It’s easy to share and shame online. It’s easy to condemn from your devices.
I’ve been navigating white world my whole life because I know of its vast connection and power. I’ve been careful to stay out of too much trouble, and use my emergency white girl voice when needed. I smile and dole heavy blankets of politeness to the elderly and make sure my boys do as well. I don’t let anyone touch their hair anymore, and the only one touching my hair now is my dude. One of the reasons I left my husband is because one of his golf buddies was actively racist and he had no problem continuing their relationship.
No one’s saying I’m anything “for a black girl” anymore, but I still have to be charming. When I know I’m being used for something I don’t agree in, I stop immediately regardless of who it is.
I’m tired of being charming, entertaining, safe. Especially to a group of people who find my need for equality entertaining. This isn’t entertaining for me, my feelings get hurt, I cry about this a lot. All my words are worth are likes? Fuck that. It’s insulting.
My snake pit has vastly expanded since my childhood but it’s still just as dangerous. I may not have as many out there to bite me, but I have a lot who are just watching and allowing the destruction to continue.
This is why segregation still exists, even in Fort Smith. We still aren’t safe in your company. How many black people are working in your place of business? How many of your kids even know what’s happening right now? How many of your kids know the real meaning behind the word “nigger”, and why it’s much more offensive than any word they can use?
As much as I’m around people and out and about, I’m lucky the worst thing that’s ever happened to me so far is being thrown into a window. Maybe the outcome of that is the sign that I don’t belong, just like Jackie the Tanning Lady feels about black men and luxury cars. By the way, don’t ask me about that. Don’t even bring it up to me because if you wanted to do something then, it would have happened back when it happened.
Thanks again, Fort Smith for reminding me of the day my mother told me that no one here will protect me if I need it, so be prepared to get hurt and stay strong. I thought she was being petty back then, but she was right. Don’t tell her I said that.
But at least you guys have nothing to worry about, you just get to like, share, and be safe and wait for another person to be murdered, or another friend of yours calls someone a nigger. But for real, it sucks to be black around y’all right now. Cheers.