The question is, what will you choose and how will it impact others?
“But why do you go into that store Mummy, they always treat you badly”.
My mixed-race daughters’ words were ringing in my ears as I entered the perfume store. Before I even had a moment to respond, the stern-looking white sales assistant with a nasty smirk on her face glanced in my direction. She didn’t need words to make me feel unwelcome.
“Actually, I don’t know why. As a Black woman, I guess I’m just so used to being treated badly, so I just suck it up, put up with the racial microaggressions and racism, get what I want and get out of there”. I responded.
“I’ll never do that. I’ll demand that they treat me properly”, my mixed-race daughter responded.
The sales assistant was now standing a few meters away, pretending to re-arrange the perfume bottles on display. She glanced over again, eyeing me disdainfully from head to toe. It made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like buying anything anymore, I turned around and left.
As we continued walking down the pedestrian street, I tried to shake off the bad experience. I wasn’t going to let that incident spoil my day with my lovely girl.
As we chatted, I began to feel better. We entered an eyeglasses store. My daughter had slept on her glasses the night before and they were all crooked. I hadn’t been able to find the warranty and besides, I didn’t know if it would cover that type of scenario. I showed the smiling white sales assistant the glasses, and she asked when we had purchased them.
“Less than a year ago,” I shared.
“So they are still covered by the warranty, let me see what I can do”, she smiled.
“But this isn’t a fault of the glasses. She inadvertently slept on them”, I said.
“Oh not to worry, we have these scenarios all the time”.
She was genuinely kind and not racist. My anxiety subsided. I had been so worried about having to navigate this scenario on my own without my white husband and his white privilege to protect us from racism.
The lady came back with the glasses fully fixed. She beamed happily because she had been able to fix them.
“You’re a magician”, I exclaimed contentedly.
I was happy because she’d fixed the glasses but also because she had been kind to us. When you’re Black, you never know what to expect. Even if you are entitled to good service, you sometimes simply don’t receive it.
“Oh it’s my job, I’m glad to help,” she exclaimed jubilantly.
My daughter and I left the store with huge smiles on our faces. I felt relieved, one of the largest hurdles of my day had been removed. I hadn’t had to face an embarrassing and troubling racist incident at that store.
We went to grab some bubble tea — we knew that no one was racist at that tea parlor. In fact, that is why we always go to it. After that, we picked up some sushis — here again, we knew the place, we knew the staff, we knew that we would be safe from racial microaggressions and blatant racism.
You see, that is how we live. We seek out places where we won’t have to deal with the mental trauma of racism. Once in a while — like was the case for the perfume store I mentioned earlier, I renounce that safety because I really want to purchase a particular item. In those cases, I put on my racism bulletproof vest and repeat over and over in my mind that nothing will get to be. Sometimes this technique works and sometimes it doesn’t.
This is how to feels to live while Black. You’re always mentally alert because you do not know how any random person you interact with over the course of the day is going to treat you. It’s simply exhausting and anxiety-inducing. I could write volumes about how I plan my days, and my life to avoid racism. I feel like I can never fully relax — except in the privacy of my home or with very close friends.
I still wake up to face each day with gratitude and gusto. Despite the behaviors of racist individuals, I know that I am entitled to be on this planet like everyone else. So, I appreciate it each day, knowing fully well that it is only a matter of time before most of the people on earth will be some shade of brown, like my lovely daughter. I am convinced that we will soon get there, I’m not ever giving up on that.
Thank you for reading my perspective.