Last night I had this “dream” where I was at work and everyone was in the breakroom…One of my white coworkers casually used the word “ghetto” when describing something…. I sighed and began to explain my problem with them using that word…. How as a Black man navigating in predominately white spaces I never feel comfortable. The struggle of being pro-Black and reading about incredibly anti-Black occurrences on the daily yet having to come to work and avoid any conversations concerning social issues because I’m afraid one of my white coworkers will say something racist unknowingly to me and I now must reconsider my relationship with this person. That I have to avoid getting to know their personal lives…Their opinions and thoughts…in fear I will experience microaggressions and find out I work with racists…..
That I leave the workplace and have to do all that is within my power to avoid interaction with police DAILY to the point I rather not have a car because I’ve been pulled over multiple times for being Black and had to do jail time as a result, almost losing my job…That even when I’m not driving I’ve been approached by police while standing at a bus stop because “I looked suspicious” or “fit a profile”….That in pursuing a role in activism I fear being tracked and monitored and when my Wi-Fi gets sluggish I wonder if I’m being hacked. Just for spreading truth to my people. I avoid going to clubs and bars to avoid putting myself in a situation that will land me in jail knowing statistically I can get sentenced longer than my white counterpart or be killed before being put in cuffs. I must analyze my every move knowing my whole life story will be put on the news to demonize me so sway the public to care less about my death.
I’ve watched friends go to jail for charges a good lawyer that they couldn’t afford would’ve got dropped. I then must watch those same people sell drugs or other activities to feed their family. I begin to explain to them the privilege that comes with being white…. That they can say things like “…yeah racism is bad…. but wha’cha gonna do? It sucks” … then go their entire lives as per usual. I start to explain how my people’s history has been manipulated and slowly erased.
How we know about Hitler and the Holocaust but nothing about Cecil Rhodes and his genocide of African people. I then go into the many ways my people face discrimination even down to our hair and I probably wouldn’t have gotten this particular job if I had dreads or a ‘fro due to the antiblackness of looking “professional”. I tear up as I tell them whenever racism is discussed people want to pull up an outdated three sentence definition written by white men DURING the American Chattel Slave Trade and then go on to say “Everybody has it bad….
Get over it” …..
The lack of representation when my people look on TV and the big screen and find it hard to see ourselves…. That our kids are subconsciously being taught to view anything dark as evil and anything white as pure…. That the word “ghetto” in itself is classist and racist. That the fact they even feel comfortable saying that around me shows their ignorance and makes me wonder how do they view me. Am I “Not like those other Black people?” Because if that’s what they think I want them to know I stand for all Black people. I represent them and they represent me and we all should be treated the same.
That it saddens me knowing my people must tiptoe around white people so we don’t make our race “look bad” …. We fear opportunities being snatched from us the moment we make white people uncomfortable. I tell them it took me a long time to love myself and feel comfortable with who I am because of the circumstances I’ve been through which coincidentally can be traced back to the tactics used to oppress my people. Me growing up in poverty wasn’t a coincidence. Seeing my people fight each other for scraps isn’t a coincidence.
That white people feeling comfortable in stealing other people’s culture and monetizing it isn’t an isolated occurrence. I tell them their insensitivity and lack of concern for learning the history in order the change the future tells me a lot and if they TRULY cared about me and my people they would use their positions of privilege to make a difference. Because one day……just one day……I would like to feel comfortable. All my people would……I broke down in tears in front of them. When I woke up from this “dream” ……
The tears were still there
Ironically, there should be something along the lines of “Self-Care” time off options for minorities at the workplace while dealing emotionally with acts of racism and civil unrest. Some of us are deeply affected by the stories and images we ingest and/or have family in those areas and having to navigate this country dealing with the realities that everyday isn’t promised when some nut can randomly shoot people due to their personal prejudices. We can fall back from social media, try to distract ourselves but then there’s the whole being at work and holding it all in around people who aren’t specifically affected But as I said, ironically, this would mean that people would have to admit that Black people and POC aren’t the source of racism. Which in itself has been a task for the majority to admit.