I met some friends for Karaoke one night for a birthday celebration. I walked into the bar alone. So, as I would do in any new space I observed my setting. Looking for exits, where are the bathrooms, best place to squeeze in at the bar, how many other black people are here? I saw one other black person. I didn’t know her but she was with the group I was joining, so cool. I find the familiar faces and make my way over to say hello. We figured out what songs we will perform and we prepared to be entertained. Not long after joining my group, a very drunk blonde white woman approaches me and tickled my belly. As I stand there, completely in shock she moves on to the lady standing beside me and tickled her belly too. We looked at each other in disbelief and asked each other, “Did that just happen”? As we both tried to process this, we both exclaimed, “What the hell”? I decided brown liquor is now necessary and I went to the bar. I came back and saw the drunk blonde had found the other black girl in the crowd. I decide that I would keep drunk blonde in my eye sight for the rest of the night. At that point, my black girl spidey sense had been activated.
What is black girl spidey sense? It is what I call my survival instinct. It allows me to start running through possible scenarios and there outcomes to determine when this situation will become untenable. Especially in mixed racial company particularly when you are the only black person or grossly out number. My black girl spidey sense increased to code “this shit ain’t cool” once drunk blonde approached me for the second time and asked “what is your name”? See, although she had been an equal opportunity nuisance she had taking a liking to the one other black girl at the bar and had circled back to me. I removed myself from the area because drunk people are not to be trusted. I performed a couple of tunes with my friends and continued to enjoy my evening. All the while keeping an eye on a potential Armitage.
The evening continues and we are having a good time. I continued to keep my eye out for drunk blonde and I saw her trying to remove the other black girl’s jacket. Home girl looked distressed but a friend came to her aid. Drunk blonde made her way back around to me. She placed both of hands on my shoulders and asked if I would dance with her. Now this is the second time she had touched me without my permission. I would be well within my rights to at minimum cuss her ass out and at max put hands on her. At this point, my black girl spidey sense has hit “time to go” status for my own safety. If I react aggressively in any way I can end up dead or at least in jail and this is how.
Scenario 1- I haul off and punch drunk blonde who had touched me twice already without my permission.
Outcome 1- Surveying the room, I will probably be stomped out. I might make it out of the bar but after being beaten; I stumble into the street and get hit by a car and die.
Alternative Octcome-1 just end up badly beaten and die.
Outcome 2-I make it out of the bar but encounter the police. The police arrest me for assault. The bail is set incredibly high and I can’t get out and have to sell my house for lawyer fees or be forced to take a plea deal and learn if orange really is the new black.
Alternative Outcome 2-As I am angry and emotional having just been in an altercation, I encounter the police but the police interpret my disposition as an act of aggression and shot me and I die.
Scenario 2- I cuss her ass out!
Outcome 1- I am an anger black bitch. Although I have been basically assaulted twice none of that matters because this is just how black girls are. Stone her!!
Outcome 2-Repeat all outcome from scenario 1
I know this sounds crazy but this is exactly what I thought about in a split second. I put my hands on her shoulders, looked directly in her drunk eyes and exclaimed, “LEAVE ME ALONE!!” Then I forcefully but not aggressively, moved her away from me. It was for my own safety and survival. She probably didn’t remember anything the next morning but this just reminds me that I am black. The rules are different for me. That somehow I have to be in survival mode even at a bar while doing karaoke with friends. Sometimes I have to be in survival mode at the grocery store or at work. It becomes so natural that you do not realize that you are computing if then statements in your head at Warp speed. To not lose your job, not get killed by the police or be dismissed as just being an anger black bitch for defending yourself. No matter how righteous you are in any scenario.
This is why events in Charlottesville, VA did not surprise me. I was called a nigger for the first time, at least to my face, by a classmate when I was in the 5th grade. I have dealt with hatred for a very long time. He was taught to hate. He was taught that he was superior to me. I knew he wasn’t but it still hurt. Drunk blonde had no awareness of how our interaction could lead to my death. Or, how I had to factor that into my response of her harassing me. I was just someone there to entertain her. Did she know how a society that thinks it is superior to me would react to my protecting myself or exercising my rights as a citizen? Her privilege affords her the freedom to not know. While I can pay with my life for not paying attention.
So denouncing radical racism is cool but what would be better is recognizing your overall participation in a racist society. Politicians and CEO’s quoting Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela on social media posts are nice but they are treating the symptoms. Stop supporting policies that negatively affect people of color. Stop voting for the people that do. Stop moving out of the neighborhood when a few black people move in. Support school zoning changes that will allow all kids an opportunity to get a quality education. Start hiring people of color, women and LGBTQ people who are qualified candidates and pay them as much as white males. Invest in communities of color and low income communities not just participate in gentrifying them. Get to know people of a different race, gender, social economic status, or cultural upbringing than your own. Learn our history. Accept our history. Do not repeat our history. See color! Acknowledge your bias. Check your bias. Allow us to access the opportunities that you have all been benefiting from since the dawn of this country. Mostly, at the expense of my ancestors. Don’t get drunk and harass the only black people in the bar. Know that doing so could lead to their deaths.