Recently, I was immersed in deep dialogue about race, class, and gender and the word microaggressions came up. I sat quietly waiting for examples because I secretly didn’t quite understand the exact meaning. It turns out; I’ve experienced a shit load of microaggressions in my life. Too many to count.
Drifting in and out of the conversation, my internal monologue rapidly filled with word clouds spewing out words that made no sense. I consciously attempted to quiet the words. Bottled up emotions began to come to the surface. I can hear myself explaining away misconceptions of my character.
I’m standing at a crossroad in my life. My 20 something-year-old self would’ve laughed off misconceptions about my character. Now, thirty years later, I’m laughing with a different sense of humor. Sort of a, who the hell do you think you’re messing with laughter. I’m referring to a laughter that’s a natural defense to avoid snapping or going completely bananas.
Here are three I experience regularly:
When I talk about my experiences, there’s an assumption my opinion represents all African-American women.
When more than one of us black folks are in conversation, there’s an assumption we’re up to no good. It’s inevitable, we will be interrupted with, “How’s it going,” “Everything ok,” “What ya’ll up to?” Or checking the status of a project that wasn’t hot a few minutes before.
When I don’t have a super big smile, I have an attitude problem. There’s no room for a neutral face. <insert side-eye>
As I process and digest some of the intense and open dialogue, I can’t help but think about conversations with my mom. She had the ability to talk about her microaggressions without much emotion. At the time, we didn’t know the word exist. My mom would add a comical twist to the conversation. I’m sure it’s where I get it from.
The most powerful story I heard in my life was when my mom talked about her good friend, the white girl. She said growing up in Mississippi, they played and talked for hours. They treated one another with respect. It was innocent. Color took a back seat.
From the moment my mom and her best friend turned 18, their friendship would forever change. My mom’s friend needed to be addressed with a proper salutation. Her white friend had more power and needed to be treated as such.
My mom wasn’t naïve to racial differences. Her bond with her good friend simply felt safe and authentic. They were just two girls defying prejudices surrounding their world.
My mom reluctantly ended the friendship because she continued to be addressed by her first name, while her friend became a Miss. Society told good friends their lives and experiences will never match as women. Their womanhood took dramatically different paths.
When I think about microaggressions, it’s not difficult to get upset. I want to take the word and stomp it until it disintegrates into the earth.
I survive, survive, and survive!
Living life is easy being me. Living life with integrity is easy. Living life with my head held high is easy. I’m just me.
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