The Involuntary Black Representative
Tonight I went to my condo complex’s holiday party, where a 61-year-old White, Conservative lawyer who grew up in New York City struck up a semi-drunk conversation with me.
This engagement is happening on the heels of a breakdown I recently had in a meeting with my boss, where I ugly-girl cried while questioning if the work I was doing every day was aligned with my spiritual purpose.
If you are Black and reading this, I don't have to explain this to you. But for everyone else, here is a community secret that can no longer be kept:
Being Black looks cool AF, but this sh*t is EXHAUSTING.
When you are Black and move in environments where there aren't a lot of people that look like you, i.e., school, work, parties, neighborhoods, you often serve as a representative for the whole ass Black community.
Age is irrelevant, whether you are 6 or 60, you are often interviewed with the diligence of Barbara Walters, while being asked some of the wildest, most inappropriate questions that you have EVER heard in your life.
This can be tiresome.
Especially if you are WOC like me, who grew up in a homogenous neighborhood in San Diego, underrepresented in her classes, cheer squads, sports teams, and social clubs. This theme extends into adulthood, where the classroom was replaced with the conference room and the social clubs with media representation.
When you are identified as "the representative," usually, people start letting the chopper spray. However, at tonight's holiday party, this gentleman (let's call him Roger) began the interview with a brand of energy that I've never experienced before. I was intrigued.
I guess that's why instead of going Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez on him, I chose the spirit animal of Iyanla Vanzant, and in the effort of unpacking this experience, I am sharing a transcript of the trigger points. Enjoy.
The Interview Begins
Roger: You know, even though I'm a 61-year-old White, Conservative Republican, I've always been captivated by black culture. I still remember when Ali fought Foreman in the middle of the night. The world stopped. I bought a ticket to see it in the movie theater. This was before cable, you know.
Me: If I could go back in time and see one historical event, it would be an Ali fight.
Roger: You know, Ali and Malcolm X stopped talking over that guy who was sleeping with young girls. But I still like Malcolm X. Have you ever heard of this book called, The Autobiography of Malcolm X?
Me: I read it when I was 9.
Roger: (whispering) Can I ask you a question, and I really am just genuinely curious.
Roger: I just heard something similar about R Kelly, is that true?
Me: Yes, there is a whole docu-series on Lifetime about how he emotionally, financially and physically abused young girls and married them too. He's sick.
Roger: :starts rapping misogynistic NWA lyrics:
Roger: I love rap music but how could YOU love it by how they talk about you.
Me: Toxic masculinity is a problem in hip-hop that is being addressed as we speak. It's called “cancel culture”. One asshole at a time. But I mean, Harvey Weinstein isn't too different. Neither is Bill Cosby.
Roger: I can't believe they locked him up when he was such a positive role model for the Black community, but R Kelly is still free.
Me: Bill Cosby is sitting in jail because unlike R Kelly, Bill Cosby chose White women. R Kelly picked young Black girls.
Me: EXACTLY. Not even you, until right now.
Roger: So I guess you buy into this idea of "white privilege"?
Me: It's not an idea. It's a reality. If it weren't, there would be more people that looked like me at this party, on tv, and in my son's classroom. Actually, this whole ass conversation is white privilege.
Roger: I see that now. I'm sorry.
Roger: Can I ask you another question? You seem so articulate, do you have your Masters?
Me: Roger, that's white privilege too.
Roger: Tell me what I don't know from now on, please.
Me: Oh, I will.
Roger: So, I've seen you around here, but you never wear heels. You said you were from California right? Are you gay?
Me: No, I work in sneakers, and I happen to love them.
Roger: Wow. What happened to you as a child that made you abandon your femininity?
Me: Nothing happened to me, I was born like this. What made you abandon your humanity to vote for Donald Trump?
Roger: I'm still figuring it out, but I'm a card-carrying member of the orange man's club.
Me: He waged war against the same black culture that captivates you though.
Roger: I know. Especially black men. I grew up in New York City in the seventies, when Harlem was a safe place to be. I liked being there but never understood why it was that so many black men left their families? Do you know?
Me: Well, there’s a two-part answer to that question.
There are a lot of black men who leave their families. It creates a lot of abandonment in the black community. And It’s generational suicide. It happens.
There’s also the THOUSANDS of black men who have been RIPPED from their families, LEAVING the single family homes that you’re referencing now. By people such as the police, COINTELPRO, the government, the prison system, their neighbors and white Conservative men that you sit next to every day.
Roger: I never thought about it that way.
Me: We don't think about a lot of things.
Roger: Good talking to you, I've got to hurry up and meet my girlfriend for dinner. She's Puerto Rican and gets fiery when I'm late.
Me: Til next time, stay curious.