With the amount of daily microaggressions we deal with alone, navigating life as a Black person in the U.S. is like navigating a minefield.
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I am currently in Las Vegas for my annual 4/20 trip with my girlfriends. My friend group is made up of Black women who are all extremely successful in their fields. We like to spoil ourselves from time to time with a lavish Vegas vacation that includes an incredible hotel suite, plenty of room service, lots of fine dining and ample time spent drunk in front of the pool.
I was eagerly awaiting this vacation up until the day it arrived, because I had been working nonstop leading up to that point (when you work for yourself as a freelancer/contractor, there are really no days off), and that excitement only intensified when my sister dropped me off at the airport, which in and of itself was a blessing, because dropping off or picking up anyone from LAX is a sign of true love.
This day should have been drama and carefree for me. I was on the way to Vegas, baby! Me and my friends were planning a lot of drunk and high shenanigans in a town with recreational cannabis. The short, 38 minute flight from L.A. to Vegas should have been uneventful.
When I got to the airport, I checked my bag (don’t laugh, but I always check a bag because I always have at least two outfit choices for each day) and made my way to the TSA checkpoint so I could be scanned and approved for my flight (seriously, remind me to get TSA Pre-Check, because I am tired of dealing with gen pop in these situations, and you will see why in a moment).
There was a small line when I got to the first part of the TSA checkpoint, where an agent looks to make sure you actually have a boarding pass for a current departing flight before letting you into the screening area. As I waited for my turn, I was going through my phone to open up my boarding pass. A white woman and her older white companion came rushing up to where I was standing and began pressing their way in front of me.
I said, very calmly, “Oh, excuse me.” I reached in front of her and showed the TSA agent (who was also Black) my boarding pass. The TSA agent chuckled in that way that Black ladies do with one another when we notice a microaggression and want to acknowledge it to each other without saying it out loud. I said to her, “I mean, she saw me standing here, right?”
The white woman immediately loses her shit. She starts going off about how I have an attitude and I have a problem with other people. I am not at all interested in what she has to say, so I turn and walk away, making my way into the queue for further screening.
This bitch follows behind me, walking almost on my heels, still talking shit about me. She’s saying that I’m crazy, and I have a problem and a bad attitude, and all kinds of crazy shit I don’t want to listen to, so I turn to her and say, “Lady, you saw me standing there before you.”
“Yeah,” she says, “But you were looking at your phone.”
“To get my boarding pass,” I retorted. “Stop fucking talking to me.”
I again turn and walk away from her. She begins following behind me again for a few beats, then loudly says to her companion “Let’s get away from her before she does something crazy.”
Where in that scenario was I the aggressor? Each time I tried to end the interaction and go about my business, she followed me to continue it.
Please know that the entire time this was going on, no one batted an eye. No one cared that a white woman was following behind a Black woman, basically trying to start an argument or worse, a fight.
Now imagine if the situation were reversed. Imagine if I had fed into it, turned on her, started yelling, cussing her out and talking shit. That situation would have ended entirely differently, I promise you.
Let’s begin with the fact that airports are essentially federal property. Now I’m looking at LAPD and federal officers questioning me, a Black woman, about why I am attacking this poor white woman. Meanwhile, no one cared when she was antagonizing me. It’s something that I am always expected to just suck up.
That story is but one example. Multiply it by multiple incidents over the course of a day, and you can imagine how much my tongue is bleeding from biting it at the end of each night. And to be honest, I don’t always bite it, but even when I do respond, I still have to be mindful that my response does not lead to an escalation that results in police or security or anyone being called to defend the honor of the white person involved. It’s exhausting.
I think about the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and how there were many members of the GOP who walked out of her confirmation ceremony in an intentional sign of disrespect. And let’s not forget the way they attempted to smear her record with their horrible questions. Then I think about the fact that she would never be able to respond in kind, because she would immediately be deemed “unprofessional” (and to be clear, the idea of “professionalism is entirely a racist construct, but we’ll get more into that at a later time). As I watched video clips of that happening, I felt exhausted for her, because we are definitely in a position where even when we are winning, on some level, we are still losing where white people are concerned.
Nothing we do is ever good enough. We can have all the qualifications in the world and still be deemed “not qualified enough,” or more grossly, be called an “affirmative action” hire as if affirmative action hasn’t actively benefitted more white women than anyone else.
It is at once frustrating and exhausting. Everything we do is overanalyzed. Long after Black people stopped talking about “the slap,” white people kept it going, because analyzing the behavior of Black people and comparing us to each other or lumping us all together has become sport. We are like museum exhibits, or, in the eyes of some, zoo animals, to be pondered over and analyzed every step of the way as if taking their eyes off of us for even one second will lead to disaster.
I would love for once to go through my day without someone making assumptions about me simply because of the skin I occupy.
I am a Black woman of a certain age who loves trips to Vegas, fancy dinners, cute swimwear and fashionable outfits. I just want to be left alone to slang my words like dope, spend my money the way I see fit, do ratchet and bougie shit with my friends, and live my best fucking life.
I don’t want to have to worry about white people policing me, trying to “put me in my place,” being suspicious of me simply because I am Black and taking every opportunity to foist their opinions or their “advice” on me.
Again, I’ve only noted some of the more frequent grievances that I have, but I promise you the list is much longer.
I’m just refraining from laying it all out here right now in this moment because then y’all will want to ask why we are always complaining.
The answer is: Because.
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