Be aware. A joke to you may not be a joke to someone else.
A few days ago this was going to be a completely different post. I am glad I did not make the time to write that post because then I’d have to write what would be considered a retraction.
Growing up somehow I never saw myself as different from my peers. Even though my skin was noticeably darker and my hair was never loose, long and flowing. Not until I entered the adult world was I reminded how different I was. I was not only different from majority but I also had a hard time with the minority. Since I am married to a white man and our children are surface level white, that never “helps”. I will get followed in stores by loss prevention. The look of surprise that crosses people’s faces when I introduce myself as The Boy or Baby Girl’s mother. And I will get told I am not “black enough” since I question what made Obama such a great President and I do not believe Oprah or Beyonce are the greatest things since sliced bread.
Professionally, I have dealt with comments indicating that that is what black people do; they steal. And the suspicious person who is only suspicious because he is black; you know, you can tell he does not belong here.
I swallow this. All of these years I have swallowed all of it. Mostly because I refuse to fall into the trap of “Angry Black Woman”. I know a lot of people expect me to react a certain way to things just because of the color of my skin. If nothing nothing I want to show the uneducated and ignorant how ignorant and uneducated they are.
Of all of the things I have dealt with throughout my life I had never been the butt of joke.
It was hurtful, thoughtless and insensitive.
At first I laughed. That is my reaction most times. My laughter was not at the joke but at how inappropriate the joke was from two white people towards a black woman. At first, I thought it was just me being a little sensitive. As the day went on and I told more people their reaction was similar. I think it even made others uncomfortable when the “joke” was explained.
Later that night I spoke to my parents. They are the only people in my life that look like me and could remotely understand how hurtful this was. While I confided in my husband as well, he does not know what it is like to be a black person in a white world. I tell him the things that happen to me, or that are said around me and I know he empathizes. Even though my husband does not understand entirely what it is like he provided me with the most insight. He helped me see that what was done was not out of malice; they were not trying to be mean – they were just clueless. While what was done was completely inappropriate, they maybe felt comfortable enough around me to make such a joke. A joke they would not have made around another black person they did not know as well. I went to bed that night much calmer about the whole situation; a little less hurt. Knowing that a conversation would need to be had about how inappropriate and thoughtless the “joke” was. And how a text message “I’m Sorry” does not absolve anyone.
Two days later I finally answered the one person’s text message – accepting their apology and thanking them for it. Never saying “it’s okay” because it’s not. On that same day, a bouquet of flowers were delivered to me at work. The flowers were from the two individuals who made the joke. They were sorry. I think they realized what they did. I thanked them both for the flowers also indicating they did not need to do that. Hoping they learned to be a little more sensitive to those around them.
I sent a photo of the flowers and the card to my father. And his initial response was one word, THERE. A few hours later it was followed up with:
“What started as and could have ended very ugly became this beautiful flower. They say it’s a mark of spiritual evolution—to turn something negative into a positive.”My Dad
At first, I thought my father was a little disappointed that I did not make a bigger deal out of this (because I most certainly could have). That night my mother told me that my father was really proud of me and the way I handled the whole thing.
I want to say that this event will not change me or the relationship I have with these people. But it will. The “joke” was about something that as a black woman we struggle with a lot to begin with.
The moral of this story is to not only be aware of the “jokes” you are making. But also be aware of your reactions to things. Knee-jerk reactions usually don’t work out so well in the end. Take your time; think about it, talk to people. Let your emotions settle.