A Black History Month Epiphany
I recently posted about an unfortunate incident I had at a local Houston restaurant that had me re-thinking some of the choices I have made in the name of not looking “bad.” One of the things I mentioned in my “Jim Crow in Houston” post was that I would go out of my way to tip bad servers because I did not want them to treat the next Black person bad due to my behavior. I have heard so much lately from persons in the service industry regarding their dislike for serving Black customers. It led me to believe it was my mission to prove them wrong. I wanted them to see that we don’t all fit the stereotype, and, therefore, we should be treated with respect. Despite how poor- or non-existent- the service was, I wanted to leave the impression that the prejudice was unfair and Black customers should receive the same treatment as other customers.
The experience that I shared in my previous post, however, showed me how simple-minded my thinking was. Leaving a tip for bad service was not going to sway a server who may have entrenched discrimination against an entire people. This event led me to the conclusion that it is really okay to be me. People are going to think what they want to think based upon their perceptions. No matter how big I tip, or how often I would tip bad servers so they wouldn’t take it out on the next Black couple, was of no consequence. Prejudiced servers will continue to look at you as less deserving of basic human respect.
With this epiphany now at the forefront, I have decided that you don’t have to hide your true self based upon who is in the room. It is okay to just eat the fried chicken and the watermelon. I use this example literally and metaphorically, because I often hear Black people lament about not wanting to fit a stereotype, so they won’t eat certain food in the company of others. Let me put your mind- my mind- at ease. What you eat, what you wear, how you speak, the letters behind your name, etc. are irrelevant to someone whose thought process is set on believing you are nothing more than a stereotype. The same people you are walking around on eggshells for are going to think what they want to think regardless of what you do.
You don’t have to live your life to be seen as the one who is “different,” “the exception to the rule,” “not like the others,” or the host of other things non-Black persons say to make us think we are some how special. Just relax and enjoy your life. Maybe your “fried chicken and watermelon” is not speaking up for fear of being called the “angry Black Woman,” or pretending you like hockey but you would rather play basketball. Whatever the case may be, Say, “Yes,” to your fried chicken and follow it up with a big sweet piece of watermelon and a smile. After all, if they want to eat it, they are not going to deprive themselves for you.