They always tell themselves
“Smile, just be cool, everything’s fine, be nice...”
in their head
in front of us.
She looks like a Sharon.
She smiles and crosses her arms,
holding her purse
My husband sees it,
I see it.
When we turn around,
there is a peripheral view of her taking a few steps away.
As if she might catch his blackness.
As if she may suddenly crave collard greens and fried chicken, with the sweetest cornbread while the sounds of Mary J. Blige fill her car speakers with the anxiety of not knowing a single word of her music but assuming that for some reason it’s probably less playable BUT SHE CAN’T SHOW THAT cause it’s not polite to be racist!!
I see that.
It’s in the harsh “T” sounds
in the phone interview
on the phrase “That’s great.”
and the notably rude sigh, after my husband says
“Know what I’m sayin’?”
in reference to his college education history.
It’s the fact that during this interview, the interviewer/higher up reiterates the fact that he will be on camera at every angle when he works this little side janitor gig,
and when they hired me underneath him,
I receive fifty cents more per hour
as a high school drop out
Not once were cameras mentioned.
We are a beautiful couple,
but it’s not why people stare.
We are an attraction.
Our babies have afros and light brown skin.
“Mixed babies are so pretty”
versus the average family questions and comments.
Nobody knows how we met,
why we picked our kids names,
how long we’ve loved each other,
why we can’t live without each other.
No white people stand up for the lack of sensitivity, analysis, or consideration to the emotional/spiritual wellbeing of
I can see this piece in a magazine somewhere, your love for your husband, outrage at the what I call "casual/socially acceptable racism" that no one points out or that they think is just okay. I think people have this very definite version of what they believe racism to be, but they do not realize or are ever willing to first acknowledge the privilege inherently in being white. I will never live in fear because of the color of my skin. I don't deal with passing a police car and worrying if I will be pulled over, shot and all of that done because I somehow aggravated an officer and they were acting in "self defense". These are real things that are still so prevalent in the US, but people are content to say "we should treat everyone the same" instead of realizing the differences.
Your poem gives chills because so often it is in the little things! We need to realize this about ourselves and admit any prejudices we can work on instead of thinking we're okay because as long as we don't do this or that, we're fine. We're a decent human. It can be in simply flinching or looking twice if a person of color is close. One example I see often is in TV shows or ads, I've heard comments before that that person is being too loud or their hair is too uncontrolled. Even comments on Facebook. "Well if she handled that better". Holding people of color to an inhuman standard. Small things that are actually big. Small comments that seek to control people of color in those ways.
This is such an emotional and gutting piece, as usual, especially when you think of the concept of being seen as "an attraction" instead of knowing you and your family and your husband's story. Like you said, how you meet, all those beautiful journeys. Also in reading stories from biracial women, how often their identity is challenged, or they are questioned and feel like they have to explain or have this strong identity to both cultures. I cannot imagine how exhausting, or how isolating that would be if they would be questioned or invalidated simply for existing.
I don't think I've read anything on PnQ in the recent years as chilling and as honest as this:
"as if she might catch his blackness."
because sadly, terrifyingly, I still believe people believe this. I believe people, whether they realize how damaging and harmful this is or not, still hold on to the slightest notion that people of color are inferior.
And they don't entertain that idea in big, noticeable ways.
It's in the small (but still deadly) ways.
Ugh... baffles me how we can be proud of our country at this time. Or ever, really.