If I Did That Sh*t!
My wife and I play a game we like to call, “If I did that sh*t!” (Note: When saying the name of the game, you have to elongate the “I” for emphasis. Like “IIIII...”). It’s a game that I’m sure is played in a lot of Black households. The rules are this: Come home from work, talk about your day amongst the wypipo, making note of all of the incongruities. Then you proclaim, “If I did that sh*t...” and list out all of the consequences that would occur if a Black person were to do the same sh*t wypipo do. At work, the outcomes can range from being reprimanded by HR to being fired. (If you think about it, it’s a scientific exploration about the existence and nature of alternate realities. Ha! Just kidding! It’s about racism. Pure and simple.)
For example, a few years ago I worked with a very dear friend of mine. She told me a story of how she had been in a big meeting. The kind that involves a big, wooden, conference table. Everyone was going around the table, having their say on whatever subject befits a large, wooden, table. (Maybe it was about a bigger, wooden table. Who knows?) When it was her turn, before giving her input, my friend pointed out that the fact that she was the only woman in the room, was a problem. All of the white men nodded thoughtfully, stroking their long, luxurious, beards. (They prolly didn’t have long, luxurious, beards, but that’s what I imagined.) They agreed. This was indeed a problem. While I admired my friend's conviction, as soon as I got home I played, “If I did that sh*t!” with my wife.
First of all, I work in advertising, which is an industry that is only about 6% Black. If I pointed out the number of times I’m the “only one” in a room, my pointer finger would become arthritic. (Not sure how arthritis works.) Secondly, as soon as I exclaimed, “The fact that I’m the only Black person in this room, is a problem!”, everything would immediately and completely, shut down. There would be no approving nods of agreement that something should be done. There would only be silence and awkwardness. Somebody named Steve would inevitably declare, “This is not about race! Not everything is about race!” Then, somebody named Susan would burst into tears, because Susan always bursts into tears. I would be labeled “aggressive”, because I made a room full of white folx uncomfortable, (But let's face it, it's mostly because I made Susan cry.) HR would call me in to have a conversation about my attitude and want me to sign a piece of paper, that I wouldn’t sign, but they would put in my file anyway. In the end, I would never again be invited to meetings with big, wooden tables.
Which might be fine. I’m not a fan of big, wooden table kinds of meetings
(And for the record Steve, EVERYTHING is about race!)
It all boils down to the fact that very often, wypipo are quick to believe the worst about us. That we are either loud, lazy, stupid or dangerous. That any mistakes we make are not simple errors, but are truly deep-seated character flaws. This is the true reason the prisons are filled with people who look just like me. It is the reason why people who look like my son are constant victims of a real-life first person shooter, with just as much regard when they are killed.
And white folks, if you’re honest with yourselves, you know what you truly think about Black people. You know it and we know it. Black folks are acutely aware of how they are being perceived, while they are perceiving. (W.E.B. Dubois called it double-consciousness).
Even if you don’t want to admit what you truly think, it comes through plainly in your actions and the choices you make. Why you choose to live where you live for example. You tell yourselves that you want to be in a space that is comfortable and safe. But spaces that are comfortable and safe to some, are the same spaces where others can get arrested.
Two Black men can do the exact same thing that wypipo do everyday, and it will result in their arrest. The ultimate scenario in the game of, “If I did that sh*t!”. Though if I had proposed, “If I sit quietly in a Starbucks, waiting on my friend, I would prolly get arrested.”, my wife would have said, “Don’t be ridiculous. Play the game right!"
And yet here we are.
The Starbucks incident validates what’s at the core of the “If I did that sh*t!” game. Blacks and Whites occupy the same space and time but for all intents and purposes, they are on two different planes of reality. White people though, often deny that the Black plane of reality even exists. They maintain that things didn’t happen quite like Black people describe them, that we are being hyperbolic or that Black folks are suffering from some mass delusion. That is until recently, when the world was confronted with the actual footage of it happening. Two Black men were arrested for the exact same thing white people were doing, in the exact same space, at the exact same time. Something Black folks have experienced and talked about for years, was captured and tweeted for the world to see.
The interesting thing is, if I look at my social media feeds, my Black friends have been all a-buzz about the news, while most of my white friends are relatively silent about it. The story has occupied a great deal of space in my own mind and the discussion in my home, but when I get to work, there isn’t a peep about it.
Like I said. Two different realities.
I told my wife I wanted to write about it. She said, “You can write about it but don’t post it. Whatever you post on the internet will follow you around forever and it might end up biting you in the ass.”
She’s absolutely right. ‘Cuz if I did that sh*t...