“Everywhere I go and every day of my life, I am reminded that I am Black—the you-don’t-belong stares; the being stalked while shopping; the getting pulled over, for no apparent reason; the expectation that I speak for all Black people. And the worst and most heart-wrenching reminders are the senseless and violent losses of so many precious Black lives that rip at my core. I feel the new loss of each precious Black life like it’s someone I know and love. It’s like empathy on fire. I find it near impossible to watch the footage. Hearing or reading about it breaks me down. It drains me. It angers me. It drowns me in its senselessness. I am left raw, with another gaping wound that will never heal.”—F. Theresa Gillard
Status Quo Minus Amplified
By F. Theresa Gillard
“I appeal to all of you to get into this great revolution that is sweeping this nation. Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and hamlet of this nation until true freedom comes, until the revolution of 1776 is complete.”―Congressman John Lewis
Off the Rails (OTR)
BOSTON Massachusetts—(Weekly Hubris)—1 August 2020—I am not crazy—just Black. Now, if that feels or sounds familiar, you are either some-sort-of-Black or all-sorts-of-Black or you have thought this. Listen, there is so much more that defines me as a person than being a Black person. However, I am constantly redirected by how I am perceived, rather than how I present. So, fine. Go right ahead. I mean, you’ll do it anyway, regardless of what I say, do or think. And, because you either consciously do this or unconsciously do it, you miss who I truly am. That really sucks. Just plain sucks.
That “I am not crazy–just Black” thought came to me as I was wondering why the attorney that I am paying to represent me in the refinancing of my property came at me inappropriately.
Listen, like really listen. If you come at me a certain way that triggers my Black-defense, I suggest you buckle up or run. I have no preference here: you choose.
And why can’t I just have a normal experience? You know, something simple. Let’s say you’re my attorney. The lender has contacted you, but you’ve never spoken to me. Wouldn’t you, as my attorney, reach out to me and introduce yourself; explain the services to be provided and the cost? Right? Simple.
But, guess what? I am Black and that’s where everything generally (really always) goes off the rails (OTR).
Here are some of my OTR’s:
I show up. You’ve talked to me, but we’ve never met and, even though it shouldn’t matter one bit, you are totally shocked (and your face shows it) to see that I am Black. There goes the baby right out of the window.
Seeing as I am only the person of color in every meeting, you think that you will try to make me feel like I belong—more comfortable. You figure speaking “my language” is a good place to start. You say, “What’s up, Sistah?”
Just stop, because my reaction will definitely fall into your category of “she’s acting Black.” And, so, what if I am? I mean, that makes sense, right? I am Black.
You think I speak for the entire Black race. You respond by saying, “That’s what you all think?” I literally look around me, because there’s just two of us.
I am shopping and, apparently, everywhere I shop, I have an assigned “personal shopping assistant” who makes sure I don’t forget to pay for my selections. There are so many OTR shopping events that I’ve experienced (along with my family and friends). Here’s one of the crazier ones.
My sister and I are shopping at North Shore Mall in Peabody, Massachusetts. We leave and drive across the parking lot to the grocery store. Next thing we know, a car whips in behind us and blocks us in the parking space. We are gruffly questioned, because we “fit the description” of shoplifters. They are “pretty sure” it was us and they are talking about detaining us. We are frightened and incredulous. We are left bewildered, angry, and wondering WTH just happened.
OK, someone stole something, but is it so serious that it merits this more-like-a-SWAT response? Once again, a simple errand becomes an almost-arrest. It was scary.
Black Whilst Working (BWW)
Let’s switch gears and turn our focus to one of my Black-whilst-Working (BWW) moments.
I hire a person sight unseen because I had a death in my family. All of the people that she interviews with are not of color. So, when I get back to work, a colleague escorts her to my office to meet me. My colleague is standing there, making the introductions, but the new staff member does not cross my office threshold. I can see her, though. So, I introduce myself again and welcome her to my team. She just stands there staring at me. And I know the look.
It is so awkward for my colleague. I, on the other hand, know this is just another BWW moment. My colleague can’t understand what is happening and keeps saying, “Hey, come on in. This is Theresa. She’s your director that I was telling you about.” The new hire refuses to shake my hand and seems terrified.
This new employee went on to resign, but not before officially reporting me to HR and accusing me of discrimination. She also muddied the waters with faculty members, telling them that I discriminated against her and that I was not supportive.
You know, it is really easy to predict what crazy liars will do. They always flip it and say that you’re doing to them what they are actually doing to you. I mean, it happens every time.
Even though I promptly reported her initial reaction to meeting me and her ongoing performance issues, I had to defend myself, once again. Did HR or the faculty members believe me, though? Come on. You see how this is going. You know the answer.
Instead of believing me, a dedicated, ten-year employee, HR believed her and I found myself sitting across from two faculty members blaming me for her departure. Of course, I explained why her departure should be welcomed; shared details regarding her performance issues and how she reacted to meeting me for the first time.
Hold on to something. Here’s what one them said: “You know Theresa, we are brown-skinned, too. I lived in North Carolina. So, I know what you’re talking about. But she was never like that with us.”
Well, first off, you’re not Black, and you certainly don’t know what I am talking about. And that’s like using your one Black friend to prove you’re not a racist. You prove you’re not a racist by being there for me, as I am for you. By listening to me, without trying to rationalize away why that incident I shared with you that is obviously blatant racism is just a misunderstanding and you really don’t think they meant it that way.
Black, Not Crazy
Everywhere I go and every day of my life, I am reminded that I am Black—the you-don’t-belong stares; the being stalked while shopping; the getting pulled over, for no apparent reason; the expectation that I speak for all Black people.
And the worst and most heart-wrenching reminders are the senseless and violent losses of so many precious Black lives that rip at my core.
I feel the new loss of each precious Black life like it’s someone I know and love. It’s like empathy on fire. I find it near impossible to watch the footage. Hearing or reading about it breaks me down. It drains me. It angers me. It drowns me in its senselessness. I am left raw, with another gaping wound that will never heal.
Now that you seem to hear our Black cries and our Black voices, feel our Black pain and our Black despair. See our innocent Black lives lost. Listen, learn, and help others to do the same. We have been drowning in our own tears for generations.
I cannot understand or grasp the amount of hate and ignorance it takes to carry out or support the abhorrent acts of idiocy we see daily in our streets.
I do understand that silence is deadly. I applaud the peaceful protesters and pray for lasting change. In 1963, John Lewis, at age 23, protested and spoke out against issues that still haunt and hound us today. We recently lost John Lewis at the age of 80, but our nation is still riddled with the same racist policies he stood up against in his 20’s.
And, before you say that you’re not a racist, consider the advice of Ice Cube: “You need to check yourself, before you wreck yourself.”