I received an e-mail at my AOL address from a reader in La Jolla. She took exception to my blog airing the fact that a mouse or rat had entered into my bathroom cabinet underneath the sink. I felt that there was a stigma attached to having rodents. And as a black person, I felt sensitive about telling my agent about it during a phone call.
Well, I was informed that LaJolla has rats in the trees and yards and inside dwellings. In fact, the LaJolla resident herself experienced having a rat gnawing through the wall near her head as she slept. I think that it's good to be reminded that rats are everywhere. We had mice once when I lived in Marin County. I saw a rat walking in the gutter in San Rafael. And, I lived in Oakland for years and never remember having to even set a mouse trap, let alone a rat trap. So, there really shouldn't be a stigma. But, I guess my point is no matter what people want to say, black people of a certain age feel that we are always or at least often being judged because of our race.
The "regular Negro from D.C." friend of mine put it best. He said, "We were raised not to show our color in public." So, yes I feel different buying a rat trap than my white counterpart. My white counterpart doesn't have to dot every "i" and cross every "t" to be deemed OK.
I had two experiences with prejudice that slapped me upside the head within the past week. I will write about the first incident in this blog.
I discovered a ribbon wrapped box in a restroom in San Francisco's Ferry Building. I asked the other women if the box belonged to them when they exited the stalls. No one claimed the box. I noticed that a store name was on the package and I said that if the box was taken back to the store, perhaps the clerk would be able to remove the charge from the buyer's credit card. Also, the buyer might contact the store.and be able to retrieve it.
Another woman inside the restroom agreed. She picked up the package and said that she would take it back to the store. I went into a stall to do my business. Minutes later, I saw the woman with the package, standing inside the Ferry Building. We acknowledged each other.
"I'm waiting for my friend," the woman announced looking around. "The package is from a store down there," she pointed.
"I'm going that way," I said. " I can take the package."
"No," the woman insisted. "I'll take it ."
"I have to pass the store anyway." I informed her. "And, the woman could be looking for the package right now. " I explained. "You can just wait for your friend. I'm happy to drop it off."
"No," the woman replied firmly. "I said, I'll take it!"
I walked away feeling a familiar feeling that white people almost never experience. White people are not considered inferior by the status quo because of their race. White people are freer to be judged as individuals. I understood why black people used to say that they preferred the direct racism in the South to the more cloaked racism in the North. I believed that if I'd been a white woman I would've been given the box with a smile. After all, the other woman had no more responsibility to return the package than I did. But, what black stranger is perceived to be trustworthy or honest? What black person would be expected to go out of her way to help a stranger? Black people are often assumed guilty until proven innocent . White people are assumed innocent until proven guilty. I could write a book on it. In fact I am doing just that.
My "RNFDC" friend said, "When you're black you have to be validated to be OK. You weren't validated. You were JAN ( just another nigga). A white person would have to look like they were on meth or something to be seen like you were."
I was clean. I was dressed in up to date clothing, sporting name brand shoes. I'm educated, confident, have a caring smile. What wasn't there to like? None of those things mattered. I was black. That's America's dirty little secret. Race still matters in everyday life. It's easier to believe that a black woman is a con artist and a thief than a decent human being.
My sister, Marcia said that I should've watched the woman with the package and followed her. And, if and when she returned the package to the store, I should've appeared and said that I just wanted to make sure that she indeed did the right thing. I agreed with Marcia that it would've been interesting to see the look on the woman's face. How dare a white woman in an upscale environment be assumed anything but innocent? Who out there feels me? 'Nuff said for now.
Causes April Sinclair Supports
Alameda County Community Food Bank
Wardrobe for Opportunity