I feel as though I've been here before. As if I've written this before. So many times. So many hashtags. Too many to name. So many incidents of proving our worth... saying that our lives and bodies are ours... that they are not for public consumption, only to be gobbled up and spit out when the bitter taste of our history is too much to swallow... that our lives matter. I feel as though I've over explained that we are worthy to just be... and live. Truthfully, these are all requests that my grandparents and great grandparents fought for. My great grandfather was murdered for this request... his body left on a railroad track for all to witness what happens when Black people simply ask to be free...
This past week was so much. I felt a lot. I felt angry... frustrated... annoyed... disrespected... exhausted... just tired. Last week, my husband traveled to Berlin for work. As a musician/producer he has been fortunate to travel all over this great big world. He has seen and experienced many things. However, nothing could have shocked him more than the blatant dose of racism that he would experience while at a small restaurant in Berlin.
It's early Saturday evening... around 4 o'clock. Jon and his colleagues enter Restaurant Berlinchen. Upon entering, they quickly notice that they are by far the youngest and blackest people in this establishment... which often happens in foreign European cities... no big deal. However, the rest of the dining experience would take a turn... becoming more of a negative social experience than what Jon and his friends bargained for.
"After being seated, one of my colleagues orders the schnitzel. My other colleague orders an herbal tea & cocktail. Surprisingly, the waiter scoffs and then proceeds to educate us on how it is unacceptable to order drinks without food. My colleague communicates that he'll possibly order a soup or salad in addition to his drinks once he returns from a visit to the restroom. Since I had just enjoyed a fresh smoothie & snack at the place we were previously, I declined to order anything. The waiter then walks away... my friend then walks to the restroom. Left at the table, are myself & my other colleague. We sat for about 3-4 minutes pointlessly looking over our menus while we waited... just biding time. All of sudden, one at a time, each of our menus were aggressively snatched from our hands. 'You must leave now... go!...' said our waiter. My friend and I were caught way off guard. It happened so fast. We slowly stood up and collected our bearings to depart the restaurant. At that time, my other colleague returns from the restroom... a bit perplexed to why we were getting ready to leave. We told him that we were asked to. He seemed as shocked as we were. Before leaving, I sat back down... reached for a pen & paper in my bag. I opened my Google translate app & proceeded to write the English to German translation for: 'Black people are not welcome. Do not come here. Racist!!' My friends and I then proceed out the door. As the door closed, I left my translated note in the doorway, in hopes that potential customers may read & inquire to why someone would leave such an ugly note."- Jon
My phone rings... "You won't believe what just happened..." Jon proceeds to tell me what he and his friends had experienced. He was shocked. He couldn't decide which transgression was worse... being told to leave the restaurant OR having a menu snatched out of his hands like child. In the waiter's eyes, these men were boys... refusing to see them as men... as equal. To add insult to injury, after the restaurant's discriminatory behavior was called out online, the owner made false accusations that Jon and his colleagues were violent and drunk... that they had committed property damage (by leaving a note in the door). Not only were they not seen as men. but were being portrayed as violent and dangerous... the typical angry black male stereotype. Painting THIS narrative was the restaurant owner's first defense. Why was this so? Why was it so easy for him to imagine three angry black men coming into a restaurant to start trouble... while ordering schnitzel?
Oh how I would love to say that this is the only time my husband or I have experienced racism first hand. However, I would be lying. Like most people of color, we have experienced both blatant racism and casual everyday micro aggressions since we can remember. I would love to lie and say that Berlin was just an isolated incident. It wasn't. It happens everyday. It happens every time someone asks my husband IF he reads music (because Black folks are just suppose to "feel" the music, right?) There's no way that this black man can talk your head off regarding the technicalities of music theory. It happens every time someone assumes that my husband is the studio tech (and not the producer). It happens every time someone states how articulate we are. It happens every time we are viewed as the "exception to blackness," when we are not. It happens every time a white person says, "I don't see color." (Side note: Please know that when you say "I don't see color," you are saying that you don't see me. Additionally, by saying that you "don't see my color," you are also saying that there is something about my blackness that makes you feel uncomfortable.) It happens every time someone accosts my family and I in the grocery store and then begins to ooh and awww over our skin... and then begins to touch our bodies or our hair (without our consent.) It happens every time someone assumes anything about our lives soley based on the color of our skin. It happens every time we are asked to validate our feelings and/or perception of racism. It happens every time we are asked to go against our better judgment to call out racism as we see it... instead, being expected to internalize it and assume that perhaps we are seeing it wrong. It happens every time we are vilified for being too strong... too loud... too bold... too human. It happens every time our children can't be children. It happens every time we are perceived as a threat... while ordering schnitzel. I would like to lie and say that Berlin was just Berlin. But it wasn't. These are everyday blatant and covert cases of racism that we experience,,, every. single. day.
"Oh wow you are so articulate and intelligent"-A
"I feel like I can relate to you...You're not like the OTHERS."-P
"Several times and even today people assume after talking with me over the phone that I'm not black so when they meet me I'm either greeted with, 'Oh!' OR 'You sound so professional.' - A
"Your children are so beautiful, do they have the same dad?" -R
"Wow! I'm surprised at how well you speak."-P
"From the perspective of someone who is mixed, I can say I've been the recipient of racial micro aggressions on both sides. On one end, I either spoke like I was white or thought I was better than other people because I had 'good hair'. On the other end I surprised people with my eloquence, and my curly hair lured white hands to inspect my strands, often without my permission."-J
"I was like 17 when I went on an audition and saw another audition going on in the studio across from mine. I saw a lot of my peers auditioning, so when I called my manager to find out why I wasn't on that audition, after beating around the bush for a minute or two my manager told me, 'They wanted beautiful girls and you're not the beautiful girl.' When I pressed her as to what beautiful was, she said 'mixed' looking. I said, 'But the women that were there are the same tribe of folks.' Her reply, 'but you're not exotic.' I can still recall the pain in my chest, the heat in my face radiating from the tears I fought back from falling and the tremendous sadness I felt."- S
"You're pretty... for a black girl."-P
"We REALLY wanted to hire you, but it was important to us to have an older (not more experienced) midwife. If you maybe charged a little less we would have been sold! You understand right girlfriend?" -R
"I came to Berlin for a salsa congress with a group of instructors in 2001. We left a Burger King late one night, and ran into steel-toe boot-wearing skinhead, sneering "Niggers" at us. Out of the group of about 10, only two of us were actually black."-I
"We have a group of black moms that go to the park every week and we get the most jaw dropping stares when all these black women walk in with their children. White women can't stop starring. I think they just never imaged they would see 'US' there."- B
" One time i went to a school administrator to complain after students were making fun of "ebonics" on the school radio. The person I was looking for was out of the office so the faculty member I spoke to said , 'well if I see him I'll tell him you're 'afa' him' -J
"I was making an announcements on my flight one day and a Caucasian couple waved me over and said that they were so impressed.. They stated that they never heard a person like me speak so eloquently before."- A
"Crossing one of Berlin's busiest intersections with my daughters one evening, a car full of young white males passed. One stuck his hand out of the window and yelled, 'Heil Hitler!' How he spotted us in a crowd through the window of a moving car, I'll never know."- I
"I was pulled out of my car by a police officer when I was 16.... Suspected of stealing the vehicle because my friends and I didn't look like we 'belonged' in the area. I was 5 miles from home."-P
"As a black woman in my 30s, I've often had people ask me if I'm single and when I say yes, they immediately follow by asking if I have kids and when I say no they're shocked. I've asked white friends of a similar age if they're asked if they have kids and they say no." -B
"In school one of my teachers continued to call me tiffany always forgetting that i was not the same person as the only other black girl in the class."- J
"A man in the grocery store stop us to admire Max. Man: 'Your son is so cute. What's his name?' Me: 'Thanks. His name is Maxwell.' Man: 'Oh, Maxwell. You know, there's a dog store right down the street called Maxwell.' -A
"Scene: Talking to a white female coworker who wants to pull me aside and talk about a personal team matter involving herself. She wants to know why she feels potentially estranged from the team and is sharing her insights on the dynamics at play.Our team is mostly POC, so her feeling is that the only strike against her must be because she's a white woman. Her: 'I mean, a few years ago when the whole Michael Brown and Black Lives Matter thing was going on, I made sure to give you, a black woman, space to feel all your feelings!' Feel all my feelings? I...didn't ask for space, the team is primarily POC. And shouldn't she have meant...all the feelings everyone felt? The team's feelings? We're an activist organization."- R
"December 2014. A German relative asked my husband if our daughter wanted a "neger puppe" for Christmas. "N*gger doll" in English. His defenses ranged from 'It's not like I called your daughter a n*gger' to 'That doesn't mean in German what it means in English.'"- I