Yesterday while mindlessly scrolling on Twitter, I came across a video of a black woman having her natural hair petted by her overly-curious white coworkers. Not only is this extraordinarily unprofessional and an invasion of the black woman’s personal space, but she was just stood there with an awkward expression on her face coupled with a nervous smile.
I have to admit, my first thought was, “Why isn’t she snatching away?!” which was immediately followed by the realization of if she did snatch away, her coworkers might have seen her as the aggressor in the situation. It could have been taken as she was overreacting, and her coworkers were “being harmlessly curious.”
If you aren’t familiar with the premise of Undercover Boss, it’s where executives or owners of corporations go work at the “low-level” jobs of the businesses they own. They meet with employees that all have sad backstories and/or financial troubles whilst wearing a disguise to conceal their identity. They then reveal who they actually are at the end of the episode and grant the employees they’ve met various gifts to soothe the issues mentioned earlier in the episode.
Recently, I was watching an episode of Undercover Boss that featured the Mayor of Gary, Indiana- Karen Freeman-Wilson. Freeman-Wilson posed as a municipal employee and was trained under a fireman, a policewoman, and a beach hygiene city employee.
The person responsible for beach clean up, an older man named Steve, said that he’s made $13.24 an hour since 1991 and hasn’t received a pay raise in 15 years. His wife was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and was also awaiting a heart transplant. After hearing all of this, the Mayor responded with: “Steve is the poster child for resilience.”
At the end of the episode, she gave him and his coworkers a 10% raise (a mere $1.32) and created a $10,000 health fund for his wife’s medical expenses.
At first watch, you’d look at this and feel happy. A man who has been loyal to his city finally is getting the recognition and financial compensation he deserves. The show wants you to believe this as well, with jangly guitar music coupled with dramatic sound effects playing in the background at the end of the episodes. But looking deeper, this story- and the others like it- show a disturbing trend.
“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” — Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton on April 22, 1800
After the 2016 election, social media was akin to the desert wasteland from Mad Max- a hostile, apocalyptic environment, and every man is for themselves. There were millions of vitriolic messages from angry Democrats directed at Republicans across all media platforms and equal response from satisfied Republicans.
After a couple of weeks or so, when the initial waves of outrage died down, the “friends > politics” memes began to spread like a juicy rumor in high school hallways.
To be able to actively ignore a friend’s problematic political views for the sake of the friendship is to be in a position of unbelievable privilege.
Being friends with someone belonging to an oppressed group and having politics that outrightly endanger your friend makes you incredibly imperceptive and insensitive.
With tears streaming down my face, I hastily typed those phrases into Google. It was a couple of days before my 17th birthday, and I couldn’t fathom looking as I do for another solitary second. Too black.
My mind is colonized. I will be the first to admit that. Any distaste I have for my personal features comes from the brainwashing millions of black Americans face their entire lives: black is ugly, white is not.
Ever since I was a little kid, I equated beauty with whiteness and lighter skin. Being bombarded with a sea of white actresses in nearly every show and movie and all the heartthrobs being solely white men will do that.
Google images seem to agree with me. You don’t get black people included in the initial searchings for “beautiful ___” until you add ‘black’ to the search engine.
Rarely does anyone talk about the extent of tiredness depression brings about. Usually, the main focus is on symptoms like apathy, hopelessness, mood swings, or social isolation. For those of us who struggle with depression, healthy amounts of sleep can be an ever-evading force.
The first installment of ‘The Hypocrisy of White Supremacy’ touched on the hypocrisy that past presidents, first-wave feminists, and white moderates showed in their dealings with black people and why white supremacy, as a concept, is a falsehood. After writing that, my mind was drawn to the sheer access black people historically had into the lives of white people, despite being seen as subhuman. Also, how European colonization is ultimately the root of the “anti-diversification” movement that the alt-right peddles.
Let’s start with slavery.
Mãe Preta (1912) | Artist: Lucílio de Albuquerque
The services ‘provided’ by black people via enslavement have always been an integral part of the progression of white societies around the globe. Black slavery is what made America as prosperous as it is today.Four hundred years of free labor will do that. These services, however, move past the manual labors of carpentry, building, and masonry.
Slaves were intimately involved in the lives of their masters and their master’s families. It is peculiar that enslaved black people were always seen as lesser than white masters, yet, played such an essential role in their personal lives. Slaves were dehumanized beyond belief, of course, but the vast plantations of the south could not run without a multitude of enslaved black people at the ready performing a myriad of household and field tasks.
Devane-Johnson held focus groups asking black women, ranging in age from 18 to 89 years old, on their thoughts on breastfeeding. She was performing research for a doctoral degree at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing. Devane-Johnson mentioned in her report:
“A lot of slave babies died during slavery because they weren’t breastfed. They were fed concoctions of dirty water and cows milk. Meanwhile, those children’s mothers were giving white children their milk.”
Enslaved black women raised white children before tending to their own. Enslaved black women nursed white babies before nursing their own.
Written below is a firsthand account from former slave Ellen Betts recounting life as a wet nurse in St. Mary’s Parish, Louisiana. This excerpt is from the book, ‘Bullwhip Days — The Slaves remember’ by James Mellon. You can find more information on Ms. Betts’ life at the Library of Congress website.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and sincerity of heart, just as you would show to Christ. — Ephesians 6:5
My relationship with religion has always been complicated. Being raised Christian, I believed in the many stories of the Bible, the power of God, and the might of Jesus like everyone else. Well, I did up until I was about 13. I enjoyed Sunday School and the entertaining theatrics of the church immensely growing up. I enjoyed being Christain. Having God as an answer to everything my little brain couldn’t explain was comforting. It wasn’t a Christopher Hitchens logic-fueled monologue or Richard Dawkins ‘owning’ theists in debates on YouTube that brought me to atheism- learning about the trans-Atlantic slave trade did.
Here’s a quick re-cap on God via Christianity for everyone that needs a refresher. God is described in the Bible as being omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Omniscient meaning He knows everything that has happened, knows everything that is happening, and knows everything that will happen. Omnipotent meaning He can do absolutely anything. Omnipresent meaning He is everywhere, witnessing everything at all times.
The strength of my faith was at its highest when I began to learn about the details slavery and all of its horrors. Because of this, conversations I had with myself went as follows:
“So God knows everything that’s going to happen, yeah?”
“Soooo that means he knew slavery was going to happen?”
“And since he is always everywhere, seeing everything that means he was with every slave from birth to death?”
“But he can do anything…does that mean he could have stopped it and didn’t?!”
What hurt me the most was not the fact that God seemingly ignored all the suffering of my ancestors 200 years ago, but that so many of the descendants of those enslaved people worship the God that allowed it.
When I was a kid, I didn’t understand the complexities of homelessness.
I just assumed that homeless people were all lazy and irresponsible. It couldn’t be that hard to get a job and take care of yourself, right? When you’re young, life is simple like that. No one ever explicitly told me this, but it was just a general understanding. Either you work hard and have a nice life, or you’re careless and end up homeless.
Being born and raised in Las Vegas, you’re surrounded by wealth and reminded of poverty constantly. When you’re driving down the Strip, it’s hard to imagine that just a few miles away, people were living in worn-down tents and sleeping on scalding sidewalks.
It didn’t make sense.
As I got older, the black and white method of childhood thinking became a multitude of grays, and I began to have a grasp on the issue.
When I was 15, my dad and I went on vacation to San Diego, California. One of the nights we were there, the two of us went to a gas station that was near our hotel and bought apples, bananas, individually wrapped sandwiches, and bottles of water. We walked around for a couple of hours, handing them out to the homeless people that lined the San Diego streets.
I’ll never forget that night. I’m not bringing this up so I can get brownie points for helping people out. I’m saying this because that night after we went back to the hotel- I was disgusted. Disgusted that so many people could be sleeping on the street, and no one was helping them. I was discouraged as well because I knew 15-year-old me couldn’t pass out food to everyone or give them all a place to stay. I knew homeless people existed before then, obviously, but it’s easy to put blinders on and go through your day to day and not think about them. I haven’t had those blinders on since.
Again, I saw two sides of the same city. The same city with stunning beaches, great nightlife, and a fantastic food scene had people crammed underneath bridges trying to survive another day.
It was almost Halloween, and I was in my English 11 class feverishly texting my dad screenshots from the “Adopt a Dog Today” section of the NSPCA’s website. He finally, after ten years, said we could get a dog. By the end of that night, Erin from the kennel had become Garvey Bean, and our four-year friendship had begun.
He was the most polite dog ever. Never bit me even accidentally and never barked at us to get our attention. He hardly barked at all honestly, only if the doorbell rang or someone knocked on the front door. He loved to sleep in me, or my dad’s laundry baskets- it didn’t matter if the clothes were dirty or clean.
He was the definition of a foodie. His favorite food of all time was baby ribs with sweet BBQ sauce.
He repeatedly went into the trash and pick off any meat my dad left on the bone. He loved sharp cheddar cheese and hated Swiss cheese with a passion. He would never turn down a Ritz cracker or the outer edges of a pop tart. Anytime we’d get Chinese food, he would lose it over the combination fried-rice (but wouldn’t eat the peas or carrots). He would have survived purely off peanut butter bacon Beggin’ strips if we let him. When my dad and I were eating, Garvey was always *right there* waiting for us to give him some.
I’ll never see him peeking between the banisters at the top of the stairs when I come home again.
I’ll never hear him snoring while sleeping under my bed again. I’ll never get to see him have that big, goofy smile in the morning because he knows I’m giving him a treat when we go downstairs again.
I’ll never get to tell him about the dramas unfolding in my life while he sits nearby, seemingly listening intently, ever again.
He was the best dog anyone could have asked for. This hurts so badly. I haven’t been sleeping for the past week because every time I did sleep, it was one day closer to the day he had to be put down. Every time I looked at him this past week, I would tear up because I knew this would have to happen sooner and sooner. I’m happy he won’t be in pain or having seizures anymore, but goddamn it, I’m going to miss him so, so, so much.
I love you, Garvey. I wouldn’t trade the time we have had together for anything in the world. I’m glad you could spend your golden years with us. I hope we‘ll see each other again.
You can’t deny someone something that they actually are.
“I don’t care if you’re black, white, purple, or green, I see everyone the same!”
“When I see you, I don’t see you as black!”
“I don’t see color!”
“If we stopped making everything about race, then it’d go away!”
No, not this type of colorblindness:
This type of colorblindness:
If you can’t notice the difference in color between the different races, then you should see an eye doctor. Now obviously, there’s nothing wrong with there being different skin colors. We’re humans. Due to evolution and genetic mutation, varying skin colors should be expected. The problem is when you start seeing different skin colors as an issue. That’s where this whole ‘colorblindness’ thing comes in.