“This is why I hate going into Sautters’!”
I told Noah as we walked to the car. He laughed and asked me why.
“Because I’m always the only black person in the whoooooole store.” He nodded and concurred that I was in fact, the only black in the store. The checkout women made that abundantly clear when they stared holes into my face, without really acknowledging me.
You ever wonder how people can do that? Stare right at you and not see you?
I get glimpses of what Ralph Ellison wrote about when he created The Invisible Man. When the white women spoke, they dealt with Noah, when the cashier finished our transaction, she wished Noah “a good evening.”
“There was one other black person in the Sautters,” Noah offered.
And then we busted out with laughter. Rufus Teague is this guy:
Rufus Teague is on the label of barbeque sauce. I don’t know who he is, except that he might have been a slave. I couldn’t find anything in my google search. It’s nice to laugh at this kind of stuff and not prolong the anxiety.
You know what frustrates me, though? Knowing that I can’t say anything. Because what can you say? What did the “Invisible Man” say? He soon learned that there was nothing to say. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you’re being very nice.” Or “I’m spending money here, please treat me like a human being. Thanks.”
Where we live, has a lot to do with how “out of place” I feel. Sylvania, OH is, I suppose, a suburb of Toledo that lacks diversity. It’s where the upper-middle class go to raise kids! So when the women of Sautters Market look like I’m the first black person they’ve seen that day, it’s probably true.
So what do you do? Clam up and keep it moving? Or do you lash out? I kept it moving, remaining polite. But what would you do? (Dip in the comment section and leave us a line please!)
My sister says: “Kill ’em with kindness.” If someone looks uncomfortable by your presence, even though you’ve done nothing to offend, just be super nice! Say “thanks, ma’am or sir, you have a better day!” Hopefully that disarming enough.
Anything else will get you the angry black women rap. And we’re not all angry. I rarely get angry. I do get annoyed often. I will definitely not start swinging on you or cuss you out. No, that’s not how all of us get down.
But alas, this is my rant with day to day living, as a black woman. I’ve complained to my white friends and husband about this and I’m thankful that they are conscience about my feelings. That they are aware of what it’s like to feel like “the other”. They might not know, completely, how it feels. . . but most of them have at least read Invisible Man. I’ll take it.