13 July 2012

All Race No Place

I hate being alone. Actually, that’s not entirely true, but that’s due to some semantics that exist for some people, but not for me. You see, I rather enjoy being by myself, that is, having nobody else around me. As much as I hate sitting in traffic on my way to work, I do enjoy getting to delve into my own head and psyche in the stop-and-go traffic that makes the Silicon Valley one of the most sought after places to live in the country (if our rent is indicative of anything). What I hate is the feeling that the thing I think and/or the thing I feel is somehow not a legitimate response.

I know I come from a different social location than most African-Americans- I know this because I have had it reinforced to be, by the African-American community my whole life. One of the things I enjoy most is having African-American women who know I’m engaged to (or at some of those times, dating) a white woman. I generally will get read The Riot Act about how I “turned my back on the race” or how “there are lots of good sistas out there, why you with a white girl?” My answer is simple, and they don’t want to hear it: when I was younger, and I was TRYING to date black girls, they wanted nothing to do with me. I was “an oreo” (which I was also called this evening, on the way home, by a homeless black kid I didn’t have any change to give), someone who was “black on the outside, white on the inside” and thus never given the time of day, much less an opportunity to date someone. Fast Forward 15 years: all those women who blew me off to fuck some roughneck are now single, with a kid usually, and wondering where “all the good black men went…We left...Got tired of waiting...i digress, that will happen sometimes…I was saying I recognize my variant social location, so I realize that this complaint may fall on deaf ears, as most African-Americans don’t get to eat (by choice a lot of the time, but sometimes by limitations) at some of the locations I’ve had specific complaints about. But here we go…

…we were out to the Faculty Dinner for the place I’m working, and we are dining at a fine dining seafood establishment in a hotel. It’s a Friday evening, and the restaurant is pretty busy, and we have a party of 25+. There is a set of orders taken before I arrive, so there’s some food on the table when I arrive (always a plus). When the waiter comes to take orders, I place my orders with him, clam chowder soup, surf and turf (filet- medium rare) and grilled shrimp (the option was shrimp and scallops, I opted for all Shrimp, most others opted for scallops only or both. I also order a Coke. Of this order, the only thing not messed up was the Coke. The soup was, literally, forgotten about (although they took our order on these fancy hand scanner type things which allows them to beam info from kitchen to waiters regarding food), which means 1) we had to ASK OUR WAITER FOR FOOD WE ORDERED, which is not standard operating procedure- I believe we would not have gotten them had we not asked). Now, if this was the only thing they messed up, I’m probably frustrated, but definitely not vocal about it (if I bitched about EVERY possible offense, I’d literally never eat out). When the food comes out, I’m handed a steak and a plate of scallops. Not what I ordered. Maybe they just mixed up the plates. It could happen. I get it. But in light of the first mistake, why should I, once again, give them the benefit of the doubt? I don’t have to assume mal-intent to have this experience be frustrating. To everyone at the table, it’s just a couple of things, why is it a big deal? Here’s why...here are some of the things it is to me…

…it’s being a sophomore at UCSB and trying to move into these cool loft apartments with some of my friends. They ran my credit rating and I didn’t get approved (I was 19 years old and had no credit at all). I assumed it was standard. I find out later they, for the white kids I was to be living with, ran THEIR PARENTS credit (which if they ran my parents credit they’d have found two perfect scores, which gets me in). so either they did something not standard without running my parents credit (shady) or AFTER (criminal). But I gave the benefit of the doubt….or the time when I was at Harrah’s in Kansas City at a debate tournament, and somehow, with like 5 of us, they somehow managed to 1) forget my order, twice and 2) give me the wrong order, twice, while somehow not messing up ANYONE ELSE ALL NIGHT…or the time when we went to a Michelin Star restaurant and they put us behind the Sommonier’s table next to a family with pre-toddler kids…or the time…well, you get the picture- at some point, all these “benefit of the doubts” begin to really just look like some passive aggressive racist shit, rather than a “get out nigger” they just give you, specifically, shitty service, hoping you get the point…

…so it’s really hard for me to just assume that “mistakes happen” and that “it means nothing.” Maybe it’s the “we have to be BETTER than everyone else to get EVEN footing” concept that makes me furious when people, whose FUCKING JOB is to serve you in a reasonable and competent fashion, seem to CONSTANTLY makes mistakes on your stuff. If it was an overarching theme with the restaurant, I kind of get it. But if you fancy yourself to be a nice restaurant, you can’t go 0-3 on my food stuff, not go 0-3 with ANYONE else and have me NOT assume it’s racist.

The benefit, dare I say, privilege of being White is that when incompetence happens to you, you can just assume incompetence. But when it happens to me, my mind CAN’T NOT go to the idea that it could be malicious or hate filled, and yet so passive aggressive. I wish I had that liberty, unfortunately, I don’t get this liberty, and as a reward, I make about .75 to the dollar of a white man doing my job.

Many of you think I’m on some delusional, self-important rampage- wrong. To say it has anything to do with me, specifically, is some bullshit and something I’d have a hard time believing even it was proven to be true. And I don’t think it’s some conscious shit. But I do think it happens, and anyone that tells me it doesn’t has never walked a mile in my shoes.

Black people know what I’m talking about, but for some reason, because it comes out of someone that looks, dresses and sounds like me, it’s given less credence. It’s maddening to be disrespected and disregarded by your own people, because I don’t fit in the mode of what they consider “black. I consider Black people to be My People, and I am aligned with The Struggle of Our People, and I am reminded of my place within that struggle every time I hear a siren pull up behind me. I am reminded every time I walk through a mall and get followed by the same security guard through multiple stores (if this seems specific, it’s because it happened to me going to the Apple Store last week and to a Men’s Warehouse and to the Best Buy, same guard, terrible at tailing people (point is to not be seen). I’m here in town, working for one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world. I’m smart. I’m articulate. I have a pocket FULL of cash to buy shit. But to them, I am a joke that my dad used to tell me when I was young, and it didn’t make sense to me at the time…

“What do you call a black man with a PhD. From Stanford in a $1000 suit?” Nigger.

He told me this joke because it was told to him at work. My dad was a Genetic Engineer, with a PhD. from Stanford. And my dad rocked the $1000 suit. He told me this because if he didn’t tell me this at home, and tell me that THIS is what I should expect from people if I ever get to the top of the profession, that I should expect this. And that I should have someone to tell, so he didn’t “kill that motherfucker.” It was the first time I 1) ever saw him curse, 2) ever saw him lose his cool, and 3) ever saw him show me ANY emotion other than Love. It reminded me that life was pretty fucked up, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t understand why that man said that to my dad. And I wondered why he told me, rather than telling Mom. Sometimes Mom had just had enough, and wasn’t really trying to hear Dad. Maybe she never got how much it fucking killed him inside. When I have really hard days, I just try to remember my Dad, doing things that I can’t ever imagine doing. I feel shitty when I have to hold my tongue to keep the peace (which fucking KILLS me that my being angry about shitty treatment should be anyone’s business- you have the right to disagree with my anger/hostility, but you don’t get to have a say in whether it’s REASONABLE to have that response). 

The duality of being treated like you don't belong by Whites (by assuming that you're over-reacting and making everything about race- [aside: when you're Black, everything IS about race] and not just assuming old fashioned incompetence or just people being assholes) and having Black people discount your experience as inauthentically Black is enough to make me just want to tell EVERYONE to fuck themselves. At the point where I get to feel alone, i don't really want to deal with the bullshit of having to pretend to conform and/or give a fuck what you think about it. 

The irony of it all is all this makes me want to do is sit around, smoke blunts and be the person everyone assumes I am anyway.


  1. probably wouldn't happen to you if you weren't one of those uppity niggers.

  2. Glad to read another post, you're the best Doug.