I am currently writing this from a plane that just took off from Houston to Dallas. Why? Well, being the hard working Americans that we are, my wife and I decided we should have a very nice family vacation with the kid this summer, so we took her on a 7 day cruise out of Galveston.
While I would love to regale you about the hilarity that was my wife and I spending every evening karaoking with a very nice, very WHITE family from Amarillo who all had names that began with “K,” (and before you ask, there was a KKK joke made, but it was NOT by me… because I’m apparently a bad influence of the better half.) I would love to go into my make out session with a male dolphin that has made me question my entire being in this world…
Shauna: You kissed a boy!
Me: *sputter* *stutter*… NUH-UH!!!
WHILE I would love to really say what an AMAZING time we had on this family vacation, this is not what I’m writing to you about. No… The title is not misleading this time… I’m writing to you about being Black in America.
So, as a writer, it seems strange that I have avoided any blog posts about the various and continued police shootings of unarmed Black Men, the current Administrations GROTESQUE dehumanization of Brown CHILDREN under the guise of “immigration reform,” the various BBQ Beckys, Permit Pattys and the like. That reason was two-fold.
First, I do have an opinion, a strong one. But Shauna has cautioned me to be careful not to alienate perspective readers because I say something in my blog that may offend. As a student of business and having taken a marketing class or two, I cannot argue that very sound logic. She’s the therapist, but I tend to be the more emotional of the two of us, so she has to reign me in from time to time.
Secondly, and regrettably, it’s from fatigue. It’s from being horrified every time I turn on the television and catch a news headline. Or when I open my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter apps. It’s fatigue because I feel like no matter how many times stupid shit happens, people are just numb to it. I’m not numb to it, brethren. I’m tired. I’m emotionally whipped. I feel like avoidance is the only thing that keeps me from crying myself to sleep every single night, and from remaining in a deep and dark depression every day. (Well, avoidance and happy pills.)
So, I hear you out there folks. “What are you writing about it now? What happened that would cause you to come from what appears to be a nice fun vacation to talk about THIS subject, NOW?!”
SO… What had happened was…. Wait.. lemme go with my caveats… then I’ll tell you what had happened.
I’m aware that airlines have purposefully reduced space between seats as to get just a few more bodies in their flying death traps to make a profit. I get that.
I get that not everyone is a vertically challenged as myself, particularly those of the male persuasion. I understand that as well.
I GET that the flight from Houston to Dallas is all of 45 mins and will likely be over by the time I finish this damn blog post… TRUST ME, I get that.
Unless one is mentally feeble OR under the age of say, 15 or 16, you are very well aware when you are kicking, manipulating, damn near pulling the back off the seat in front of you… can we agree to that?
If you are over the height of like… 5’9”, you probably want to aim for an aisle seat because of the whole, no room thing. At least those in my life who are 5’9” and above usually do. But I dunno.. maybe *my* friends are weird…
There is a code of polite society. If you CANT HELP playing kick ball with the seat in front of you or there’s a problem, you let the person in front of you know that you are fully aware you are likely giving them bruises and definitely C-walking on their GAHT DAMN NERVES…
If you are not self-aware enough to understand polite society, surely the person in front of you leaning back to try to shake you off the chair would tip you off, no?
I mean, I think those 4 points are fair, amirite?
Okay… now… what had happened was…
I get on my flight with my family. Because I am a fairly larger person, I tend to sit in the window when I’m traveling with my wife or with both wife and child. I feel super claustrophobic in the middle, no matter who I’m surrounded by, and when I sit in the aisle, I tend to get hit and manhandled by the flight attendants and folks going to and from the bathroom. (No fault of their own, I’m kinda of a big girl.) I’m a mere 5’5” tall, so I feel like I’m at good “window seat” height.
So, we’re sitting here and some tall guy (I dunno if he’s tall, I didn’t see him get on. I assume he is, otherwise the following behavior is REALLY inexcusable) settles himself in behind me. At first we’re cool. I’m chilling, talking to the wife and kid, he’s in his own lane. Just before take off, he starts what I can only assume its shadow-boxing with my seat! Like, I’m getting kidney shots to my back, it feels like he’s trying to take off the back in its entirety. It’s kind of out of line. Even Shauna was like, “why does this happen to you EVERY FLIGHT?!”
Indeed! It does happen every flight. Case in point, when we flew from Maui, I was on a late night flight. I assume most flights from Hawaii to the mainland start at night, so by the time you get home, it’s day time for you. I again, am in a window seat. And there is a dude is who doing a great rendition of a toddler having a conniption fit in my back THE WHOLE DAMN FLIGHT. At one point, he stretched his damn legs UNDER MY SEAT and started kicking my damn ankles. (I wish I was lying, but this can all be verified by my better half.) I kept leaning back in my seat to get him to stop, Shauna tried to get his attention, but he was “sleep.” (Oddly enough, he woke smooth up AS SOON as we touched down. Funny how he was a hard sleeper until that moment, eh?)
As an aside, I must confess, I was bullied a lot as a child. This isn’t the whole, “I was bullied and I didn’t turn into a mass murderer…” spiel, (although, if you hear my therapist tell it, it’s TRULY amazing I’m not a homicidal psychopath, but that’s neither here nor there right now.) My point to that statement is that I spent a lot of my childhood, teenage years and even 20s in this perpetual state of biting my tongue. I strove to not stand out, I wanted to blend into the background and not be noticed. Oddly enough, the more I tried to do that and the older the I got, the less possible that became. I held my peace in front of racists either blatantly calling me a nigger, or treating me as if I did not exist solely because I didn’t look like they thought I should. I’ve held back when I heard the homophobic slurs and comments thrown my way or being said around me or people I care about. I’ve ignored and endured when men in my profession tried to exert their dominance when possessing only a fraction of my intelligence. I’ve bit back and I’ve taken a lot in my near 4 decades on this planet.
As I got older and found the world not respecting my person, I changed my tact. I speak when I feel like it’s beneficial, but I do not believe in beating a dead horse or engaging with someone who is incapable of being rational. As I said, I’m a big girl and I very well could die of a heart attack at any given moment. I would be PISSED if I wasted too many breaths on people who cannot see reason or use empathy. But here lately, with the way things have radically shifted, I have tried to speak up more, even if I know it’s a waste of breath. I guess I’m getting to the point where I’ve lived and seen enough for some people’s lifetime, and I’ll be damned if I will just be randomly disrespected like I used to be.
But I froze. I couldn’t do it during the flight guys. I wanted to so bad. I wanted to whip around and say, “Bruh, I know you feel yourself beating the back of this chair just like I do, and I am absolutely certain you feel my big ass trying to remind you that someone is sitting here!” But all I could do was look at Shauna with rage in my eyes. If I was a White woman or a White man, I could say something and there would be all sorts of apologies and whatnot. I could even get the flight attendants attention if the passenger continues and THEY would ask the guy to kindly knock it - what we call, the fuck, off…
But then I thought about the videos. The POC being drug off of airplanes for less. Because the airline oversold their flight and decided that a paying customer must be booted off to accommodate someone else who maybe paid a little more for their ticket. (For the same damn flight, mind you.)
I thought about BBQ Becky and Permit Patty and (I missed the name of the lady calling the cops on the kid cutting grass in Cleveland, I was on vacation….and half hoping that I’d come back to Southern Canada or Northern Mexico, instead of this dumpster fire…but I digress). I thought about the sistas in…shoot, the Bay somewhere, I forget, and I have no wifi for research right now… Who were just checking out of their Air BnB and got the cops called on them because they chose not to speak when a nosey ass neighbor said hi. (Bitch, you KNEW that was an Air BnB! As nosey as you are?! You knew it!)
I thought about how White people have been using the police as a complaint desk for POC who “step out of line” or who don’t act they way they want. I then thought about how that has played out for others. For John Crawford, who was holding a TOY GUN in a Walmart… A WALMART TOY GUN, had some random White guy LIE on the 911 call, and it cost him his life. Little Tamir Rice, playing in a park, shot dead within 30 seconds, solely because someone couldn’t tell a child playing with a toy gun in a park from a hardened criminal. (If only you could *hear* the sarcasm in that statement.)
I looked from my wife to our kid. A kid that I only got 6 short years ago, but who I love as if she were my own. I remembered her eyes lighting up just a few days ago when she was able to pet and kiss a dolphin. I remember taking a photo as a family with birds, a parrot wrapped around my pinky finger like a prize… something I would have NEVER DONE pre-marriage/family. (I’m just not an animal person guys… don’t hate me.) And I thought about all of those videos and interviews. I thought of the children being held at the border, terrified, unsure if they’ll see their parents again. I thought about how Philando Castille was gunned down in front of his girl and his daughter, for being a legal gun owner. I thought of Jordan Davis. I thought of the Black family who was surrounded in Philly when they merely asked for a refund from a movie theatre because of poor sound quality, and the child vomiting out of fear for his family.
I wanted to stand up for myself. I wanted to cling to the dignity I feel I should be able to have as an adult, as someone who has the right to exist in her own airline seat, just as much as anyone else, without being “beat up” through the seat. But I couldn’t, because all I thought was, “what if they stop the plane? What if they call security because someone perceives my irritation as danger? What if this happens in front of my girls? What if… What if… What if…?”
So as much as I would love to tell you numerous anecdotes from our trip, I left a wonderful vacation from international waters, reminded of what I was returning to. I’m still Black in America. I still have to worry about what I say or what I do because more and more, White fright is putting us in jeopardy. I still have to worry about being docile, and not being noticed, because if I cause a ruckus, it could put the life of my loved ones in jeopardy.
I still have to worry about being pulled over by a cop.
I still have to worry about walking down the street holding my wife’s hand.
I still have to go back to work on Monday, and deal with consistent condescension I receive from men who believe they know more than I do simply because they have a penis, and that extra appendage gives them more brain cells? (Funny, I always heard only 1 head worked at a time…)
I have to protect my kid from seeing that in real life. It’s bad enough to see it on TV and the news.
I have to do all I can to stay around for Shauna, after it taking so long for us to be together.
I still have to worry.
I still can’t live free.
I’m still Black in America.
PS: I did NOT finish this on the flight….
P.P.S: If you stuck it out, here’s a picture of me holding a parrot as a reward…