I Love Your Complexion!
Against my better judgment, I was having dinner with a White man. Not a work dinner or a networking thing — a date. Rhys was nice-looking, funny, new in town, and persistent about helping me weed our overgrown community garden. Persistent, too, about taking me to some “jazz club” I was sure to love.
He regaled me with stories of his woke liberal politics (Hillary) and his commitment to equality (Black Lives Matter). And then, as he ordered a second bottle of wine, he delivered the ultimate compliment — “You are such a beautiful woman. I just love your complexion. You could be Italian or something!”
Bad enough that he didn’t know the difference between a jazz band and a swing band.
My life as a Black woman in America has trained me to “feed White men with a long-handled spoon,” as my grandmother would say. I can never relax completely, even in casual interactions. I’m always on guard, always preparing for the assault. And too often, it comes in the form of microaggressions, micro-insults, and micro-invalidations.
Microaggressions include demeaning comments made by well-intentioned White people who may not be consciously aware of the hidden messages.
Microaggressions are “micro” because they’re tiny incidents with massive impact. An insult that sounds like a compliment on the surface, but has as its baseline premise the idea that “Whiteness” is not only the norm, but the standard to strive for.
- “You’re so articulate…” (And this surprises me because Black people are generally not as intelligent as Whites.)
- “Let me speak to the supervisor…” (which couldn’t possibly be you).
- “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…” (I’m about say something bigoted, but any reaction you have I will immediately classify as oversensitive, or accuse you of playing the race card.)
Microaggressions include demeaning comments made by well-intentioned White people who may not be consciously aware of the hidden messages. Even so, just because a perpetrator of racism is clueless (or…