|Photo credit: Kendra Berglund|
For instance if a white lady is walking on the sidewalk towards me I will make way for her to pass. If a white lady tells me I can go ahead of her in line because I have only one item, I thank her profusely as though she has performed a miracle instead of acted like a decent human being. Am I polite to women of color in the same scenario? Of course but the fear is missing. The knot in my stomach, the immediate tightening up as I stiffen my posture as if to say, careful. When I'm polite to women of color it is out of respect, solidarity, kindness but the automatic politeness that I present to white women in particular is something different altogether. It is me worried that if I don't "act right" they will forever assume that all black women are rude/mean/unapproachable and therefore deserving of their plight in society. It will make them reassured in the racism I am assuming they possess. Because when you're the only one in the room that looks like you, you are the example, the model and the mold. If you pop off at every microaggression, every bigoted comment, every stereotypical suggestion then you are fulfilling their assumptions about everyone in your ethic group. You learn to go to school wearing a mask, you start working with the same costume and when you come home you can be who you are without fear of letting everyone down. You learn that being calm, cool and collected are what may keep you from being arrested or shot in the passenger seat of a car at 15 years old. It ain't a guarantee but it might keep you alive.
Oppression makes you poor, uneducated, and shortens your lifespan but it also makes you terrified of ever being labeled as impolite.
All together now: It is not my job or any other marginalized groups members job to make white people comfortable. If you are going to say we are all equal and that all lives matter than make sure that I can scream, yell, and roll my eyes without you thinking it's because I'm black. Make sure I can tell off a cop without being arrested, beaten or killed. Make sure I can do everything you can the same exact way and then we can talk about all lives being created equal.