I’m sure by now we’ve all been inundated by the “Sh*t <blank> Say” videos on YouTube, but by far my favorite video has got to be Chescaleigh’s “Sh*it White Girls Say… To Black Girls” It’s almost as if EVERY incident that she depicts in her video has actually happened to me. I’ve experience the constant description of things being “ghetto,” or stories about how dark their skin is when they tan, kinda like mine, (TWINZEES) or how they have a black girl butt. I genuinely hate when I’m asked why black people do this, or why black people do that, as if I’m the spokesperson for all things black. Better yet, I’ve heard so many stories about how black men LOOOOOOVE them. (Which my white male boss just recently told me)
Yesterday, while at work in the art gallery, my manager was giving me some last minute tips and tricks to selling art. A tall brother wearing a nice suit with a Nordstrom bag in tote entered the gallery. Immediately she said “Mishael, go talk to that black guy that just walked in.” (Sidenote: He was the ONLY person that walked in so it would have been just as effective if she sent me to go talk to that MAN that just walked in. If she felt SO compelled to describe him why not say “go talk to the tall guy in the suit that just walked in.” I’m just saying.)
Anyway, I begin my song and dance about what brings him into the gallery, I inquire about what kind of art he currently has in his home and if he’s purchased any art with us before. He tells me he’s purchased something about 2 years ago and thinks my manager was the one who sold him his piece. The gentleman says he’s on his lunch break and will return when he has more time to look. Upon his departure, my manager says “I would know if I sold to him, I didn’t. I’d remember.” (She’s nodding vigorously at this point.) Then she pauses and adds, “you know, ‘cuz black people don’t buy… so I’d remember if I sold him something.” She pauses again, I assume it’s in order for her to rectify her loose tongue but instead she adds, “I’ve been here for almost 4 years and I’ve had… (she looks at her right hand and begins to count) and says… “yeah I’ve only had FIVE black clients.” If ever I wished for a pause button it was then.
Did this blonde hair blue eyed trollup just say YET ANOTHER racially-charged statement to me? Wait Mish, cálmate… is that even considered “racially charged?” I mean just last week she was singing “Shake it like a Polaroid picture” and reminded me of how much she loved that song… so she can’t be a racist …right?? But then again, last month she shared her opinion that “single black women can’t afford this art!” Ok, maybe she doesn’t realize that I’m black. Should I reminder her? “Hey, Manager, um that comment is slightly offensive, and by the way… I’m black.”
Instead I just looked at her blankly and said “Um, I think I’m going to take my break now.” Eek!!! What should I have said? What am I supposed to do in situations like that? Is she racist? Is she prejudice? (Does that make it any better?) Is she an idiot or is she just a 48 yr old white woman who has no regard for any race outside of her own? I’m not sure!!!
Later that day she tells me that if people aren’t buying get them out the gallery in a hurry. She advises me that I need to be able to tell the difference between someone who is serious about buying or just a “looky-loo” as she likes to call them. A few minutes later she says to me, “Ok go up front and greet this couple, just be nice and say hi because I’m pretty sure they aren’t buying.” I go to greet them and its a young black couple. *sigh* Needless to say, they did not purchase any art, but neither did those good white folk that came in immediately after them that she was shmoozing it up with. What gives??
So what do I do at this point? Is she merely implying that the demographic of the gallery is generally white? Maybe. Do I think she’d lynch me or spray me with a high-pressure water hose if she had an opportunity? I doubt it. But do I think she sneaks in the “n” word when she’s alone in her car or in casual conversation with her close friends? I’m willing to bet my next paycheck. Despicable? Yes, but is that out of the ordinary for White America?
Ultimately, it boils down to ignorance. Maybe no one has told her that her statements are offensive and that just because black people aren’t buying THIS art doesn’t mean that they are not buying art in general. Was it my duty as a black woman to check her on her ignorance and risk being thought of as a typical hyper-sensitive black person who always unnecessarily pulls the race card? Or should I just let her stay in her perfect blonde hair blue eyed egocentric bubble?
Situations like this are all too familiar to me. It’s sad; it’s disgusting but its reality. Racism, discrimination and prejudice are real. What can you do?? No really, that’s not a rhetorical question… What do you do??