Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Sun Rises on All of Us, Not Just You

I happened to be watching a Sex and the City marathon this weekend, which I tuned into during the very sequence of episodes that a friend and I were discussing last week about how I need to get my shit together to publish a book (yeah because so many people already don't read my blog)...and I noticed certain random characters for the first time. And that led to this epiphany:

Y'all don't see us. We're there, but unless there is a specific reason for you to acknowledge our existence, we don't count. (Yes, this will be a rant that addresses race, gender, and other marginalized categories. If you are uncomfortable, then I am definitely talking about you.)

Of course, most of us barely notice the various people who exist on the periphery of our personal galaxies. I know my mailman's first name because he told me, and I recognize most of my neighbors well enough to exchange pleasantries. But honestly, the most I know about anyone's life is based on what they post on social media, so if you aren't my Facebook friend, I think it is safe to question whether you actually exist or are a figment of my imagination.

It was my stray realization that there were random people of color sprinkled throughout all of those based-in-NYC shows that we were very critical of for lacking diversity during the 90s. They just weren't germane to the plot of the show. Thus on a show like Friends, there was the Black barista who worked in the coffee shop, but she didn't have a name or say anything so only those of us who went to school with her and were excited to see her on-screen every week cared that was Tanika Ray. Or how we recall that the only people of color on Seinfeld were the gay Puerto Rican guys, the Japanese tourists that Kramer housed in a chest of drawers, the muffin stump/bathroom book lady, the exterminator, and Jackie Childs. On SATC, there was that one episode I hate about Samantha dating the Harlem chef's brother, and that minor storyline that had her dabbling in lesbianism with Sonia Braga; otherwise, no one else stood out.

However, this is not a re-visitation of old sitcoms, but an examination how the failure to see others has real world implications. How your discomfort in addressing immutable characteristics such as race and ethnicity impacts your ability to understand what others experience, even when you claim to be allies or to have empathy. How even your so-called neutral behavior has prejudicial undertones. It might not be racist to leave all of your trash on the table after you've eaten at a casual fast food place, but it is inconsiderate and trifling to assume that it is the Latinx busboy's job to know that you couldn't be bothered to walk the three feet to the trash can yourself. I bet if I did that at the suburban Chick-fil-A you would have all kinds of opinions about my lack of home training.

So yeah, I found it rather puzzling to learn that some of y'all have nothing better to do than to take offense at a 30 second commercial about a product line created to clean our lady parts. Are your feelings really hurt that a Black woman expressed pride in having her merchandise sold at a major retailer? During BLACK HISTORY MONTH???

Are you one of those people whose knee-jerk response to Black Lives Matter is to claim that you have a Black grandchild? Do you think Obama was a racist because his mother was white, but he still married a Black woman? Do you go to ethnic restaurants and tell them how to adjust the spice? Do you get nervous that the janitors at your office who converse with each other in Spanish are talking about you? Did you hear your female colleague make a suggestion, repeat it, and then take all of the credit as if it was your original idea? Do you think that the athletes who kneel during the anthem are overpaid ingrates, but women wearing American flag bikinis are sexy patriots? Do you think it is perfectly fine to call the police on children selling water on the street without a permit, but never question the Girl Scouts? Are you more afraid of a woman wearing a burka or hijab than you are of a nun dressed in full habit wielding a yardstick?

Do you realize that in every one of those examples, you might not be seeing the others as fully evolved people? As in, you were fine with their existence until they stepped out of line, until they asserted some right that you had not granted. Took up space. Centered themselves in front of the camera. Got uppity.

Like this bitter lemon who went after Meghan Markle. Lady Pettyboots wasn't defending the Queen--she and the rest of the haters (including Meg's dreadful Daddy) think that the Duchess ought to show more deference and gratitude. That she should have been happy to have tea with the Queen instead of serving it to her...

Yeah, I said it.

Because even when we are gracious and deferential and respectable and appreciative and behave ourselves, you still want to define our right to exist. You want to tell us how to be. And then mete out punishment when we chafe or resist.

You want the Dixie Chicks to shut up and sing. You're uncomfortable with the NYT 1619 Project which framed that pivotal year in terms of the injustices heaped upon indigenous peoples and the enslaved. You disagree with the DESPOTUS about Parasite winning the Best Picture Oscar, but you don't get the deal with the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag (and you enjoy plantation weddings and Gone With the Wind). You want to brag about being a #GirlDad but then complain about Title IX's impact on men's college wrestling. You believe rules are rules, so if the young lady in the modified track uniform didn't make her request for a waiver in advance, then her disqualification was fair.

I believe you when you tell me that you would have marched with MLK, and I'm glad you voted for Obama. However, when your six year old snotty-nosed son demanded that I tell my daughter and niece to let his friends play on the see-saw, you stood there and did not correct his impudence. Or when you were busy telling me how much better we could all get along if I just (fill in the blank), you thought you were being conciliatory instead of patronizing. The nerve of me to get offended...

I know, you just want to watch those reruns of Friends and Seinfeld and SATC without having to feel any guilt about homogeneity and privilege. After all, Ross did date two non-white women, and Elaine thought she was dating a Black guy at one point. You probably didn't even get why I used a gif of Whoopi Goldberg as the symbol of my revelation, and you won't unless you reconsider why you liked her so much in Ghost. It isn't that hard once you open your eyes to really see.

No comments:

Post a Comment