So after seeing the aftermath of #Charlottesville, I’m frankly feeling disgusted. And it made me do an inventory of the allies in my life, who I am very thankful for, one of which is my wife. But it also made me take inventory of ways that racial insults have been hurled in my direction. And I have had them done to me publicly, but I’ve also had them done through microaggressions, and honestly, the latter feels more insidious—simply because they’re so subtle sometimes you have to lean in to be like Really?
When I did this mental survey, I recognized that the greatest microaggressions I’ve suffered have come from one of my brothers-in-law. Now, I recognize that we all have implicit bias. That’s just the way we’ve been socially constructed. But, it’s hard to deal with when you are the minority member in a family at all times, so you’re always on high alert. My brother-in-law, on more than one occasion I realized, has done this. Now the first few times I let it go, at risk of being labeled “the angry black woman,” but I can no longer let this behavior go unattended.
The other day, he said that one of his black friends was successful, he thought, because he came from a two-parent household. Yeah, let that one sink in. But I didn’t miss a beat. I didn’t come for him, like I definitely could have. I chose, instead, to educate him. I let him know that there were pa-lenty of highly successful black people who came from single family households, blended families, and *gasp* even those who had no real parents to speak of and were shuttled in out of foster homes yet they were wildly successful. I told him that being black and having a two-parent household is not an absolute for success. And there are a whole host of other factors that contribute to making a person, yes, even a black person, successful.
I could have put him on blast. But I instead chose to take a deep breath and give him the benefit of the doubt because his implicit bias was definitely showing—even if he, himself, wasn’t aware of it. In these times, I feel like it’s important to have a conversation with people and offer compassion for they know not what they do.
But I will say this. The next time this occurs, and yes, there will most definitely be a next time, you can rest assured that the education will be far more direct in terms of my tone. And an offertory, “I didn’t mean anything by it,” which is often the response his unfiltered ideas are often followed up, won’t excuse him. At. All.