Friday, July 26, 2013

Racism is so unfashionable.

Me coming of age at 1977

I rarely make a point of sharing what its like to be black in a white world. Partly, because it's a simple fact that racism is something that all black people and other people of color face every day, everywhere to some greater or lesser degree. Also because I've been fortunate in my life for the simple fact that thanks to my parents, I was made aware of these blunt,distressing facts but also that I could move as far beyond the confined space that (white) society attempts to pigeon hole me into by force of will and a steely determination. 

So thinking about the Trayvon Martin verdict and President Obama's words on the subject with his impromptu press conference stopped me dead in my tracks. Obama's statement that it could have been him is the same for me. His listing of just some of the humiliations black men face was so true and galling I had to say something about it instead of trying to rise above it all. 

#1 Being followed in stores by security is a FACT of LIFE, even when you're the designer invited to show your collection for 3 days, have been advertized and even introduced to the staff. STILL FOLLOWED and asked degrading and obnoxious questions like," What are you looking for?".... and it comes not from a salesperson but security. 

#2 Walking on the sidewalk behind white women who either clutch their purses and pick up the pace looking over their shoulders, or crossing over to the other side of the street. That is so common that I've become more uncomfortable knowing that reaction is likely to happen and cross the street myself just to avoid feeling that sting of being perceived as a threat and someone to be avoided. I'm tired of crossing the street and accommodating ignorance just to spare an idiot's sense of security and my own pride. FUCK THAT. 

#3 The click of a car door's lock is a new one but one I experienced just last week. It galled me so much I was (almost) speechless. Coming out of my apt., (a brownstone on sunny Willow St. in Brooklyn Heights) carrying my luggage to head to the airport for a trip to Holland, I noticed a woman sitting in a parked SUV across the street watching me as I came down the stairs with my hands loaded with luggage, well dressed and obviously on my way somewhere. As I crossed to the sidewalk where her car was parked I passed in front of her car. At that moment I heard the loud clicks of the car door's locks. At first I didn't think anything of it and then realized, Oh, it's because of me. I saw people walking up ahead and a couple of guys on the other side walk and did the math. It was me that she was protecting herself from. I stopped , turned and looked straight at her tense face and said, " SERIOUSLY?". Then I mouthed, " FUCK YOU" and headed to the airport.

12 comments:

Divalocity said...

At least you have admitted to the sting of racism that you have felt, while other's like conservative pundit Allen West and his ilk claim they've never witnessed it.

That's a part of our lives here in America, whether we warrant this behavior or not. What a bunch of liar's.

AC said...

Actually, Fluff, it's a GREAT idea for you to share your experiences with the readers of this blog (no doubt many of whom are white females).

Soft bigotry is bigotry. Just because many white people in the fashion industry call themselves liberal, vote Democrat, donate to causes, etc, doesn't mean they don't engage in offensive stereotyping and profiling.

(I'll go you one further; ever walk into Intermix on lower 5th? The security guy there is black and HE follows me around EVERY SINGLE TIME I've been in there. That store is 12' x 10' if it's an inch and WTF am I going to do with a size 2 leopard romper? But doesn't he follow me around anyway?)

One simply has to rise above it. Or engage in a little profiling oneself. My brother has a pretty spot on joke: Why do white women in slasher flicks always walk into the dark house? The same reason white women in real life always walk out into the middle of traffic: they're entitled to. : O

Diane Chehab said...

As the spouse and mother of Black men, it still took me years to realize what they have to go through, and I am sure I still don't know it all. Add to the car door "click" the car alarms going off (without anyone touching the cars) in Queens! It's sickening.

Joy said...

Thanks for sharing. This is needed.

Anya Caliendo Couture Millinery Atelier. said...

Dear Fluff, I am sorry you have been subjected to humiliating things like this. There is nothing like racism...really hard to wrap my mind around many happenings regarding TM case!

spirou said...


DUBAI !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Love you little fish !

Anonymous said...

I am a little surprised by your blog. I myself have crossed the street or felt my back go up if I encounter black men, but never the well-dressed or affluent though many crimes are committed by the well-tailored to be sure. Thuggish looks, matched by thuggish behaviors, are another matter. In equal measure, aggressive, poor whites can just as easily offend with little effort (they too would likely be tailgated in stores). When the rich and the famous, and someone who summers in the Hamptons, start piping up about perceived slights, I think it is time for the truly slighted and harassed to be rise up and take offense.

Fluff Chance said...

Dear Surprised Anonymous,
Despite your impression of me or my story, life rolls many ways for all of us and none of us are immune to its vagaries. Until you've walked a mile in my Gucci's I doubt that you could imagine what my life is like, or anyone elses for that matter.
Thanks for your comment.

Tiffani said...

This is cool!

Anonymous said...

a

b said...

Thank you for writing this. I have experienced this for my entire adulthood and although I know it's commonplace for many men of color, one sometimes feels like their experience is unique and that others won't understand.

As a gay black man of Latino heritage, I often find myself being judged as an outsider by my some of own kind for the way I speak or the way I style myself. I am either the "gringo" or not "truly black" as some would see it (although this is not the norm, I have heard it often enough in my life). Naturally, I may face some form of ostracism from some people of color when they realize that I am gay. I often have the idea that, among my own people, I'm perceived as a bit of a special case. It makes me forget that in the eyes of the great 'white' world, I'm just another black man with all the stereotypes associated with it.

It's the little 'slaps on the face' like what you listed that bring it all back home for me: the defensiveness of white women on an elevator or even on the street or the odd treatment in stores. There may be the odd time when I've heard someone utter 'faggot' when I walk past them and I have learned not to let it bother me in my almost 40 years on this planet. But being feared? It just never stops hurting.

b said...

Thank you for writing this. I have experienced this for my entire adulthood and although I know it's commonplace for many men of color, one sometimes feels like their experience is unique and that others won't understand.

As a gay black man of Latino heritage, I often find myself being judged as an outsider by my some of own kind for the way I speak or the way I style myself. I am either the "gringo" or not "truly black" as some would see it (although this is not the norm, I have heard it often enough in my life). Naturally, I may face some form of ostracism from some people of color when they realize that I am gay. I often have the idea that, among my own people, I'm perceived as a bit of a special case. It makes me forget that in the eyes of the great 'white' world, I'm just another black man with all the stereotypes associated with it.

It's the little 'slaps on the face' like what you listed that bring it all back home for me: the defensiveness of white women on an elevator or even on the street or the odd treatment in stores. There may be the odd time when I've heard someone utter 'faggot' when I walk past them and I have learned not to let it bother me in my almost 40 years on this planet. But being feared? It just never stops hurting.