- a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.
- when someone from another ethnic or cultural background “lightly tries” you but pretends like they didn’t because they know in any other circumstance, they would catch these hands.
Track 1: Rise. Solange- A Seat at the Table
I first heard this word in a team meeting at a non-profit I’m working for. We are hella progressive so words like racism, cultural competence, disenfranchisement and systemic oppression are as common as good morning and said with an intent that equates the same energy. My second meeting, this tall, Black Woman in leadership said “blah blah, something something, fucking microaggressions, something” and my heart thumped so hard I thought I was going to be dizzy. I immediately asked her to say it again, and my heart started thumping harder. At moment, I felt as if something lost or forgotten had been found and shined and polished and handed to me for safe keeping again. However, that part only lasted for a moment.
I have a fascination with DVDs. Even as a self proclaimed PR guru with a real appreciation for successful marketing, I loathe commercials and even though Netflix can rid me of that interruption too, I still prefer DVDs. Call me crazy or whatever. That being said, the Movie Exchange is my secret happy place and on days I plan to veg out in the bed with a huge takeout box of jerk wings and a bottle of hennessy, I pick up about $10 worth of whatever is good and live my best life.
Lucky for me, some soul with what I can only presume was a cluttered entertainment center, dropped off the “Underground” series, starring Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Executive Produced by John Legend, and I was provided with one of the most heart wrenchingly illustrated accounts of the African as an American Slave experience I’ve ever encountered. After finishing the 2nd season it was easy to see why the television network cancelled the show: the direct and indirect intentionalism of the script. I was 10000% here for it. Unfortunately, the powers that be, were clearly not.
As I am in avid disagreement with spoilers in any capacity, I won’t be providing additional context as I would rather you watch the series yourself. However, there was a line said during season __ episode __ that aligned so perfectly with a feeling that had been lying directly under my skin, that I immediately felt like each word was an exfoliant or excavation tool, unearthing this lie that I had told myself.
On my 28th birthday, Solange put out the “A Seat at the Table” album. “Don’t Touch My Hair” blasted on the radio and I felt that shit on a spiritual level. There was no need to analyze or read into the lyrics. They are clear and precise and bring out every single needed word without wasting it on synonyms nonsense. It’s blatant.
I had to get the album… and like any self respecting black and slightly bourgeois millennial, I had to get it on TIDAL because, black enterprise and the reasonable doubt album are gospel. That’s when I heard “Cranes In the Sky”, and by the 5th “it”, I was empty. That day, I took one last, deep breath… I breathed in every time I had been told that I was assuming or too racially sensitive; the times I let sprinkles of racism, sexism, classism and disrespect roll off of my brown skin to appease others; the times when I felt too tired to fight or too small to speak and spiritually unconsidered and emotionally drained… i breathed them all in and when I exhaled, I felt my equilibrium begin to tilt.
My whole life I heard that I was assuming, or intentionally looking for people to be causing me harm. I had been told for 27 years that I was the problem because I believe that racism was more than just a word in the history book. Then, I learned that word, and Solange put out the “A Seat at the Table” album and I think I took one last, deep breath because of the release of pain and weight that I had been trying for 27 years to convince myself that I was making up because I was tired of fighting and arguing and feeling small and unconsidered and strange… then, I lost my balance.
One of the largest challenges to living in a space of desired awareness, is the lack of training manuals available that coach you from being your truest self to becoming your aspirational self. I move based on my gut instincts, vibes, energies, frequencies and the weather. There are so many words that I don’t quite know yet, and I feel that the lack of nomenclature takes away from the perceived validity of my speech- no matter how valid it may be- especially when I am attempting to bring people from different backgrounds into my thought processes or experiences.
The power that I felt being able to say a word that described this feeling that I’d been having- the one where people are saying something inherently racist as all get out, but not so blatant as to offend anyone else other than the already preconceived angry and repetitively outspoken black woman in the room- was just grand! But, a few days later, that same knowledge began to make me feel really really small.
I started to think of all the other times I’d been trying to explain that feeling, and had gotten nowhere, and probably put the collective understanding of white privilege and racism in places where I’d try to voice those feelings unsuccessfully, back another 2-3 steps. Then I started to get angry.
Angry because- who TF actually termed any of these phrases and why aren’t they on vocabulary lists so that people of color who don’t have scholars or academics in their families or maybe just haven’t found the right tags on social media yet, will have the words that are required to be spoken to justifiably complain about subvert and overt racist ish that happens to them on a daily basis? Then, I started to feel empowered.
I started using the word every chance that I could- teaching every person I knew about what it meant and encouraged them to make good use of it too. Now phrases like intersectionality and toxic masculinity etc… roll off my tongue freely and in spaces that I frequent. I’m actively participating in making these phrases a part of the #Culture- at least in the small spaces my voice matters in Houston, and that feels good.
This transition: grand, to small, to angry, to empowered… all of that in a matter of moments because I knew that I wasn’t crazy to believe in this concept, I hate that it took me 27 years to learn this phrase, I’m sick of having to know exactly what words to say to prove a point that we all know is true, but I’m hella excited to begin sharing it with the masses.