There are some days when I’m in the groove. Day off. Sun is out. Making moves. I’m connecting with my homies in the city. I’m meeting new people. I’m passing out business cards. Suffice to say, it’s a breakfast with no hog, not using my AK, and fucking around and getting a triple double kind of day. So that should paint the picture of the type of 24 hours we’re talking about.
Today was one of those days.
It started with a visit to the bank. I had to get some money to help my mom with some bills. While the transaction was happening, through small talk with the teller, I come to find out that he is the little brother of my dude that works there. Being that I’m cool with his older brother, then you know how it goes, I’m gonna be cool with him off the strength. As we are chopping it up, an older (white) man was with another teller to the right of us. The branch manager (older white woman) was right there and they began to exchange pleasantries with one another (from the sound of it they were fairly familiar with each other). Through the course of their small talk the older white man’s sense of humor emerges and he goes for the joke at the expense of my mans and his brother (two Black people). From my vantage point, he threw awning level shade with a liberal dose of subtle racism. You could tell from the tone in his voice. This was clearly a microaggression, I mean Derald Wang Sue would say it was textbook.
During these moments time slows down for me. As soon as a microaggression is committed, you have a small window to respond before the conversation transitions too far. It’s like the Matrix and you’re Neo leaning back dodging bullets. Thankfully, I wasn’t stunned by the out of pocket comment and I was able to volley a solid clapback to let this gentlemen know that I can see what he’s insinuating and I wasn’t having any of it. If this is the little brother of someone I’m cool with, then in this scenario he’s my little brother too, and so I feel protective in the moment. I have no qualms putting my white guy voice on and speaking as direct as possible to white people. I feel that it’s incredibly important for any so-called woke white person, who claim to be down for the cause, to interject when microaggressions occur out in public. If you’re a white person with a solid analysis about the racial situation of this country (and especially if you have family and friends of color) I feel that it’s your absolute responsibility and duty to speak up. This is the moment for you to utilize your positionality.*
Being mixed. Being lightskinned. Being from Lakewood. Growing up with the people that I did. Doing the work that I do now. And also having the type of dad that I have, I just feel deeply compelled to speak up during instances of injustice. My white dad is as white as it gets. He’s a tall, well-spoken white man that was in the military for almost 30 years. He’s not playing around with you. If you met him you’d think he was a nice guy and in many respects he is. However, he’s also very entitled and unaware of his white male privilege. And what I’m coming to terms with, is that for as much as I am a Brown man living in this country, I’m finding more and more each day that I’m becoming like my father. I feel like my dad. I think like my dad. The only difference is that my mother has blessed me with some Filipino flavor that my dad will never understand. I have experiences he will never have. I posses an awareness that escapes him. But at the end of the day, I’m still his son. So when matters like this arise, it’s just second nature for me to do something about it. My dad would speak up when he sees unfair treatment happening, so I feel the need to do so too.
And that’s what I did.
After I clappedback, the teller and I exchanged a glance that so many people of color have shared before us. All in one quick look did we say so much without speaking a single word. There could be volumes written about the message tacitly communicated in that moment which could be summed up simply as, “man, white people be tripping sometimes.”
Afterwards, I exchanged handshakes with the brother. Wished him well and I walked out of the bank and proceeded to have the rest of my awesome day unperturbed.
*I’d like to add, to do this within reason and strategically. Be wise if this is the move that you’re planning on making and to consider the potential consequences to ensure it doesn’t backfire and you end up doing more harm than good. A lot of times good intentioned white people end up in this situation.