Hi. Here's a post I wrote for Desiree Burch's new blog, "The Briar Patch."
Has this happened to you? Ugh..tell me about it.
For a year or so, I worked at a famous, really expensive rental building in New York. We will call it New York by Barry. I worked as a leasing agent showing rich, primarily white people, apartments. Apartments that I could never afford and actually wouldn't even want to live in but I put on a good face and rented the shit out of them. I worked with a team of about 8 people, four and a half of us being people of color. The 1/2 was included whenever she was feeling sassy. Day after boring day, I would rattle off the same spiel, "All of our apartments have white oak flooring, stainless steel appliances, washers and dryers, and views that are unlike any other building in the city....blah, blah, blah." For a creative person, this was hell on earth. Most days I would try to entertain myself by mixing it up and throwing in random statements like, "This large walk in closet also opens to an alternate universe." Sometimes people laughed, foreigners just stared confused. One day while showing the standard 65+, curious couple from Connecticut shit got real.
We were staring out looking at the Seaport when out of the blue the husband turned to ask me if I had gone to college. His wife quickly turned around with baited breath to hear my reply. "Of course I went to college," I said. He seemed disappointed. The wife then asked me where I grew up. I said, "Like you, I'm from Connecticut." "Oh what high school did you go to?" Now here's the thing. I went to two high schools, one public, one private, but whenever I'm dealing with fucked up, racist ass white people I always say, "I attended Miss Porter's." Her mouth fell to the floor. For those of you that might not know, Jackie O. went to Porter's. It's the holy grail for WASP elitism. The wife's face turned beet red, "Oh la dee da!" "Excuse me?" I said. And then she opened her mouth and out came, "That explains why you don't have an accent."
An accent? Bitch! Are you crazy? is what I heard in my head but my mouth remained shut. All of my good manners and shock wouldn't allow me to speak I just stood there and stared. I finished the tour with a flat, "That's it." When I returned to my office I was enraged, hurt, and pissed beyond all comprehension. I was mostly mad at myself for not coming back with some witty, smart ass remark and tried to make up for it by telling my co-workers everything I should've said. The white ones were sympathetic, the black ones rolled their eyes. I wanted nothing but to find them on the street and cut a bitch. Racism is alive and well and I know we know this. There is no "post-racial" society happening, race and racism aren't going anywhere and this moment reminded me that no matter where you are, no matter how you present yourself, there will always be one asshole out there ready to make sure that you know, that they know, that you are still Black, Brown, Beige and beyond! So fuck them and have your comebacks ready.