03 Nov It’s exhausting being Black
I drop my boys at school at the drop-and-go section. It’s been a hectic morning in traffic and so I’m relieved to get them there bang on time. The school has a very clear rule that has been enforced so many times. Please just drop your children, say your goodbyes and LEAVE! The school is in a residential street so we have to be mindful of the fact that there are neighbours and other commuters using the space.
In front of me is a massive car driven by one of the parents, a White woman. I see her friend, another White woman approach her and they start having a conversation. LITERALLY IN FRONT OF THE SCHOOL KNOWING WHAT THE RULES ARE! The staff member helping to facilitate the flow of traffic and remind the “Karens” of the world of the rules (they need reminders, you know), move closer to her. I’m curious to see what will unfold and observe his body language. He hesitates then nudges a bit closer and then hesitates a bit more. It’s almost as if though, he hopes that she will see him nudging closer and this will be her reminder to move. It’s almost as though he hopes her conscious will kick in and she will become aware of the fact that her need to make small chatter, has now started causing traffic congestion. Also, she is breaking the school rules! But the only ‘stuckness’ is her privilege. Her privilege that stops her from seeing any problems with her own behaviour.
I feel my range of emotions being activated as this scene is all too familiar. I slowly drive away as I can see that this is going to be a long conversation. I also know that I have many battles to fight and sometimes tapping out is the only way for me to keep my sanity. So I drive away slowly – first I drive AROUND Karen (because that’s the only way out as she ain’t moving). And then I keep looking in the review mirror. The Black staff member, will nudge closer but he never directly signals to her that she should fucking move. Therein lies a lot of clues and insights about the power dynamics at play in this situation. When I drive past him, he shakes his head in disbelief about what moghel is doing. I empathise with him. But he will never approach her directly. You see, many of us Black South Africans still believe it’s not in our power range to pull White people into line. This is one of the aftermaths of our past oppressive system. And it still lingers so much in our daily engagements.
You know what makes me mad? Is that when they arrive and can’t get out of the parking spot because there are too many cars, they’ll hoot frantically for him to come and assist them. And he will drop what he is doing and frantically run towards them, to help them get out of their parking pickle. Almost as if he OWES that to them. But when the power swings to his favour, they turn a blind eye. He too, doesn’t enforce his power to tell them to move on. I wonder, if the scenario was different and it was me breaking the school rules, would he have hesitated to tell me. Probably not. And that’s the other layer in this scenario.
I drive away and decide to not say anything today. I’m exhausted and I don’t know what the week has in store for me. And so, I decide to blast my music and express myself in the form of the written word. It’s unlike me to choose the silent route. But today its’ the choice that helps me maintain some form of sanity. Today it’s about self-preservation.
PS – this is my lived experience daily. If you read this post and ‘don’t get it’ then please start to educate yourself on the dynamics of White privilege. Do not ask me to explain why this triggers me so much. Having the lived experience is ENOUGH. I don’t owe you any explanation. Have you ever thought about how tiring that is? To experience these things on the daily and then still make it my job to explain and try and convince you that what I’m living, is in fact legit. No babes. Just, NO!
Do your homework, understand what’s really happening and then come into my space to listen. When you listen and empathise, work with me to break down these silos at play. Become an ally. Talk to me when you are ready for that level! Until then, don’t talk.