Last night I went out with an old friend (high school) and a bunch of her newer friends from Seattle. Some of whom I knew. Others, not so much. We had a surprise bridal shower for her. It was cute. We all got dressed up ate candy coated with sayings like, “Eat my pussy,” or “Do you wanna fuck?” printed on their shiny fructose surfaces, and drank champagne. Eventually, we made our way over to a club in downtown Seattle. Fuck if that was a good call.
I was the only Black woman in the group– in recollection; I was the only Black woman in all of Noc Noc. The rest of the women were all White except one woman who was, I think, Filipina. We’re there FIVE MINUTES. When I notice this guy looking and pointing. He and he friends are like a pack’s length (20 feet) away (like how I slip derby speak into everything?) He notices that I’ve noticed him and then (picture middle school boy reaction) says, “Oh shit, she saw me.” Giggles, turns around, and then the entire table starts laughing. Seconds later, his PLASTERED friend comes up and starts talking to me…I’m sober like a motherfuck. So he starts apologizing for the racist shit his friend was saying that I didn’t hear. Telling me that he told him he needs to keep his voice down because he could offend certain people around. What? No motherfucker. He shouldn’t keep his voice down. HE SHOULD NOT BE RACIST. He’s going on and on and on and I’m simultaneously thinking “Dude, SHUT THE FUCK UP” & “How is this my life?” So in this moment one girl that I don’t know very well is hearing him say this shit and I’m just baffled. He’s talking, she’s watching, I’m listening and looking over at the table that’s part laughing part “O-faced-I-can’t-believe-he’s-talking-to-her” staring. And NO ONE says anything on my behalf.
That moment was like a four-way stop. I wanted to go home, just pick my shit up and bounce. But, I knew that if I’d left it would have ruined her night. It was not about me so I stayed.
When that baby-faced boy of a man mocked me because of the color of my skin I made the choice to pick up my pain and swallow it for the sake of the group. That is the epitome of internalizing your oppression. It’s when the oppressed pick up their shame and hurt and swallow it for the good of the normal. I purposefully did that last night. I have spent a huge chunk of my life internalizing oppression and had no idea why I was so angry. Now that I’m older, I call that shit out. I will not breathe in the poison of a broken system by myself. I refuse to be in this war alone. Please know that you’ve been drafted. If you’re friends with me — like for real friends -roll dogs – you have entered into the world of allyship. Imma need you to back a sista up.
When drunken guy went back to his table I excused myself, went to the bathroom, took a few deep breaths, and tried to get myself together. When I came back, I told one of the girls what happened and her response was weird. It was muffled like a fart in a pillow. She had no idea when to do.
This is when an ally needs to STEP THE FUCK UP. If you’re ever concerned about what to do when racist shit is happening this is what you do. You, the ally, says “Dude, shut up. Go away.” Then you grab your group of girls, make an exit, and find an even more kick ass place to party. You can choose to tell the bartender or bouncer why you’re leaving on your way out, but regardless, you leave.
It was so hard to be there. As the night progressed the baby faced boy man made his way over to our group several times. He gave people lap dances. He showed off his six-pack. He flirted. No matter how drunk I was, I was still able to make the choice to leave whenever he was around. Eventually, the girl who was sitting next to me said, “I wanted to tell you that he’s being really obnoxious and saying racist shit even more than before, so I want you to be careful.” I’m sorry what? You want who to be careful? Me? Oh fuck no. You want him to be careful. I ain’t doing shit wrong. I told her, “Listen, I’ve done a good job of ignoring him all night. If he says shit to me, mother fucker is going down.” She says, “Remember, *insert the bride’s name here*, she needs to have a good time…blah blah…reinforcing the racist paradigm…blah blah blah….” I turned to her and said, “I hear you. Now hear me. If he approaches me talking out the side of his muthafuckin mouth. Shit’s not gonna be okay.”
My friend ended up having a good time. I had a good time as well. I even met a guy who was cool. We danced, flirted, and even thumb wrestled. He wants to go hiking Sunday. (By the way I was all, “No. I’m skating banked track and ain’t missing that shit for the world.”) The bride-to-be and I walked back to the hotel hand in hand or arm in arm all-the-while doing the drunken girl, “I love you,” ” NO, I love YOU.” I’m glad she had fun. It’s a night she’ll never forget. Admittedly, I’m a little angry because even though I was in a room full women I felt totally alone. I danced and watched everyone flirt and hang out with this guy who’d probably smash a full can of beer on my temple when I wasn’t looking because my skin is brown. I’m going to have a talk with my friends …eventually. For now, I’m going to lay low. After all, today is a derby day.