Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Yes, I'm Black. No, I Don't Have an Attitude.

I had this problem once, when I was waitressing at IHOP, during my master's, of finding myself "on guard" , I suppose, or irritated, when customers would come over to me, quietly take me aside and say .. "You are SUCH a good waitress". As if I have reached some pinnacle of a very respected career, as if I didn't have bigger better things brewing in my life. It always seemed to me that it was always older white people who'd actually take the time to give me, what I assume, what they thought was an compliment.  I'm not sure what it was, if it was some perceived racism on my part, "Good little negro girl, you're doing great serving masta!" or if it was my disdain for being belittled into just a "good waitress". And let me be honest, I wasn't that great of a waitress, I was just polite. Although most people would be happy with such a compliment, I, however, I found myself countless times telling them, politely of course, some  variation of a thank you and how I enjoyed my job and tactfully add in there the fact that I was in school had my bachelors and in the middle of my masters, blah blah blah... etc etc. It was fun watching first the confusion then their surprise when I told them. My sister thought I was being ridiculous, but really I just hated the fact that it was so easy for people to accept me as a "good waitress" but weirdly surprised when I turned to be more. I guess I felt that, as a black person, I had something to prove.

I suppose I told that story to make a point about how I feel, sometimes, I'm prejudged by the color of my skin. Am I? I dunno. Maybe I am, Maybe I'm not, Maybe it's all in my head.  Over the last 4 years working in the pharmacy, I've noticed an interesting occurrence, where people are more apt to be "on edge" with me, snippy, or argue, although I was as polite as can be... or accuse me of being rude or having an attitude, when I wasn't. I use to chalk it up to it be an ornery patient, however, in the course of serving some of these patients it was interesting to see how their attitudes switched up when another co-worker interacted with them. First I thought it was me, but when someone else witnessed the scenario and commented on it, I knew I wasn't crazy. Unless you have EVP and can read my thoughts, I'm a genuinely polite person, I have no reason or desire to be rude to people, or give people an attitude, but I'm accused of it far too often. It really is hilarious cause I have co-workers who clearly have an attitude yet they never get a complaint... but then again, they're white.

I'd like to pretend that in this day in age racism doesn't exist. That people don't automatically make assumptions about me before getting to know me. But considering a good percentage of people I now call friends thought I had "an attitude" before they even gotten the chance to say hello to me, or even know my name. I have to admit to myself that on some level, it does. So much so that I cannot have a regular day and god forbid, a bad one without being accused of having the stereotypical "black sass" or "attitude". You know one day in my life I'd like to walk into Macy's or Nordstrom's and not have to smile sweetly and make sure I say hello to the store clerk just so I can try on a pair of shoes, or get some service in Ann Taylor, or not being accused of having an attitude at work. I mean really... who smiles and is happy ALL THE TIME?! I think we can all agree that people who smile all the time are weird and creepy.

My IHOP days are far behind me, but I remember  thinking, yeah.... when I make it, I won't have to prove anything to anyone... Wrong. I love the color of my skin and everything else God gave me. I wouldn't want anything different. But it doesn't stop me from wishing that strong, successful, black females aren't always left having to go above and beyond in normal, everyday activities, just to not be considered "ghetto" "sassy" "bitchy"  or having an attitude. And it's not limited to just people of different races, black people are some of the worse offenders of this, but that's a whole different post.