Blowing Off Steam Or, You Can Keep The Flowers
Today’s submission to microaggressions.com comes from a visit to the flowershop.
I went to this florist with my partner yesterday, in hopes of finding some flower arrangements for our upcoming wedding ceremony.
While showing us a potential design, the shop owner; a person who was older, and white, began talking to us about its southern roots, and how the north has lost its way.
I felt tense. I’ve mentioned before how I’ve been socialized in some ways to appear as non-threatening to white people as possible as a defense mechanism to ensure my survival, so I cracked a crooked smile and responded in kind with a “no, I think I like things better up north.”
I emphasized the “up north” in hopes of communicating that this exchange was beginning to feel like I was talking to a member of the confederacy who didn’t realize the south had lost.
I repeated this a few more times, but continued to get pushback.
He said that we needed to return to the more civilized ways of the old south when he was a kid. Talked about how much the world has changed, and how things were much better, and simpler back then.
“I can remember when Negroes were just going around, as Ralph has said so often, scratching where they didn’t itch and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.”
–Martin Luther King Jr. In his final speech, I Have Been To The Mountaintop.
Are you kidding me? You must realize that we are black. You must realize that were potentially looking to spend our money in this store before this point right? Why did you feel the need to say this to us in this moment?
Dear white people: Never tell people who are black that we need to “return” to the “more civilized” and “simpler” ways of the south.
What is with this longing for the past? More civilized for who? Better for who? Simpler for who? Certainly not me. Certainly not us. Never do this. Ever.
Unless you are actively trying to communicate the message that you don’t want us around.
As hard as these last few years have been for people who are black, I’m certainly not longing for “the good old days” in any form or fashion.
I guess you could say that I wasn’t expecting it when the moment came.
Some days I am more prepared to deal with the ever-day slights and insults than others. Much of my work involves doing just that; navigating, investigating, educating, and learning about the things that drive us further apart in order to find ways to find reconciliation and bring us closer together.
That work, although fulfilling, can also be very exhausting. That’s why it’s so important for us to recharge when we can.
Yesterday was a time where I’d hoped for a break. Yesterday, was a time where I’d hoped to just check out for a while, and recharge with loved ones.
Sometimes I’d just like to be able to have a meal, go to a movie, or look for flowers for a most joyous life event without feeling as if I’m on the battlefield.
I’d like to say that we shrugged it off immediately. I’d like to say that it didn’t impact our mood long after we’d left, but I can’t say that. At least we have each other.
No days off. You can keep the flowers.
We left that store.
Maybe it wasn’t the best response. Maybe it was. It sure felt like what needed to happen at the time.
Just needed to blow off some steam.
From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW, LLMSW