Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Breaking Out of Neutral

This morning, the sun was streaming through the balcony, bringing with it the promise of opportunity and the rush of misunderstood spring pollen.  It burst forth with the promise of a new graduate and the hopes of a new mother.

Then the morning turned to the afternoon of working and reading and while the sun was shining, it felt less promising as one after another tidbit crossed the threshold of this writer's desk.

As a black woman, well into middle age, and a child of the promise after Brown, after Civil Rights, after so many afters, all I could feel today was a bit numb, like being stuck in neutral.

Overwhelming the sense was first being informed that a well educated Muslim young woman, married, was being ousted from her position as a college counselor because someone was uncomfortable with her pregnancy.  College educated, non-hijab-wearing Muslim married woman, a year out of her baccalaureate studies from the state's top public institution.

Then there was the reminder that a well educated, seasoned professional black woman was replaced with a barely dry baccalaureate blond white woman because the manager felt intimidated by the black woman's confidence.

Finally, swirling around all that was the usual suburban otherizing that happens to many with a browner hue who try to help with the PTO, scouts, school functions, and are put into the servant role of the resident mom club.

There was the commiserating of fellow black females of needing to quiet the voice, tone down the fro, not out-dress the frumpy co-worker, hide talents and skills to make the other one shine because that is what they are expected, used to having.

It means being snarkly addressed as "overachievers" when reporting on what the scouts under the black woman's direction did that year versus what the many mani/pedi's the other troop accomplished in nine months.  It is being called radical because of walking in a sense of self-empowerment and purpose and not Stepford Wife-esque submission.

Neutral means not expressing feelings one way or another, to be expressionless, a lot like they expected of the slaves or servers in a fancy restaurant.  To be there to meet the needs but to be opinion less, thoughtless, achievement-less.

To break out means to care less what they think, whoever the "they" are, knowing they will not hire you anyway, not promote you anyway, will find a reason to "otherize you" whether that means they get to say you were "inappropriate" for pointing out their wrongs to a child of color, whether that means some of them demand an "apology" when their little Johnny's are called out on their harassment of little Jamal.  It means not caring if they stand on one side and look you up and down when you show up at the musical performance in a nice dress and they have on the sweats from early morning drop of.

It means to be original and individual.

Busting out of neutral means boldly walking in the confidence of your purpose even if they are intimidated by your essence and light.

The sun is still streaming through the balcony with a gentle late spring wind tussling the trees.  The rays of shining sun cast a welcoming glow over the empowered soul who decided that neutral is just not hot enough.

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