Those of you that have been keeping up with my blog this summer you know that I’m in an internship where I’m the ONLY black person; moreover, that I’ve only had conversations with less than five black people this entire summer. So, when I got back from Phliadelphia I was starting to feel the effects of not being around black people–yes, it’s really that bad.
So, I called my friend COGIC Kid and I was telling him that I was kind of getting tired of having to bite my tongue around these people, and how in general I just wanted to go off on the director of the program, who is 28, and my partner who I just generally didn’t like by that point in the summer when I had called him. So, in typical fashion, he went on to say, “You know how back in the day, when them old black women would be sitting around and they’d hear something the white folk say that they disagreed with, they just kept on sewing they quilt. So, you need to just keep on sewin’ your quilt.”
It reminds me of the scene from John Singleton’s “Rosewood” [Editor's note: Why is it that everytime I wanna use a YouTube video, it doesn't exist, but everyone else's blog is just LITTERED with videos and what not?!?!?!] when Miss Fanny decided to cry rape from the “big, black, coooolllorrrred” and Aunt Sarah (Esther Rolle) and Philomena had to keep on scrubbing the floors and not say a word.
So, this post is in tribute to all of those black women who had to keep their mouths shut, because clearly as “Rosewood” showed, when you open your mouth, you run the risk of losing your life. This post is to all the black men who had to keep on chopping wood, playing dumb, just in order to maintain their own lives and the lives of their wife and children.
But, I wonder what’s the pathology behind the silence.
My life isn’t on the line, perhaps some weird glances, or maybe just a heated discussion. But today, I chose to “sew my quilt” in a staff meeting when someone brought up the issue about pre-judging, or condemnation, suprisingly no one used the word “prejudice” and the group entertained this idea of “hypocritical” versus “hypercritical” and the true etymology behind the words and how they’re used contemporarily. Then someone said, “I think we judge people based on their class. More so than race.”
Now, I had on my “Black History…To Be Continued” shirt and I just sat there, and I realised that I was starting to get used to it. I didn’t have the same panic attack that I had had when my host mother said “hip hop is from the prison culture” but rather, I looked up, and made sure that I was the only black person in the room and I looked to see if anyone was looking to me as if to comment.
I kept on “sewing my quilt.”
If I had opened my mouth, I would have told them that from their world view of living in the suburbs where there interactions on a personal level with blacks is at a minimum, that it is quite easy for them to say that. Definitely, in intra-cultural situations, I do believe that class plays a heavier role–DUH, because we’re all the same race; skin color has been neutralized in those situations. And in those instances, I, along with everyone else makes judgments based on clothes, shoes, style, whether or not the young man has on skinny or baggy jeans, below the butt or not; for women, whether or not she appears to have false hair, whether or not the clothes are form fitting, if she’s dressed like an athlete or not. Definitely, if the clothes aren’t on point, aren’t matching, one begins to wonder about class.
The stereotype that everyone in the ‘hood is spending $150 bucks on J’s is a lie from the pits of hell. People from the hood are worried about food and basic stuff, it’s the middle class, dare I say, uppity kids like me who can afford, or whose parents can afford $150 bucks on a pair of shoes. So, if a black kid is running up and down the street with hair clearly uncombed and shoes run down, versus someone like me, who brushes his hair in the morning and try my best to make sure my shoe game is on point–then a class judgment gets made, probably on both sides, but again, this is an intra-cultural exchange.
The inter-cutural exchanges are the ones that pose the problems, I would hvae told the group. I would have went on to tell them that the problem is that too many people associate race as class. Meaning, if you saw me walking up the street, you would have made a class judgement on me because I was black. And blacks ought not to be too smug, we do it to, but none of us talk about it.
Instead we sew our respective quilts.
I’ve mentioned it in more than one of my blogs (I’m not about to search archives to find exactly which ones), but I am persuaded that it’s really because we, black folk, have been taught to not offend white folks. Aside from the fact that I am sleeping in my host mother’s house, and that her husband was sitting there, I doubt I would have reacted any differently–why because I have been taught that “you can’t tell white folk some things.”
No, this was not from my parents direct teachings, but rather as a result of cultural influences. I didn’t wanna come off as an Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson: despite me agreeing with them on many things, somehow their delivery affects their perception which is clearly faulty. As a result, I keep on sewing my quilt.
I just want to wrap this up by paying homage to the black women and men who sewed quilts and chopped wood just to live to see another day so that I, and many others, could have a chance to stop sewing quilts and chop wood and actually have that conversation.
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL