Where's Our Protection?


"I don't appreciate you talking about my girlfriend," he said as he aggressively approached us about what he felt was disrespect toward his white girlfriend. 

He was black.

His girlfriend had been staring at us for about seven minutes now. Watching us laugh, giggle, and tell jokes to each other. It made her noticeably uncomfortable because in mid-joke she began pointing at us and whispering. I hadn't paid much attention to her, but my line sister saw her gestures and mentioned it to me.

"This girl over here is pointing at us. Maybe I know her," she questioned. I looked at her and doubted the possibility of them knowing each other. She seemed much younger than us and looked completely unfamiliar. We continued our conversation.

A few minutes later there we were, staring in the face of an upset black man who approached us about his white girlfriend who seemingly had an issue that we were enjoying ourselves in her predominantly white space.

We hadn't said anything to her, or anything disrespectful about her. My line sister explained that. He didn't care. In fact, it seemed like he was more irate that we didn't back down and submit to his anger the first time. As though he thought him approaching us would've rendered an apology that he and his girlfriend thought they deserved.

"No one was talking about your girlfriend, sir. She was pointing at us and we couldn't figure out why," my line sister responded. "Goodbye," I added. 

We stood our ground. Confident. Secure. Not displaying anything close to how threatened we felt.

"I'm from Jamaica Queens, we don't get down like that," he continued.
"What is that supposed to mean?" I inquired.
"I went to Cornell!" he exclaimed as if that explained why he was still in our face defending an offense that never happened.

We were both confused by the direction of the conversation. Was he seeking validation? Was he trying to impress us? Did he want us to submit to him because he thought his attendance at an ivy league institution made us feel inferior? Was he trying to repair his ego?

"And?" we both replied, cackling at the hilarity of what the situation turned into—a black man vying for approval from the white folks around him, or perhaps from the two black women he apparently hated: us. Shouting his resume as if people were going to put down their margaritas and give him a hand clap. As if that part of his resume was impressive enough for us to back down; for two accomplished black women to awe over his achievement of getting into (but not graduating from) Cornell.

His white girlfriend approached us to simmer the situation.

"I didn't send him over here," she said to two unamused black women who simply wanted them both to disappear from our presence. 

"Sure you didn't. Your white fragility is what inspired this man to approach two black women because for some reason we made you uncomfortable." My line sister decided to read her her rights. She looked dumbfounded as she struggled to find words to say to a response she clearly hadn't expected.

"Just go away," we responded.

Surprisingly that wasn't the last, nor the worst, of our interaction. As we shooed them both away, we dedicated the following 2 minutes to settling back into ourselves. We debriefed and moved forward.

Unfortunately, he couldn't do the same.  He returned to shout more insults at us as if he had felt defeated that we didn't cower the first time he spoke. He blurted out every ill thing he thought of black women.

"You're from the projects!"
"That's why y'all don't got no men."
"Nobody wants y'all!"
"This is why people hate black people."

"You're still mad?" I asked, taking him even further over the edge.

"I'm a f*cking millionaire," he responded. "But your shirt is wrinkled," I reminded him. 

"I'm better than y'all. We're better than y'all!" he angrily shouted. 

"But you came up to us," my line sister emphasized.  

He stormed away, forgetting that he approached us in the first place; upset that she reminded him.

My anger immediately turned to disgust as he displayed an undeniable hatred for blackness—both ours and his own. Neither of us had ever seen this man in our lives, but suddenly, in a fit of rage, he knew everything about our lives. Because we were assertive black women unamused by his anger, we had to be from the projects. Because we were enjoying our black womanhood with each other, we must have been single. Because we made it a point to ensure he knew that we were unbothered by his girlfriend's white fragility, we were the reason people hate black folk. Because we wouldn't submit, nobody wanted us.

How convenient for him to spew every bit of hatred toward us, simply because his girlfriend was uncomfortable with our presence. How impressive he must've thought he was to be in a predominantly white space, being disrespectful to two black women he had never met in his life. How strong he must've felt to have protected his girlfriend from two black women who were minding their own business. 

Black men: When black women share their disdain for black men who date white women, it's very seldom about their dating preference, and more so about the frequency of which black men forget they're black men. The fact that, your white partner's whiteness somehow makes you feel like you have the same privilege. That your closeness to whiteness, somehow makes you more powerful. More desirable. Like they have a different level of respect for you, than they do the rest of us. That at some point in your relationship, your loyalty and alliance lies in their whiteness, more than your own blackness.

While that may not be everyone's tale—I'm sure there are plenty black men who are very keen to (and dare I say, love) their blackness despite who they date—it certainly seemed to be the story of this man who dedicated at least 10 minutes to disrespecting two black women who were relishing in self-love and sisterhood.

In that moment, I experienced a man who needed validation from the white people surrounding him, not by being a good person, but by attacking the very black bodies those same white people despise. Spouting out stereotypes about black women that were untrue and irrelevant to our existence in that space.

All of a sudden, two strong black women that he had never met, were worthless stereotypes to him.

But what was most disheartening was while we were being shouted at by a black man who may have needed more black love growing up, there was another black man who stood about a foot away from us who said and did nothing. He watched from the sidelines as we were being disrespected and didn't offer a single "chill out man" "relax" or "are y'all okay." He offered no sympathy or condolence. He simply watched the interaction with no ounce of emotional tie to any of us.

It's baffling to me that our black girl joy made his white girlfriend so uncomfortable. That her discomfort made him so upset. But it was more appalling that the black man standing next to us cared nothing about our safety, as black women, to even intervene. Our peace is endangered. Our joy is threatening. And our mere existence is discarded time and time again.

While this may have been the first time for me, plenty of black women have been on the other end of similar situations. I've heard personal testaments to how ruthless and flippant black men have been to black women. I've read articles of the abuse that occurs when black women threaten the black male ego. And I am completely exhausted with all of it.

The burden of protecting, providing for, loving, nurturing, and healing black men is constantly placed on the shoulders of black women, however when the same is needed for us, black men are absent—or in this case, silent. Why is it that we are constantly asked to better our black male counterparts, but we're not afforded the same luxury. Our entire existence is so upsetting to white people and black men, that the only people we have to fend for us, is us. How unsettling it is to know that no matter where we go, we are among the most hated beings in the world.

It's a chilling reality, yet when we speak about it we're man bashing. When we share our lived experiences we're spreading hate. When we worry and question the lack of love we feel from our black brothers, we're trying to destroy the black family. People are more bothered by our expression of those experiences than they are at the fact that they're happening to us.

I usually have uplifting things to say in moments like this. Part of me wants to encourage us (black women) to continue to stick together in times like these. I want to remind us that there will be moments where no one is on our side, and in those moments all we have is each other. I want to inspire us all to love on each other. To not mind our business when it comes to us, but to stand in the gaps for each other. To advocate and support each other. To enjoy, and honor, and respect each other. To nurture, and heal, and protect each other—because no one else will.

And the other part of me is just pissed. I'm pissed to have experienced such hatred from a black man who was pushed out of a black woman. I am so disturbed by the lack of support and protection by the other black man who, no matter how much he tries to dilute it, may one day have a black daughter. I am bothered by the countless other stories I've heard from women who've experienced something similar. And I am disgusted at the countless black men who feel their behavior is okay at best, and commendable at worst. 

There is absolutely nothing I can say to mask the disgust and offense I felt in my heart last night. I am hurt and disappointed at the carelessness black men have for black womanhood. I am saddened by the reality that black women can't even exist without being disrespected, berated, harassed, bothered and/or threatened. And I am curious to know how long it'll take for black men to stand by us as fervently and lovingly as we do them.

I guess I'll see that next lifetime.

Note: if you're a black man who was offended by this post, perhaps you're one of the ones that need to do better to honor and support black women. Instead of taking offense to our lived experiences, you should assess the ways in which you tear us down—by thought, word, or deed—and work to eradicate the self-hate you promote. To those who are already doing their due diligence, I respect and love you. To the black men in my corner who have asked for his picture and offered to school him the right way: thank you. Despite what anyone says, we need you. And while the current climate doesn't want us to relish in our togetherness, I will always acknowledge that fact. 

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