I was sitting at the table
of a committee of women
who looked both similar and different from me.
Some had kinks and coils, some had sew ins
some had wigs, some had the kinds you see in a hair + beauty store
growing straight from their own heads –
and all were brown in many beautiful ways.
We were discussing something.
The conversation was foggy, it wasn’t a discussion really
it was more like an argument
that no one was winning.
They’d shout and shout, each trying to prove their point
and so I slammed my hands on the table and stood
exhausted by all of it.
“This is ridiculous!” I’d said, slowly gaining their eyes,
“Can we really not talk with each other without -”
“Look at her.” She swivels lazily in her chair, “Mm, she think she better than us. Talkin like a damn White girl, bitch sit down ain’t nobody asked you.”
I stare at her, for a moment.
Seized, for a moment, by incredulity.
Then I look up, “My point exactly.”
I look, again, at her, “No one wants to hurt you here. I don’t wish to hurt you. I just want to talk with you. That’s why I’m here, that’s why we’re all here.”
“Alright, so talk then bitch! Clearly, ain’t nobody stoppin you.”
I force back a sigh.
“Alright, first question, why am I a bitch to you?”
Immediately, the question sounds pretentious – like I am never to ask why I’m called a bitch. A bitch is a bitch, take it and shut up.
No! That’s plain ridiculous! I don’t like being called a bitch, and neither should you!
I wrestle with my brain as the dream goes hazy for a moment,
it makes sense that it would.
I cannot speak or think for other people when I am awake, why should the same rules not apply when I am asleep?
“Second question, how have I so threatened you, you felt compelled to not see me as Black and to call me not by my name? Is it my manner of speech?…I love words and language, as did Maya Angelou; as does Toni Morrison, as did Zora Neale Hurston, as does Alice Walker and Nikki Giovanni – favorites in my childhood -as did Octavia E. Butler – a favorite now -as do many, many, many others. I don’t wish for it to be construed in my mind and in the minds of others as a way to appear a step above you or anyone else, yet -”
“You still think it, don’t you? Bitch…don’t try to talk some fancy shit an’ throw out a couple of names, I know you…and I don’t like you.”
I wanted to apologize, desperately, but I didn’t want to.
I do think I am a step above, but not in the way that you do.
I am a step above, in my mind, when faced with hatred and menace and I respond with an anguished kindness because I feel the pain that you feel, your grief and frustration. They rage inside you and make you mad – and that makes me sad and wish for your storm to pass so that you may heal, because I am human and you are human and we all feel.
I loved school, I love to learn – despite the anger and fear and hatred my teachers and fellow students had for me, and the bullying I endured. “Bullying”…such a nice word, comparatively speaking.
I wanted to apologize, instead I said, “I’m afraid of you.”
“Good? Why? No. Why is that good?”
“Because the more people’re afraid of me, the less I’ll be fucked with.”
My mind, I think, has broken the rules.
“How does that make sense to you? If people are afraid of you, the less they’ll want anything to do with you. Most of them. Some won’t give a shit regardless. But that’s an issue they must face and overcome. And I, though I am afraid, I still wish to reach you. I still want to talk and connect because I am not your enemy and you are not mine. We are each other’s reflection, the genuine enemy lies only within our minds.”
“I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.”
– Maya Angelou