I lost it over a tip…

…because I was in the nail salon and forgot to get cash. Yes, I had a mental fit over this. Allow me to explain.

This past weekend has been rough emotionally, as it was a weekend where the things that were bothering me had to do with being black. There are days when I don’t let it get to me, but then there are times where I feel like the world is imploding around me, like this weekend.

For those that are unaware, there is this preconceived notion that black people don’t tip, or tip poorly when it comes to anyone giving a service of some sort. Sometimes workers will decide how they’re going to treat you just by looking at you. I’ve worked jobs where I have had to rely on tips to supplement what I wasn’t getting per hour, so I know what it feels like when you don’t get tipped. Couple that with this idea that service persons have of black people, and you end up having a anxiety attack/mental meltdown in the nail salon, a place where you should be enjoying yourself.

I don’t know if anyone could tell I was freaking out and chiding myself for not getting cash, but it slipped my mind. I hadn’t been to a nail salon in 4 years, and had forgottenĀ that they don’t take tip on cards. For non-POC, this is excusable. For me, not so much. It brought back memories of being in hair stores, which are mostly run by Asian people. I felt like I was being judged and watched, even though I would never steal from or rob anyone! Then I started thinking that the staff was ignoring me, when they really weren’t. I was so in my head that I was brushing back tears. The young man that did my nails helped pull me out of that just by being his smiling friendly self. He has no idea how much that helped me.

I promptly left the store to get cash so I could tip about 25%. Could I afford it? Not really, but he did a great job. Besides, it was nice not to be scolded for my nails being so short or for wanting them short. Female nail techs always get on me about that.

Sunday didn’t get any better. I was in church, and wasn’t sitting towards the front, like I usually do. I was on call, so I stayed towards the back. A young white man with a hoodie was in service worshipping with us. I don’t know why, but I felt a pain in my chest, which I know was anxiety. When I saw him, all I could think of was that church shooting in South Carolina. The shooter was white, and purposely targeted black people.

White people have come and gone from our church and I never thought twice about it; why was this bothering me today? I remember watching him for any unusual behavior, and taking notice of all the exits. I never recall feeling like this. Was I right to be suspicious? Why now and why with this particular person?

If I could sum up this past weekend in a word, it would be this: unsafe.

I’m not safe from people’s perceptions of me. I can’t be spared from people’s prejudices and how they’ll treat me based on how I look. There’s no reprieve from being black; it’s an every day thing. I hate how talking about it makes white people uncomfortable. Trust us, we don’t want to try to make you uncomfortable. If you do feel this way, maybe you should ask yourself why that is, because it probably has nothing to do with me.

I tossed, turned, and cried last night in bed, fretting about this. It’s something that’s not so simply changed. I wish I could talk to my counselor because she is black and could understand how I’m feeling, and she helped me get out of my head a bit. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to talk to her anymore.

In a world where being black could mean not returning home again, I feel lost and alone. I need my counselor back.

I Don’t Think Of You As Black

Let me start this post by saying something truthful:

I didn’t think of myself as black either.

Just like the rest of this society, I had been brainwashed to think that being black meant acting and speaking a certain way. Because I didn’t fit any of that, I didn’t perceive myself as one that was black. Clearly, anyone that looks at me can see that I am, regardless of what anyone says. The thing of it is, though, the way I behave and think oftentimes doesn’t correlate with what people think being black is.

There was an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air where Carlton was getting a lot of disrespect from people that are black. He came at them with this statement: “Being black isn’t something I’m trying to be; it’s what I am.”

Sadly, this is something that goes on in the black community constantly. It’s bad enough for people to judge you outside of it, but to be judged by those that look like you also? Well… what’s a body to do? It leaves you in quite the conundrum. In your mind, you’re going through all of the things that people say and think about you, and all along, you’re also trying to figure out how you feel about yourself. It’s hard to voice a decent rebuttal with all of those thoughts taking up space in your head. The bad part is that some of them might not be yours, especially the ones that try to tell you that you aren’t black.

When people try to tell me that, I always want to ask this question:

How are you able to determine what being black is, and what it isn’t?… and who decided this?

Whoever it is, I sure would like to have a talk with that person.

What’s bad sometimes is that people that aren’t black also try to tell you that they don’t see you as black. This oftentimes is funny to me because, solely judging on looks, they wouldn’t know the first thing about being black. What’s even worse is that black people will agree with this notion of “not being black.” That also tells me that we don’t know the first thing about being black, either.

Whether or not I listen to rap music, am loud or outspoken, use the ‘n’ word in my everyday speak or eat fried chicken and other “soul food” (which, really, is different in every country)… being black isn’t something I seek to be. Being black is who and what I am.

Every day that I wake up and look in my bathroom mirror, I don’t look back at a white girl. If I saw that looking back at me, that’s a BIG problem. People might say that I was a flower child in another life, and they’re probably right, but I still see a black woman looking back at me in that mirror. I’m not mixed with anything that I know of; I’m just black. My skin is this caramel-tan colour with a little cinnamon mixed in. I have very kinky curly hair that some say is good hair, and some say is not. I love it all the same. I’m tough-bred because I had to be, but am really sweet and sensitive inside. Hey, I’m still a woman after all. I’ve been mocked and made fun of for being different that what most people perceive to be black, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not. I was just as black then as I am now, and will still be black for the duration of my years. The plus side of being black is that I still look around the same age that I did when I was being made fun of. (black don’t crack! hollaa!!)

I do love the idea of interracial dating and marriage, but don’t try saying that you don’t see me as black. If I see me as black, I know you can see that I’m black. It’s what it is; love that about me, whether you’re black or not.

I think being different is okay; it’s the spice of life. Who would want to be the same as everyone else? I will be me regardless of what anyone says or thinks, but I also embrace the fact that I am black. I hope other people will embrace that, too, and not believe the jive that people are spitting out.

I am different, unique, and gorgeous. I am black, and I am proud.

Anyone that says that I’m not might need a pair of glasses.