This really happened…
My family and I just moved from the South to sunny California. It has been an adjustment to say the least. The people here are nice, but not friendly…or at least not in the neighborhood we live in. When we moved into the neighborhood, we noticed a few strange things. First, my husband caught the neighbor across the street looking over his fence when the moving truck arrived with our things. Next, I met a lady at the park around the corner from our house, who quickly gave me the run down on the gang situation in the next city over…it wouldn’t be weird to be informed by your neighbor of local crime, but she made a point of telling me that it was a “Mexican” problem (umm racist much). If you haven’t already guessed it, we are the only Black family on our block and probably the third Black family in the neighborhood.
We specifically moved to this area for the school district and it seemed family orientated. I assumed I would find a stay at-home mom’s group and make friends easily; however this has not been the case. In the South, I had friends of every race and we often broke bread with one another, like ate off of each others plates. I don’t see that happening here and my feelings have kind of been confirmed by my recent interaction with another mother at a recent play date.
I actually planned this play date at a local park and I expected a great turn out, but only one mother signed up for it. I didn’t think anything of it. I assumed that the other mothers already had plans or simply didn’t want to do it…no biggie. Well, I was kind of excited to finally meet a new mom and for my kids to play with someone besides myself. After about 20 minutes, a mom showed up and said hello. I wasn’t sure if it was her or not because I’m new here, but after another 10 minutes she asked if I was the one who planned the play date and I said yes. She seemed nice enough and we got to talking. I told her (jokingly) that people usually don’t have a hard time finding me because I’m typically the only Black woman. She laughed and told me, “oh that’s not true, I have a nanny and she’s Black”.
So, what does one say to that and why did she think that was okay? I guess, I could have said, “really, why don’t you set up a play date for me when she’s working for you head mistress” or maybe “how the hell can you afford a nanny, let alone a Black one, when you’re missing your front tooth”. (For the record, she really was missing a front tooth). I could have handled that conversation in a number of ways, but I chose to concentrate on my children and leave her toothless behind on the bench.
This isn’t the first time someone has said something crazy. I was once in Puerto Rico giving a speech and my coordinator told me that I was a benefit to my race because I was educated, married, and had children. When I looked at him as if to question his words, he simply said, “well there aren’t many two parent homes in the African American community”. WOW! I politely told him that I came from a two parent home and the majority of my friends that I grew up with did too.
I honestly can’t blame the toothless mom for her lack of tact. It would have been better for her to say nothing or to simply call her nanny a friend rather than make a point of saying that she was an employee. It would have also been better of my colleague in Puerto Rico to simply say that I have a beautiful family, but when people are constantly given images of you as being less than, then tact goes out of the window.
Someone asked me once, “how does it feel to always be the only Black person” and I want to say that it is hard. I can represent myself just fine. I carry those who have come before me with me wherever I go. I feel like I have responsibility to them and all that they went through for me to live in this neighborhood and to send my children to these schools; however, it is hard. It is hard because I am either one of 2 things in today’s society and that is an angry, strong black woman or an angry freeloading black woman. I have to make a point to be pleasant and articulate and just when I think that I have proven that women like me exist, my fellow black mother is outside of the library calling me a bougie black bitch.