Written in Ink
Written in Ink
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Learn to read White Lady! Or, life as an almost-Old Black Lady)

So this is what it's like to be a getting kinda-old black lady who is living her parent's pre-Civil Rights dream. I have a good job and apartment, interact freely with people of all races and have several profound friendships across racial lines.

I operate in a mostly white environment. But that means (with apologies to those of you who get it), YOU CAN NEVER JUST RELAX. NEVER. It's been a stressful month at work. I've had to deal with people more than usual and they are being more assholish than usual because everyone is stressed and sick of February. A couple of them have said medium- racist shit which I've ignored—although I'm probably going to have to go to HR about one jackass who just won't stop and his immediate supervisor seems to be afraid to say anything. One of these interactions triggered me and I reached out to GT for advice on how to calm down.


On a whim, I decided to leave work early (i.e. at 5) and go to a meeting of a craft group. I'm not a regular, but have gone enough that people recognize me/know my name. People are talking about books. Someone brings up The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a nonfiction account of the development of the HeLa cell line. These cells, which were the basis for much of the medical research of the late 20th century, derived from Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who died of ovarian cancer in The Johns Hopkins hospital. It's a wide ranging book and the white author (this is germane) includes in the story of the legacy of Ms. Lacks, her descendants who are struggling financially and emotionally. It's going to be an HBO movie.

Someone is explaining the book (not as concisely as I just did) and a woman I've never seen before, jumps in. My thoughts in parentheses.


They couldn't use those cells; they were all tainted.

("Um, actually they were used for decades before it was discovered that they had contaminated other cell lines. Oh just fuck it.")


That writer went through so much

(What? Maybe she said "that woman." )

In a disgusted tone: and that family thinks they should get some money.

Illustration for article titled Learn to read White Lady! Or, life as an almost-Old Black Lady)

(Well, goddamn, she did mean the writer. I came here to get away from clueless racist horseshit, bitch can you go home? Or STFU and and work. Who taught you how to read? Maybe I can ask about the Olympics and derail this shit. Is it safe to ask about the Olympics? Fuck, I should have stopped for some wine.)

Now, I can call her out, look like the bitch I am and then make everyone feel uncomfortable. Or I can suck it up so everyone else can relax while I am seething inside. I suck it up. EVERY TIME. It took me about 40 minutes to put it out of my head (in part because she was sitting near me and yammering on). It's a small thing, but that's the point. Some weeks my world is composed of endless small racist, sexist things.


If you ever wonder why black people seem randomly angry: shit like this.

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