My co-worker is talking about furniture in her house, and I am half paying attention, as usual because nothing she says- nothing they say is ever relatable. She says “Danielle came over and picked up some of my hutches”, – I opened my eyes, attentive because I never heard the word, and words have always been important to me.
“Hutches?” and my curiosity killed my indifference.
I said ” What are hutches?”, she laughed,and said “Really? You don’t know what hutches are?”
I said “Nooo, I don’t, what are they?”, I was smiling, leaned in and interested now..
Her eyebrows pushed down, and she says to my disappointment,
” You black girls don’t have hutches ?”
I paused. Wondering, is this real? Did she really just say that shit? And it reminded me how micro aggressions and racism work without ever having to be elicited.And it reminded me something about white women.
They are rarely your allies. They generalize you from your attitude, to your knowledge about living room furniture. I soon realized, she never was speaking to “me”. She was speaking to every black woman, meaning, I was a representation of every black woman to her, like we are all the same, like I am not an individual.
They love when there is one of you in the room, never more than one, more than one is too many. They just want to ask you questions about anything, just to confirm or fulfill their wonders about black women. It wasn’t about hutches. It was about me finally not knowing something , something as trivial as that. It was about her feeling superior to me . I don’t know if she was envious of my political or social knowledge that seemed to always impress my colleagues or the fact that I was a third her age working the same position as she, but something made her uncomfortable about my black skin being so God damn comfortable. She could not make the distinction between the individual (me) sitting in front of her, and the entire demographic of black women- just on the subject of knowing what a hutch was. This was what she was searching for though, overall – to find something that I didn’t know. This was what she was waiting for – a moment worth mocking. A moment that would be conclusive to her idea that black women don’t have shit, and they don’t know shit. She tried to stretch that moment out as long as she could, repeatedly asking me if I was serious, and joining in other co-workers to exaggerate a feeling of disbelief in my unknowing of what a hutch was.
Stationary in my thought flow, I allowed her to continue and tell me what a hutch was. I never said anything to her about the comment she made. I hated myself for not saying anything to her, but I couldn’t find the words in time or maybe I knew that if I did say something, if I did tell someone about her inappropriate comment, they wouldn’t see me, they would see the generalizations made of all black women, that we are angry or that we are always pulling the race card, or that it is not that serious- And it’s hard sometimes, to make the decision on what is worth fighting about and what is not,even when we know it is wrong. I am invisible to a world of people capable of seeing. I am invisible to a world that chooses that their imagination is a far better security to their cognitive dissonance then the truth is. And the world sometimes, the white world, the world that controls whether I still have my job tomorrow, – I know that they do not see me, in the same way that she does not see me.