2.July – { :: A Daily Reminder on Microaggressions :: } by Tina Nagbare


Happy 2nd half of 2015!

On behalf of the {blog.squad}, I apologize for our silence. We haven’t been blogging, but we’ve been in these social media streets (and sometimes the real ones) fighting the good fight for social justice and educating folks – sometimes against their will. #shrug Plus, we have grown up jobs and yall don’t pay us – so we’ll write when we want. No excuses, just….. life. But here we are! We’re back & we missed you too 🙂

I’m going to start us off light as we get re-acclimated with each other….

:: Me eavesdropping at the car wash ::

African-American (AfAm) Man: “Aye Man! You African or something?!?” (with a voice volume that is 3 notches higher than anyone needed it to be to a Black man dressed in traditional attire)

African Man (with a solid African accent): “Yes, I am.”

AfAm Man: “Where you from?”

African Man: “South Africa.” (obviously already annoyed with this conversation)

AfAm Man: “Oh! Where the white people are from!….” (with confidence… he said this with joy and confidence)

:: Me *extreme side-eye & a deep sigh* ::

AfAm Man: “….I was gonna say man, I thought you was from Ghana or something.”

African Man: *forced polite smile*

:: Me: *thinks* “How TF do you know what Ghanaians vs. South Africans ‘look like’?” ::

AfAm Man: (still un-necessarily loud) “… nah ‘cause I was gonna say you look like that man… Nelson Mandela. That’s a compliment right?!?”

:: Me: *fights urge to flip table* (PS: the African man bears about a 10% resemblance to Nelson Mandela) ::

African Man: “Thank you *another forced smile…*… by the way there’s not just white people in South Africa…”

:: Me: *(fed up) exits gas station* :: 

Ladies & Gentlemen, what we have here is a lesson on microaggression. (Author’s Note: It’s important here to remember there are at least 4 recognized levels of microaggression: microassault, microinsult, microinvalidation, microrape. You’re welcome.) I see the wonder and confusion in your face and Yes, microaggressions aren’t just about race, they can be in reference to gender, culture, religion, etc., etc. AND MOST IMPORTANLY no one gets a pass. I don’t care if you are a member of an oppressed group or not. So let me give you the 2 things that stuck out to me in this moment.

  1. I wonder if African Americans understand how annoying and frustrating this is for you to see an African dressed in traditional attire and then begin to make assumptions about us (Nationality, etc.). The African-American had no ill intent, he was attempting to be cordial and nice & foster a sense of community while paying a compliment, however saying that that man looked like Nelson Mandela was the African equivalent to “all Black people look alike”.
  1. His assumption was even more annoying because it was based on (a) apparently NO knowledge of where Nelson Mandela is from or (b) any knowledge of the continent of Africa period. Saying to a Black South African that you know South Africa as ‘where the white people come from’ is infuriating because you are sharing that your entire knowledge of the country is based on the worst lived experience for Black South Africans (apartheid), which no one wants a reminder of. [PS: Like pretty much EVERY country in Africa the original inhabitants were Black (i.e. before colonization / when White Europeans attempted to rape and destroy an entire continent because… they wanted to).] Iwas pissed at that comment and I’m not even South African. #solidarity

Seriously, it was hard to silently struggle and cope with my fellow African in this moment. It was painful to watch my fellow African have to smile and push through that interaction with grace the same way African-Americans complain about pushing through microaggressions with White people and to watch my fellow African-American continue to dig that hole deeper and deeper. I know *should* have said something, but I was seriously in shock at what was happening and I couldn’t find any words. It was like watching an accident happen in slow motion and not being able to stop it. Personally, I’d hit my limit and chose to exit the conversation and in doing so I missed an opportunity to educate and help the interaction end on a positive note. And as an activist I know better because I know how important it is to “Say Something,” I disappointed myself.

And I’ll acknowledge that I *could* be reaching – it may not be a microaggression, but at the VERY LEAST it was insensitive because I can assure you that interaction was NOT a positive experience for the African man. Sadly, that AfAm man lacked complete awareness of social cues and the ability to read body language so he didn’t even know what he was doing. Either way, it is a nice reminder that we ALL need to be more conscious of this things that come out of our mouths. Because I know that AfAm man walked away from that conversation excited and the African man walked away probably thinking something unkind about AfAms. #SMH

…another blow to African / African-American relations. L