A few months ago we bumped into each other after not seeing or speaking for more than a few years. Remember that wedding. How we sat at the back talking as we waited for the proceedings to begin? We used to be in class together. Actually, I was in class as you bunked and somehow you always ended up with better notes than me and managed to pass effortlessly.
While we sat at the wedding together we shared stories of how getting service at some of the courts was a practice in patience and assertiveness. I told you that even though you think that service is bad, it is nothing compared to trying to get service as a black female, when the person serving you refuses to help you because you speak English. You didn’t comment and in fact swiftly moved on to the next “safe” topic.
After the wedding ceremony, we waited for pictures to be taken and there was further discussion of how you were quickly rising up ranks at your firm. I mentioned that I have had a hard time getting people to take me seriously in wanting to become a human rights lawyer. I even aired the fact that being a female has prospective employers asking me what my marital status is. You see, they want to know if in the near future I may be having a child as that may put a spanner in their well-oiled plans, but you didn’t want to know that and rather asked if I had watched the last big soccer game where the national team lost, again.
Pictures were taken and food was served. We sat around the table and for the third time work came up. This time you asked me why I work for a small firm. I told you that black women in large firms get swallowed up in the works and aren’t recognized for their personal brilliance and rather for how many points they can score the company in terms of equity practices. Here you didn’t let it go. Nope, this time you loudly said, “Wow! That’s the third time you are mentioning that you are a black woman in the professional world. Doesn’t it get tiring?”
Being that we were at a wedding I held my tongue because I didn’t think that the other guests would have appreciated the only black girl at the wedding living up to her stereotype and giving you a tongue lashing. Rest assured though that there were plenty of things that I wanted to say.
For one. Screw you and all your white privilege that you dare to tell me that I shouldn’t acknowledge that I am a black woman who is a professional. Do you know that I have actually lost count of the several times that I have stood at the front of the line just to get a few papers stamped only to be cut off by a senior practitioner because he is white and thinks that he is entitled to do such? In theory he IS charging MUCH more for his time, so we could say that his time is more valuable than mine. Although, there is that little matter that when we both die one day we will both be consumed by the same worms? Or perhaps his white privilege has discovered a way to forego the whole decay process in that time he didn’t spend in the line.
Second of all, yes I was offended when I was asked about my marital status because I know exactly how dog-whistle politics work. And no I don’t want to become black number 4 on the statistics of the company and the smile that welcomes people on the website while we all know that I get paid half of the money that I actually deserve and that I actually worked hard for.
Lastly, you don’t get to tell me or any other person of color that we can’t talk about something that has a bearing on our lives. Yes it may make you feel uncomfortable but I’m willing to bet that slavery and apartheid were both a bit more than “uncomfortable”.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to say this in the moment and for that I will always be a bit sad. Guess what though? We are friends on Facebook and I will re-post this multiple times. I hope you get to read this and feel awful.
Written by: Hulisani Khorombi, Staff writer, #mygirlsquad