(or Seven Things White People Have Really Said to Me Since November 4, 2008)
Scene: A friend and I, adults, at our favorite restaurant, enjoying dinner and conversation on November 5, 2008. We are both women of color minding our own business.
TWO COMPLETE STRANGERS (white, bedecked in Democratic regalia including vests, buttons, and hats, say in unison): You girls must be so happy today. This is such good news for your people.
ME: I voted for McCain.
FRIEND: I’m not American.
BEDECKED STRANGERS: But still! Great news for you, right?
Scene: The first few minutes of a technical communication class I am teaching on November 5, 2008. After I’ve greeted the students, a white male student raises his hand.
WHITE MALE STUDENT: Does this mean we’re going to talk about race for the rest of the semester?
Our protagonist flashes back to a conversation she shared with other black friends a few days before the election, in which the participants agreed that it would probably be best to cancel classes/call in sick for work the day after the election, regardless of the outcome. She regrets her choice in foregoing that option.
Scene: A hallway in my department, early December. I am stopped by a white senior faculty member with whom I have exchanged approximately seven words in the past four years.
SENIOR FACULTY MEMBER (with an awkward sassy snap of the neck and an Ebonics accent): You must be so happy, girlfriend.
ME: Generally speaking, I am content.
SENIOR FACULTY MEMBER: No, girl. I mean the election!
ME: I voted for Cynthia McKinney.
SENIOR FACULTY MEMBER: Now that’s my homegirl.
Scene: While watching the inauguration live in the student union, a white colleague I’m sitting with turns to me.
COLLEAGUE: Do you know Elizabeth Alexander?
ME: Why do you ask?
COLLEAGUE: You’re both black writers.
ME: That’s true. We do all know each other.
Scene: While watching the inauguration live in the student union, another white colleague I’m sitting with turns to me, beaming.
COLLEAGUE (beaming): Our new president is just so articulate.
ME: Why yes, massa. He sho’ ‘nuff is.
Scene: January 2009, a few days after the inauguration. A grimy auto repair shop. The mechanic and I are engaged in idle, polite chatter while he processes my credit card transaction.
MECHANIC: No offense, but there was just no way I could vote for a colored man even though I hated the other guy. I just can’t see respecting a colored man like that, taking orders from him or nothing like that. Again, no offense.
ME: What year is this?
Scene: Early February 2009. I come home from work to find the lady from my weekly cleaning service tidying my apartment. Her skin is flushed.
ME: How are you today?
CLEANING LADY (smiling): I’m exhausted. I’ve been working like a n*gger all day.
ME: So you’re tired then?
Original art by Ilyse Magy