Monkey

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*Author’s note: I usually don’t write this harshly, the words may be jarring but the message is real

I live in PG county, the richest black County in America. It feels like a chocolate city– if stay in my area for weeks I could go without seeing a person of another race that entire time. In PG County we say things like, “Oh that’s the hood post office, I don’t go to that one.” And, “I hate black people, lol” at some sort of behavior we find unacceptable or beneath us.

A few years ago, I ventured out to a hole in the wall bar in Nowhere, Delaware USA to see my friend’s boyfriend play guitar. Yes she is white, and he, and the whole freaking town but that didn’t bother me. I’m from PG county, my single income alone exceeded the dual income of most people in that town. I don’t have a degree but I have a reputation for being intelligent and witty and perfectly proportioned and appealing to my community.

I entered that bar knowing these things and I left it humiliated–knowing nothing and questioning my identity. I was bold enough to move to the front of the room and dance openly and awkwardly because that’s the kind of person I am and I will always be that person no matter where I go. I’ve been to hardcore rock concerts before and the worst case scenario is that you’re looked upon like an alien that’s fallen from the sky; best case scenario is that you’re ignored as if you don’t even exist. I learned to deal with this because my nights always ended back in PG county surrounded by others that lived in the same homey cocoon of complacency. You can be invisible elsewhere but in this county you matter.

I made my way back to my seat at the bar to drink another beer and converse with my friend. We were seated immediately in front of a rowdy pool table from which I could pick up tidbits of their loud conversation. I don’t remember all of the details now, everything happened in a blur and it was so long ago–but my ears picked up on the word “monkey”. It was spoken in surround sound but it landed on my ears like a whisper. Here you are thinking you’re so confident and cute– that you belong here. ..monkey. My body felt paralyzed, I knew I couldn’t have heard it right but even so, the air was charged I could feel the tension and unwelcome. This was happening. Such a small thing, right?  But I could feel the humiliation and outrage, caught between the desire to cry and wishing I had the strength to confront. What could I do? I was outnumbered and oh, how quickly those nice women I was up front dancing with could turn into “monkey hating enemies”.

I had to deny every thought that came into my head at that moment.  “Look at you with your big thighs and dreaded hair… you’re just a monkey to them.” “Look at you with your big butt and nose and legs, monkey. ” “Look at you, monkey. Who do you think you are? ” I shared what I had overheard with my friend and we immediately got the hell out of there no questions asked. Later she contacted the bar and her boyfriend and they were appropriately understanding and gracious about the whole thing.

…I was still mortified and left with a bad taste in my mouth. I just wanted to go home. Home where I was caramel, people complimented my hair and legs and smile. Home is where I was queen; celebrated and loved for the very same qualities that made me a “monkey”. One word of hatred made me forget who I was. PG County didn’t feel like a home for a while after that–maybe we were all just upper middle class monkeys in a zoo?

Who are you when someone steps in your face, and calls you monkey,  nigger? After all you’ve been through in life, everything you thought you stood for in that moment is washed away. They pretend to respect you, nigger. They know you are only capable of violence, nigger. You are poor and lazy and pathetic. ..NIGGER–no matter how you triumph personally or financially or spiritually in life. Fight with those thoughts every day; wrestle with the truth versus the perception of others, fight stereotypes and rejection from your very own race. Feel the anger and frustration, isolation and despair–then stuff it deep down and bury it all away. You can’t be expressing those things, black people aren’t entitled to negative emotions, what will the media say?  You can’t appear too combative, monkey, what will your co-workers think? Stuff it all down, bury it away–and for god’s sake keep your composure when someone looks you in the face and you can see it in their eyes that your life is worth nothing to them…

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