Never Unarmed: Oh Lawd

*Disclaimer: this post uses the n-word, n*gger, in the context it was used against me. Seeing it written and used in this way may be triggering to some folks.*

‘What? We’re just trying to eat.’

This was my 2nd grade brain attempting to process being called a nigger by a middle aged white woman at a chain restaurant. I had spent the night at my best friend A’s  house, giggling in her bedroom to the Spice World movie, compared the color and size of our nipples (why were mine lighter than hers? Should they be puffy like A’s?), and sneakily booty popped as Cash Money take over for the 99 and the 2000s.

When her mother drove us out to eat the next morning, I thought it was the perfect beginning of the end of my weekend. Getting there after the breakfast rush and before the lunch crowd, that middle in-between space in a time where brunch wasn’t a popular meal, the restaurant was sparse. As we waited to be seated, I looked around and kicked my legs antsily. A pulled on her braids and whined about being hungry. The heavy bacon aroma wasn’t helping. Her mother was over both of us. A white family, also a party of 3, was seated before us and my friend’s mom angrily interjected. The white woman, authoritatively leading the little girls- I dubbed her as the mom:I don’t want to eat with the niggers here. 
A’s mom’s face was burning, contorted with as much passion, equally meeting my confusion. I saw the beads of sweat around her hairline forming and watched them zig zag. I needed something to focus on other than A sliding her clammy palm into my hand, or the white mom’s high pitched yowling voice. I recognized those trembles and cracks in her voice, heard the same fear as when classmates were tattling on playground bullies after threats of getting beat up.

We were just trying to eat.

In what I recognize now as a quick sweeping of our blackness, a racial profile and label done in a matter of seconds, we were asked to leave. Disruptive. Diners are getting uncomfortable. These niggers might get violent.

The blaze in her eyes, the open demeanor, the raised voice and pointed dismissal when someone tried to interrupt them, the one arm continuously around our shoulders: these actions of A’s mom I recognized, had seen in numerous Black moms (mine included) and thought nothing of. Somehow, now, they were a weapon.

Eventually, we left. I looked back at the children with the dubbed mom. A girl my height peered back with terrified eyes, welling with tears. Was it me? A’s mama? A? When did we become scary?

There wasn’t much conversation after that, an explanation of what had happened or why. Eventually food was eaten, swallowed and digested along with the pit in my tummy. The sensation was like swallowing cardboard, expecting it to pass, and realizing it’s not that malleable.

How do you explain to 2 second graders that sometimes when you walk out the door, some folks will weaponize your existence because of how melanated your skin is. Automatically, I’m never unarmed.
You just learn to read the room and adapt accordingly.

1 thought on “Never Unarmed: Oh Lawd

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