This one time when I was a kid I went with a neighbor named Ms. Jackson along with her son and daughter to a Shopping Mall outside the city. But not just any mall, but the “WHITE FOLKS MALL” as Ms. Jackson was sure to mention once we had arrived, which meant for us as kids to be on our best behavior. Once entered the blue-eyed sanctuary, we all walked as if the floor was eggshells in a single file line like a Momma bear leading her cubs through a dangerous forest. None of us even attempted to ask to play with the white kids in the children’s play area as we watched them eat cotton candy from a clown and throw their hands up with all the joys and privilege coming down a slide. Ms. Jackson glared at all three of us shutting down any mere thought that we could participate. While inside one store Ms. Jackson was waiting in line to return a dress, the three of us sat in the corner quietly with our hands folded in our laps watching a white mother try on a skirt and blouse in front of a mirror as her two kids played hide-go-seek between various clothing racks with dripping ice cream in their hands. Ms. Jackson’s son became bored and decided at the moment to bring out his headphones and play music, however; unfortunately, the volume was on full blast once the play button was hit. In a blink of an eye, Ms. Jackson was able to get out of line and place her right hand around the son’s neck while holding the dress in the left.“TURN IT OFF!!!,” Ms. Jackson said with her voice now sounding like a pissed off Darth Vader. Her son gasping for oxygen struggled but was finally able to reach the STOP button. Ms. Jackson released her son allowing him to have life leaving finger marks on around his neck. I’m sorry momma” the son said, as Ms. Jackson then pulled herself together by moving a slightly misplaced hair from her eye while giving the shocked white folks who witnessed the ordeal a “nothing to see here folks” forced smile. We were a long way from home and this type of behavior was unacceptable.

On our journey back home Ms. Jackson suddenly realized that she needed to stop and grab something at the inner city mall aka “THE BLACK FOLKS MALL.” Once we entered Ms. Jackson’s son said to his sister “Hey, bet I can beat you to the end of that corner!!!” The daughter rolled her neck and said “Boy you never gonna be faster than me!!!” and before I knew it they both dashed at full speed like two mini Olympians. A more relaxed Ms. Jackson herself stopped and talked to everyone she knew with a ‘Hey girl” and a laugh that could be heard throughout all the stores. The mall itself had no play area but that didn’t stop the daughter from smacking me on the back of my head and saying “You IT!!!,” as I chased her around the food eatery. When Ms. Jackson was in line her daughter approached her with a giant size church hat laughing loudly and said: “Hey momma, look at me, I’m granny!!!” Seconds later there was a large CRASH sound that came from the other side of the store. Turns out Ms.Jackson’s son was playing with an elephant-shaped item made of porcelain but accidentally dropped it. Ms. Jackson who at the time was talking to a salesperson turned with a smirk and said: “Boy, I keep telling you to leave stuff alone, go outside until I’m done,” and turned to apologize to the lady at the counter. I was lowkey shocked that not only was Ms. Jackson unfazed by the incident at the moment but she didn’t even deliver a couple of smacks to her son’s head on the drive home. It became clear to me that everything was alright because where we were wasn’t all white.

There are countless times growing up that I was informed by an adult or whomever to make sure I “act like I got some sense” whenever the environment we were in was all white. “We don’t want them thinking we’re all bad!!!” was usually the ideal. An involuntary torch is passed early within the black conscious development to make sure we represent “us” to “them” in a positive light with the hope that “they” will see “us” as human and hope for one day to be awarded an invited at the elite table of acceptance. Newsflash, if it takes one negative action by one single black person to make your white colleague/neighbor/stranger to stereotype an entire race then there’s a huge chance that they already had inherited prejudice seeds that were bound to grow and sprout their covert/overt racist actions. Blackness was(and lowkey still) never measured with the same quality as whiteness. The rules of acting properly in public should have applied to both shopping malls, maybe not to the extreme of military quiet and track star sprints but a medium appropriate behavior for both. As blacks we more likely to be entertained at rappers beefing with each other at the BET Hip Hop awards but feel a shame to see a Nicki Minaj and Cardi B altercation at a supposed “high class” gala that most of us could care less about. Although the idea of speaking the Queen’s English and being professional should never be judged as “acting white” nor should there be a need to only use these qualities when one is surrounded by whiteness. The acceptance of this mentality is self-destructive and subscribes to the false ideology that says “We the victims” of systemic racism have to correct “ourselves” so that the oppressors can feel comfortable enough to forgive us for their historical oppressed actions. And to that, I say “Nah!!!”

 

 

J Hall

@jhallradio