I got on the train with a large suitcase and a carry after a 6 hour trip on the bus. Just trying to make it back to BK, I eagerly searched for a place to sit and relax for the remaining hour I had left. As I gathered myself, I overheard a man singing 2lives "Hoochie Mama".
Now at first I paid him no attention thinking "he is just having a good time with his friends." But then I looked up and noticed he and his friends were staring right at me. He laughed hysterically and tapped his friend saying "oh man! It'd be so much funnier if you got the reference". He proceeded to sing. Not short of reciting the "big booty hoes get with it" part of the song.
This was a direct attack on my self esteem and I immediately felt ashamed. I recently changed my hair to a style I hadn't tried in years...cornrows. To add a little flavor, I even added hints of colored streaks. My nails, fresh tips and well manicured. I was wearing a crop top that matched my pumas and a jacket for warmth. Not realizing I did indeed look very similar to Joi from Friday (You ain't gotta lie Craig!). How humiliating!
Prior to this train ride, I felt beautiful and confident. I loved that I wasn't hiding my face and that my features appeared to be accentuated as such.
This profiling caused me to take a long hard look at my own interpretation of myself. Did I look like a "Hoodrat, Hoodrat, Hoochie mama?" What idea was I telling the world? Sometime profiling can seriously mess you up. My demeanor went from feeling like a beautiful black young lady just minding her business, to small and basic for lack of better words. The power of the tongue I tell you.
As I've had time to heal, Ive realized my shame was misplaced. My shame, at the time centered around my appearance, now lay more in the fact that I hadn't confronted that asshole the moment I realized he was making fun of me! There was nothing wrong with my hair! It was neat, clean, and beautiful! It did accentuate my features and made me appreciate my natural beauty in a more modest way! There was nothing wrong with my clothes! I had on Pants a sweater and a jacket over that crop top and had only undone my buttons because I was hot from lugging a huge suitcase for goodness sake! He was the one who should of been ashamed not me! Who do you think you are openly casting your jokes and opinions on strangers so comfortably that you don't even care how it makes them feel? How it makes you look? And to make it even worse, you're loud and proud about racial profiling?! Idiot!
Weeks prior to this day, my best friend experienced a similar incident. She was in Connecticut out partying for the night with an old friend from school. They were invited into VIP with other mutual associates and danced just like anyone else that was up there. My friend noticed some girls dancing atop a few fixtures and she decided to join them. The minute she climbed up, she overheard a man saying to a friend "See! I told you I hired a stripper."
In scenarios like these, avoiding. Certain reactions is a must. Neither of the following two options are permit-able. The first being, you overlook the comments, decide to be the bigger person, and ignore the blatant ignorance. Second non progressive (but satisfying) solution is to be the ignorant black woman they expect you to be and curse them out call them all types of obscenities and leave him feeling like the jerk off he is.
However, the best solution is to stop the racial profiling in its tracks with a calm and informative approach. Let people know just because I am embracing my heritage just as Joi did in Friday with my hair, my nails, and my clothes, does not make me ghetto like that character from the movie. It makes me cultured. Unlike Joi, I am educated twice around, I am driven, I am independent, successful, strong, and proud and the last thing I will ever do is allow you or anyone else to diminish that or steal my crown.
From this moment forward I vow to speak up. To hold my head high and to never lower my chin to ignorance. I encourage anyone who has ever experienced racial profiling to speak up too and put an end to the cycle.
Written by: Raven Noelle