“Have you ever walked into a room and then realized that everyone was talking about you?”
Cliche? Yes. Mean Girls quote? Hell yes. The truth for anyone with some extra melanin who has ever walked into a hick town? For sure.
Today was a gorgeous day. I had the day off of work, and it was supposed to be 90° with a 0% chance of rain, which likedoesn’t happen in Northeast Ohio. My boyfriend and I made plans earlier in the week to go to a local swimming spot that we found on some Facebook post called “Hidden Ohio Beaches” or something corny like that. I packed a healthy lunch of sandwiches and apples and carrots and pretzels, and loaded up on sunscreen. Not for me, because my caramel skin never burns. But for my pasty, amazing boyfriend Tanner.
We drive out into the middle of no where- I mean literally, this place is in the cut, like Amish horse and buggies everywhere and one house every 3 minutes deep- and finally arrive at this cute little place with a long line of cars waiting to get in. It looked promising, and we were excited to spend the day together, so we paid to get in and parked the car.
Not 2 minutes had passed before we had gotten our first round of dirty looks.
The first few were from a family, slightly overweight, with a dad wearing Confederate flag swim trunks (lol I know, where do you even buy those?????) and a scowl that was piercing my soul. He kept looking at me and talking to his wife out of the corner of his mouth. I looked at Tanner, my carefree, loving, protecting boyfriend, and decided that I was not about to let this angry racist ruin my day off.
We were talking and laughing at the table we picked out- in the shade so T wouldn’t burn- when I noticed that everyone was looking at us. This time Tanner noticed it too, because he muttered under his breath that these people need to “mind their own damn business”. It really was obnoxious, I mean I know we’re a rarity in small hick towns but come on, I know your momma taught you that staring isn’t polite.
We were there for two hours. In those two hours, I felt more judged than ever before in my whole entire life. I felt like every single look was screaming “how dare you, you cannot come into my land and show affection towards the man you love because you are not the same color as him!!” I felt like everyone was telling their husband or wife “Look at that little black girl with that nice white boy, she’s probably corrupting him”
Little do they know.
Little do they know how successful I have been in my life. That I was accepted, as a freshman, to a journalism program that is ranked within the top 10 in the country. That I can play a musical instrument at a college level. That I have raised more than $15,000 for cancer research and prevention. That I was ranked in the top 20% of my high school class.
To them I’m just a little black girl.
But to me, I’m so much more than that.
Tanner and I have had this happen to us before, and we’ll have it happen to us again. The first time we were ever followed around a Walmart, he was shocked at the level of “customer service” that he got. I had to gently tell him it was racial profiling. We get looks almost everywhere we go, because we aren’t a “normal couple”. We look different, but the only people who seem to care about that is the people who will never ever matter in our life.
They say those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
It’s sad that we have to go through this, but I know that it makes me a stronger person. If the only joy you get to feel in your life is the joy of talking shit about someone you have never spoken to, then just know how far down in the dark that puts you.
Live in the light.