I wanted some time to come in between the following account of the events I’m mentioning here but it’s an important story to share. I try not to live in an echo chamber and I know I have friends that are still confused to why so many people are talking about racism, black people, aversions to Trump and his supporters, the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality and more. I have mentioned so many stories over the last several months. Some that happened to me personally and some that were historical. That leads me to an example of what I feel is a micro-aggression of racism that happened to me this past week. This is a long recap but I hope you read to the end and hopefully, this will provide you with better understanding. Some of you have already heard this on the CODP group so you don’t have to read, that is ok. This is for everyone else. It’s a tough story to tell but here we go.
I’m not putting the name of the person in question out in the public due to the fact that I’ve already responded to this person (you will see the response below) and have made my personal peace with the situation. Quick Backstory. With my My previous job, I was a field I.T. technician and I still have some old clients that will contact me for some consultation & help. Well one of my long time clients that I’ve done work for needed help on Tuesday. I was on the phone helping her troubleshoot it for an hour. It involved her moving her printer from one side of the room to another and running some cables being that I was not able to get to her location. She thanked me profusely and asked if I could come by later in the week to square it away… I said sure. Then she hits me with “Okay good. I have no idea what I’m doing with this and we had to Nigger-Rig it.”
I wasn’t sure if I heard her correctly and was stunned. I would have NEVER. EVER thought something like that would have come out of her mouth. I said “Ok bye” and hung up. I wasn’t sure if, with everything that is going on, my mind just misheard. Until I got a text 2 minutes later apologizing/doing damage control. My lizard brain… my fight or flight wanted to fight. It wanted to fight and yell and scream. My body was literally constricting. I was hungry but lost my appetite. It’s made my mouth go dry but I couldn’t bring myself to drink anything. I wanted to hit something and I have a punching bag but I’m afraid I’ll break my knuckles. I could have sever ties and be done. Or I could use this as a teachable moment for someone 20ish years older than me and get her on the path to realizing that IT. IS. NOT. OK. It hurt. 500 years of trauma built into my blood, bones and sinew caused me to convulse and shake. Generations of placating is echoing in my head of “Well, at least she didn’t call me nigger to my face and just used a phrase” but it’s the same damn thing. If I let it slide and sever ties, she learns nothing. If I attempt to educate, I don’t know what the outcome would be. Racism runs SOOOOOO deep in the bones of so many in this country just like uprising and resisting against it runs deep in OURS. We will not lose. We will NOT tolerate it. We will NOT let this absolute and utter BULLSHIT continue. My. Life. Matters. Black. Lives. Matter. I will never allow this to become passé and ok again. Never let myself become complacent.
My stomach was sick right but I let this sit for two days. This is what was said in two texts from her:
Text 1: Kenny, I totally apologize for my last statement. It’s a bad statement that I pulled out of my butt out of frustration. I love working with you and I did not mean to be degrading to you. I was just in a bit of a panic. I’m sorry. Please, please accept my apology.
Text 2: I used the phrase as a child when I learned it from my parents and I hardly ever say that. I know better than to utter the N-word. My only excuse is that I was in a panic and frustrated. I should have said we McGyvered things here in the office. I respect you as a friend and as a professional. You have always been a great friend to me regardless of your skin color. I am truly sorry.
“…I hardly ever say that.” I will never do work for them again. For every black person she ever interacts with from here on out… I want her to remember the letter that wrote her. I want her to remember what she said. I made her wait for my response. She doesn’t get the luxury of an immediate response. The weight of this situation should not have rested on my shoulders being that I was the one that the phrase was uttered too. Here is the letter I wrote.
Over the years we have worked together, I have worked closely with you, Nan and the employees that you’ve had. I have worked hard to provide a level of service that is both exemplary and focused not only on keeping your office and home PC’s running, but to provide a solid foundation for our working relationship. That is why I am taking the time to carefully provide a clear understanding of the gravity of where I am at with our last conversation. On September 8th, I spent 45 minutes on the phone with you while I remotely performed troubleshooting on your printer and why it stopped working. After finding a temporary solution, the words spoken by you were “Will you be able to make it out [to the hangar] to figure out what happened? Thanks, because we had to nigger-rig it.” As I stated in my reply to your initial apology text, I want to first thank you for the apology as I was not sure if I had heard you correctly. The apology confirmed what my ears, heart, mind and body heard. As I stated in my reply, I needed to take a few days to reflect, as my initial reaction was not good, but warranted. I feel compelled to explain what I mean because I believe that you have to understand that words carry weight and can reignite buried & current trauma. My initial reaction after the confirming text was severe and multi-tiered. My muscles began to constrict, my stomach sank, my head immediately began to ache and tears welled up. But ultimately I was angry and disappointed.
Angry because it’s 2020 and we are still hearing that word used so easily.
Angry because the phrase used is demeaning to the entire race that I belong to in a way to display a form of inadequate work.
Angry because the old me would have just let it slide and continued without speaking up.
Angry because that phrase was used with the knowledge of who was on the phone with you.
Angry because it came from someone I respected as a friend & professional.
I was disappointed because the text placed the weight of the situation on my shoulders to decide how to move forward.
Disappointed in my lack of immediately speaking up when I heard the phrase uttered.
Disappointed that, especially given the current climate that we are living in, the phrase was still uttered.
Disappointed that someone I respected as a friend & professional said it.
Disappointed that in your second text, you said “…and I hardly ever say it”.
Being that it was said in conversation with me, and the subsequent text stating that you hardly ever say it; that tells me that you still say it. As a human being whose job is to show compassion to the people she works with, it is concerning that it has not left your personal lexicon long ago, regardless of what was taught to you as a child. Example, I grew up in an evangelical church. Growing up, I was taught that referring to gay men as “fags”, lesbian women as “dykes” and transexual people as “trannys” was perfectly fine. Now that I am older, I realize the trauma behind those words, and any form of demeaning language, used to marginalize a subset of our society.
It is wrong.
Those words do not even come close to being uttered. I grew up in the Deep South and encountered my first instance of someone using the word ‘nigger’ indirectly at age 12. A friend of mine was called a nigger lover with me present. Over the years, situations and experiences like this have happened. I began to become callous to it and just let it slide once I started my own business back in Georgia. That was a mistake. The whole purpose of this letter is to take a step past this event that has occurred, causing much inner turmoil & rekindled trauma. Where do we go from here? What was said has caused unwanted damage & distrust in me in regards to furthering our working relationship. It has always been a pleasure working with you and I have stated in the past that you were always one of my favorite clients. But this is something that I cannot currently progress with. For I feel that anytime I would provide further services for your office, the phrase “nigger-rig it” will echo in my head, in your voice. I simply cannot allow myself to put in that position. Especially right now. I want to express to you the following: I acknowledge, understand and accept your apology. The fact that you took the time to text me immediately, shows that you are definitely aware of the gravity of what was said. I want to make it perfectly clear that while I do accept your apology, I do not feel that I can continue to provide my services for you. My hope is that this situation weighs on your heart in a way that provokes change. That this situation has opened your eyes to the plight of your friends and business associates that are minorities. That this experience brings a greater understanding to why current protests proclaim Black Lives Matter. For when these types of phrases, as flippant and ‘historical’ as they may be, are uttered, it’s a blatant reminder of why they must be removed from the general lexicon. So with all of that being said, I have attached a final invoice for the PC upgrades and the time spent troubleshooting the printer. Ultimately, I believe it would be best to purchase a longer Ethernet cable to run along the back of your PCs to get the printer back in its original place. The majority of your current network should be fine after this. I have also attached all credentials and records I have for your systems for your future use. The password for this document is [Redacted] Thank you for the years we’ve worked together and I wish you, your family and your business well.
In closing. It is my mission that I help everyone see that we need to move away from this type of behavior. That not only does it have zero space in today’s lexicon, that we need to call out the people still using it. We need to work together to change this world away from the vile terminology that is used “amongst friends”. Locker room talk. “The Good Old days”. It stops here. Racism, micro and macro aggressions… they still exist. It ends now. We will stop it now. We HAVE to. Thank you for taking the time to read this.