Still a Nigga in a Suit

I was working on a Power Point presentation yesterday when a reminder popped up on my screen for a virtual meeting. The firm’s vice president (and fellow Black man), Mr. J.Thomas, would be in attendance and the entire research division was invited. I clicked on the reminder and a video feed of a conference room with all of the regional executives popped up on my screen. As hundreds of people joined the online meeting, I wondered if there would be any special recognition for our VP, considering that he was retiring in a month.   Just then, one of the executive managers looked directly at the webcam and told us that J.Thomas would be receiving a retirement gift at the end of the meeting and that the person blasting gospel music at their workstation needed to mute their computer.

"No the hell I won't"

While we waited for 40 other people to mute their computers, Mr. J.Thomas walked into the screen.  He unbuttoned his suit, sat down, and addressed his employees.  When he finished wishing us a happy holidays and updating us on our fucked-up budget constraints, an executive manager named Shirley stood up and said, “Sir, we have a retirement gift for you”.  She reached under the table, brought out a large gift box and read a retirement card out loud, “We heard that you cut hair in your spare time, so we got you this box of barber’s essentials”.

Shirley, who’s white, stepped aside and let Lakeisha present the gifts.  Lakeisha opened the box and brought out a nice barber cape.  You know, those black shower curtains barbers throw over you that you can buy at your local urban beauty shop.

Right next to Family Dollar, VIM and Citi Trends

Mr. J.Thomas graciously accepted the gift and said, “I don’t know where you heard that I can cut hair, but I can’t”.  Lakeisha just ignored him and continued presenting barber-themed gifts to this guy.  She reached down into the box and pulled out a du rag.  I pulled my headphones off of my head and threw them at my screen.  Did the execs just give our vice president a du rag as a retirment gift?  Surely this must be a joke.  But to my dismay, Lakeisha began an attempt to legitimize the ridiculous gift.  She described the intricacies of the du rag and how its use often results in a follicular orientation that resembles waves.

"Word? You gonna tell them my secret"

I was astonished. I never thought I’d see some shit like that happen during a meeting.  I assumed that I was never going to see a du rag in the office ever. But Lakeisha wasn’t done.  This gift box had one more delightful treat in store.  As Lakeisha reached into the box, she began to introduce the next gift,

“Oftentimes in the barbershop, people talk, play music and sometimes they watch movies.  Well, a lot of times you can find this movie playing”

Then she brought out

A Tyler Perry film.  I almost blacked out from rage.  Not only do I hate Tyler Perry’s works and the way Derek Luke cries, but  this was also the most racist retirement gift package I had ever seen.  I looked back at my screen and watched Mr. J.Thomas staring at the conference table in his well-tailored suit, surround by white people he outranked, with a du rag and Madea Goes to Jail sitting in front of him.   He looked up at the webcam and said “Thank you” with an almost catatonic stare.  I think he might have been in shock.  I was at least.

"What just happened"

Somehow, with all of the accolades and all of the promotions, Mr. J.Thomas ended up with his arms full of nigga-shit at the last division-wide meeting of his career.  And that’s fucked up. These white people can’t be that oblivious.  I mean, you wouldn’t give Ms. Chang chopsticks for Christmas.

We have to look out for each other.  There were Black people present when the retirement gift decisions were being made.  Somebody should have said something, anything to stop this from occurring. White people are not going stop associating certain stereotypes with Black people, at least no time soon.  They’re going to do and say racist things, it’s a fact, it’s going to happen.  We have to do our part to nip that shit in the bud  before it gets out of control.  And we sure as hell don’t need to be reinforcing whatever narrow perceptions white people may have of us.  We don’t need to dissociate from elements of our culture but, I believe that exhibiting our diversity and range could help alleviate some of the ignorance and prejudice we encounter on the regular basis.  Which is hard to do with a du rag.

Stop the madness.

O.K.Kai

Advertisements
Comments
3 Responses to “Still a Nigga in a Suit”
  1. Yvonne White says:

    Hands thrown up in the air. Mouth hanging open. Speechless.

  2. TaTa says:

    I blame Lakeisha.

Trackbacks
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] This common response to our plight has made many of us, especially those of us who work with white people, apprehensive when we feel the need to respond to a racial offense.  Many of us try to avoid being the Black person in the room that claims that everything’s racist.  Even my firm’s vice president didn’t say anything when the office gave him a du-rag and Madea Goes to Jail on DVD as retirement gifts. […]



Tell Us What You Think:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: