Every day he beat me down and beat me down.
When I went right he said I should have gone left.
So the next time I went left and he said, "why didn't you go right?"
I tried to guess what he wanted me to do before he wanted me to do it so I wouldn't have to deal with the criticism. I didn't have to constantly look at myself and think that I was wrong. I didn't want to be wrong or right. I just wanted to live in peace.
With my step father, I'd introduce him as my mother's boyfriend. He said, "Why don't you tell people I'm your father?"
He wasn't. He wasn't kind enough to me for me to have anyone associate him as my father. I didn't want anyone to think that as this man did something inappropriate, like yell at my mother in front of them, that he was my father. I started introducing him by name. Because if boy-friend wasn't good enough then this was my solution. Can you tell that I was starting to rebel a little? It was a childish middle finger.
He complained, of course.
"People will think I'm just some guy. Like I don't belong here."
I shrugged my shoulders when my mother told me about his issues.
I finally stopped introducing him period.
A friend or friends would come over. I'd say, "This is my mother." And I'd stop there.
There was that uncomfortable stillness in the air.
My friends would look over at the man and look at me. The man would look at my friends and look at me. I wasn't uncomfortable. I didn't say a word. He would introduce himself or not. I didn't care.
There are many examples of ways in which I was in the wrong for not being prepared to do absolutely every thing exactly the way he wanted me to do them. I may have had self esteem issues but I had a strong stubbornness that wouldn't allow me to make myself the doormat that he wiped the shit off his shoes on.
In the, 'what are the neighbours thinking,' anger that escaped my lips, I yelled at him. He'd been yelling at my mother in the middle of the summer. Windows wide open, the sun shining its large globe in the day, the neighbours sitting out on the front porch of the duplex we all lived at. My step-father and my mother were arguing. I was in my bedroom talking with my boyfriend. We tried to have a normal conversation despite hearing my step father's voice getting louder and louder.
In the living room, which was at the front of our unit where the wide windows were wide open giving our neighbours crystal clear hearing of the goings on, my step father yelled something to my mother about their sex life. Now it was bad enough that I had to hear this information, it was humiliating that my boyfriend had to hear this information but my rage at knowing that our neighbours were hearing this.
It was the first time that I ever yelled at my step father.
I yelled, "What don't you say that shit louder they didn't hear you on the next city block?"
My step father rushed to my bedroom with his intimidating, "What the fuck did you just say?"
And as my boyfriend grabbed me and held me back, I repeated in my loudest possible voice. "Why don't you say that shit louder they didn't hear you on the next city block! You want to embarrass someone? Why don't you try to embarrass me?"
And the yelling match went back and forth. My mother held him at my bedroom doorway stopping him from entering while he yelled at me about disrespect. My boyfriend held me, stopping me from going towards my bedroom door while I yelled back asking who I should respect. "You? What are you doing that I should respect?"
My mother eventually pulled him away. She was crying. He was grumbling about how she needed to do something about her daughter.
I looked at my boyfriend and said, "Next time, mind your own business and don't hold me back."
I wasn't scared of either of them. I was going to fight even if my mother had to cry, even if I had to burn the place down.
When I started to get mad at work. My biggest fear was being seen as an angry black woman. That term negates all the solutions I've looked for. All the times I was assertive and put down. All the times I've endured some bullshit rule that seemed to only affect me.
I had a manager who always insisted that my work was wrong. The signing off of my work was held up because my boss believed her word against mine. They'd call a divisional manager from head office to meet with them. The divisional manager would assure them, "Shelley is doing the work right. I'm not sure why you are questioning this... Still."
My boss would ask me information that didn't pertain to my job. I started keeping records so I could answer his questions. Come evaluation time, I wrote down that I kept these records. He said, "Why would you do this? It's ridiculous and a waste of time."
I explained, "You expect me to have the answer. I've told you repeatedly that it's not under my role and yet you continue to ask me the questions. So to save myself, I've kept records."
I was told not to keep those records anymore.
He questioned everything on my evaluation each year and he would laugh at me and say, "Oh I bet you thought I wouldn't notice that you hadn't done that."
"I have done it. I just can't tell you exactly when within the last year. From now on, I will put the exact dates that I do things."
All of my evaluations after that I recorded dates with any of my accomplishments.
For several years, I tried to guess what he wanted me to do before he wanted me to do it so I wouldn't have to deal with the criticism. I didn't have to constantly look at myself and think that I was wrong. I didn't want to be wrong or right. I just wanted to do my work in peace.
When the invoices came through the invoicing system I didn't know the accounts. I'd asked, "Since you know you are ordering things could you tell me in advance what it is and what the corresponding accounts are so I can code the invoices the one time and send them off to you?"
"I don't have a problem with you asking me for the accounts."
I'd ask for the accounts and he wouldn't get back to me and the invoices would bounce to him because they only sit in the system for a maximum of a certain amount of days. He'd email me, "why are all of your invoices bouncing to me? Why are you not processing them in time?"
"I can't process them unless you give me the accounts. I ask you for them and you don't get back to me. What would you like me to do?"
If you beat a dog, the dog may become submissive but there's always that one chance, that one day, when the dog sees you coming with the belt or shoe or whatever you beat him with. That one chance, that one day, the dog might attack you. Does that make him a bad dog when he just can't take another beating?
We want to say, get away, get out of it but how can the change be made? When we're kids we don't always have the choice to leave our homes unless we're runaways. We don't always have the other parent whose house we can move to. And why do we have to leave?
In a job situation, we don't always have the choices either. We can stay and document the abuses and go to Human Resources or Human rights or lawyers and be without a job, be without references and scared.
When do we become that abused dog seeing the belt coming and attack? What if the abuser is only holding the belt because he's going to use it to hold his pants up? How would the dog know?
One day I got all the paperwork ready for the staff meeting. My boss sent me an email with an attachment of pictures he wanted me to print off for the staff. He wanted a copy for each staff member. The pictures were in colour. Knowing my co-workers the way I did, I knew they weren't going to pay much attention to the print off. I had a choice. I could print off the pictures in colour and waste a whole lot of paper or I could print them off in black and white and make the copies double sided. Save a tree.
As I handed out the black and white printouts, my boss said, "Why didn't print them in colour?"
I went off. "If you want me to do something a specific way then tell me specifically what you want. I'm so tired of making a decision and no matter what decision I make you tell me it's wrong. You make it miserable for us to work here and if these people had enough guts they would tell you they feel the same way."
Was I wrong? Probably. But this dog couldn't take another shoe upside her head. Today it's a bark with some teeth showing. Tomorrow it's a bite and the next day it's a full on attack.
I'm one person who has tried to find the way, the path, to be assertive and speak up for myself. Ask for what I want. Ask to be treated with respect. We all have those examples in our lives when we've tried every thing we could and we reach our limit, don't we?
So many Black people in America have moved past the bark AND the bite. Even that isn't waking up enough people. How are we going to change this?
Pointing our fingers at the looters, 'THOSE PEOPLE, THOSE THUGS' is a distraction. They are not the point. There are looters in every instance of violence and riots. Looting isn't a black issue.
They broke the man's spine. Black people, even if they're criminals, are treated worse than serial killers. Has there been a serial killer that was denied medical help? You can imagine he died in unbearable pain right?
Black people don't want to be wrong or right. They want to live their lives in peace and have their fair share of opportunities and live with respect. We want to live our lives in peace with our fair share of opportunities and live with respect. You want to live your life in peace with your fair share of opportunities and live with respect. I want to live my life in peace with my fair share of opportunities and live with respect.
How are we going to make this happen?
Thank you to my friend Sarah Stockton for posting this link today on Facebook. I'd seen so many friends write statuses about the looters and I was feeling so disheartened that that was the only takeaway they were getting from Baltimore. Looting is not the only thing going on in Baltimore or anywhere else in the United States.
Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results.
But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention.
And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.
Martin Luther King, Jr.