I had a moment recently when I had to make the choice to swallow my anger over an incident that happened while I was traveling. It was a little thing but it required me to work through my steps so that I did not create a scene while on a flight. The stewardesses came down the aisle as you would expect with the beverage cart about midway through the flight.
While I don’t normally like to eat airplane food I thought I might make an exception on this flight because I wasn’t sure I would feel up to going out once I landed from my evening flight. I was ready, I had my Euros in hand and slightly visible. I was ready to order my meal and drink in Spanish like a pro because while I struggled a bit with my Italian and French during my European adventure, I can order food in Spanish with the best of them. The ladies stopped at the row in front of me and doled out refreshments. Then they kicked the wheel and zipped right past my row.
The stewardess clearly missed the look of confusion on my face just as she missed making eye contact with me as she scanned the row. I even had my tray down, y’all.
I sat there while she served the row behind me switching easily between French, Spanish and English and I had to make a decision. Do I call her out and make her serve me or do I sit quietly and countdown to calm and get better food once I land?
Now, I know many of you probably just thought, big deal, Marta, you should have just caught her attention and called her back so you could pay for your overpriced refreshments. But y’all, I was pissed and there was no way my attitude would not have come through had I opened my mouth.
There are many times during any given week when I find myself having to take the big swallow. I recognize that I encounter the world as an African American female and even when I work to address a situation in a calm and controlled manner, I can still be viewed as treat simply because the complaint is coming from someone who looks like me.
The closer I get to 40 the more I’ve noticed that it is getting increasingly harder for me to swallow those types of situations. Why should I feel a need to refrain and edit myself when I have a legitimate reason to object to how I am being treated? I can tell you one reason right off the bat:
See, it only takes one lynching to put the fear of God into people who live in a perpetual state of uncertainty. What if I say the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person…
Have you ever thought about the weight of that burden and what it must do to the psyche of those who live that reality every day?
Have you ever thought about the weight of the opposing fear that causes a person to fear people with black and brown skin on sight?
My situation wasn’t life or death, but there have been times in my life where I did fear for my life and chose silence over the risk of not making it back to my loved ones.
I took that big swallow and lived to tell the tale.
I wish I had a solution, an action plan to address this wound that clearly needs healing, but I don’t have it. I’d love to hear if someone has one.
Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.