I can remember every racist thing that has ever happened to me. Vividly. Dating back to when I was about five years old, every moment where someone has made me feel lesser than or uncomfortable or out of place because of my race is catalogued in my brain. I can’t remember the periodic table but I remember every word of the time my classmates told me my skin looked like the sh-t they found in the kindergarten bathroom. I remember when a woman walked up to me, unprompted, and called me the N word while I was working my retail job in university. I remember last month, when a stranger snapped his fingers at me and called me “Shaniqua”, also unprompted, while his friend looked on laughing.
Acts of “everyday racism” are real. We are not making them up. When Solange Knowles tweets that white women threw trash at her and yelled at her to “SIT DOWN” because of her race, she’s not trying to “bring the drama” like many of her Twitter commenters suggested. When she pens an essay on her feelings on and experience with racial discrimination in “predominately white spaces,” she’s not saying she hates white people. She’s finally shedding light on the stupid BS black people face, especially in America, every f-cking day.
Solange’s story started Friday when she took her 11 year-old son and husband to see German electronic dance music group Kraftwerk. I can’t think of anything whiter than a concert for a German electronic dance group. Solange and her family were a few of the only people of colour at the show. She got up and danced, as one does at a concert, and, well, I’ll let Solange explain what happened next.
About 20 seconds later, you hear women yell aggressively, “Sit down now, you need to sit down right now” from the box behind you. You want to be considerate, however, they were not at all considerate with their tone, their choice of words, or the fact that you just walked in and seem to be enjoying yourself.
These women went on to throw a half-eaten lime at Solange. They threw trash at our Queen’s flesh and blood. If the Beygency hasn’t already come for them, they will. Throwing limes sounds so juvenile, so ludicrous, that some may chalk this up to an innocent incident involving too much alcohol. Or they might even blame Solange. Those people clearly have never been in a situation where it’s glaringly obvious that the treatment you are facing has nothing to do with your actions.
Solange opens the essay talking about tone. This is something that is hard to explain. It’s hard to describe how you just KNOW when someone is taking a certain tone with you that means something else, something racially motivated. It’s something you have to experience to understand. Solange does a beautiful job of trying to explain this inexplicable thing.
It usually does not include “please.” It does not include “will you.” It does not include “would you mind,” for you must not even be worth wasting their mouths forming these respectable words. Although, you usually see them used seconds before or after you. You don’t feel that most of the people in these incidents do not like black people, but simply are a product of their white supremacy and are exercising it on you without caution, care, or thought. Many times the tone just simply says, “I do not feel you belong here.”
Who does America belong to? It’s the conversation that is dominating Twitter feeds and political rhetoric. A lot of the conversation is rooted in bigotry, systematic oppression and fear that those oppressors might finally lose their upper hand because maybe, just maybe, America doesn’t belong to them anymore. It’s why blackness can be seen as a threat. It’s why just being can be seen as an affront. How many times was Leslie Jones implicitly told she doesn’t belong through the trolls, the memes and the everyday racism thrown at her? Solange’s essay feels urgent, necessary and at exactly the right time.
I’ll leave you with the most powerful and my favourite part of what Solange wrote. It’s how she explains her revenge:
After you think it all over, you know that the biggest payback you could have ever had (after, go figure, they then decided they wanted to stand up and dance to songs they liked) was dancing right in front of them with my hair swinging from left to right, my beautiful black son and husband, and our dear friend Rasheed jamming the hell out with the rhythm our ancestors blessed upon us saying…. We belong. We belong. We belong. We built this.
You can read Solange’s full essay “And Do You Belong? I Do” here.
Ilya S. Savenok/ Melodie Jeng/ Getty Images