Studying While Black
I promised I would share my journey through medical school, the good, the bad, and the horrible. This has been weighing heavy on my heart for the past week so here we go. TW: racism.
Last week during my 4 day weekend I took a quick trip to SF to see OTRII tour and catch up with friends and family. Before the concert, my friend and I found a cute coffee shop with WiFi and lots of seats- perfect env to get some much needed studying done. We found a corner, I put my computer and first aid bible on two small tables and got to work. Headphones in, lectures playing, I was in a really good study groove... until I saw someone in my periphery yelling at me. I took out my headphones and was so caught off guard. “You need to get up you are taking too much space, give me your table!” This was an older white woman (maybe in her 60’s??). I looked around the coffee shop and realized there were 6 empty tables. I asked politely, “ma’am, why would I get up and give you my table if there are 6 empty tables in the middle of the restaurant?” She violently responded- because you are taking up too much space you can’t have all these tables and I am entitled to sit wherever I want” 🤔 No WAY this is happening. I tried to find every excuse.. maybe she’s on some meds that’s making her wacky.. is this lady.. really.. being this outwardly racist? Let me double check.
✅She isn’t addressing my white girl friend sitting at the same table in anyway
✅Only black person in the room
✅She is being inappropriately violent
✅ using words like “she is entitled to my seat” and “demands me to get up”- history repeats itself again.
After I refused to get out of my seat (must have said it about 10 times “no ma’am, I’m not getting up out of my seat), called me a bitch and pushes my chair as she walks away. Adrenaline is taking over my body and I feel under attack. My friend is shaking. I thought I was going to have to defend myself. I hesitated. We all know how that would look if the cops were called. And I wasn’t trying to loose anymore studying time...or my life.
Retrospectively, I know why my initial reaction was to get up. In my childhood being partly raised in Texas I experienced hundreds of microagressions (along with outright racism) which I didn’t realize were apart of my daily existence. When I felt uncomfortable I either left, laughed it off, or made excuses for it. But it was blatant, and so apparent, everyone in that coffee shop knew. After the attack, multiple people came up to me and apologized on her behalf. Commended me on how I handled it, and prayed for a better future for me. BRUH. I knew I wasn’t crazy. But that made me feel even more targeted. I was being attacked while everyone stood idly by and silently patted me on the back for not letting my anger finally show. You can hear in the video I still address her as “ma’am”. After trying to get back to work I realized my hands were still shaking, and I could not recover. My friend Sage asked if there was anything at all she could for me. I knew what I wanted to ask her.. but I don’t want to have to ask someone to go confront racism if they don’t feel comfortable or compelled to do it naturally. I responded no but I really appreciated the ask. After a few minutes, sitting quietly, Sage decided to confront her.
I wish I would have recorded the initial encounter, but I was so thrown off it was the last thing on my mind. It’s sad, but honestly true. If I were to ever be in an encounter with any racist, I would want this girl to be my side. True definition of an ally and will call your ish out regardless of how uncomfortable. Made me realize this isn’t an us vs them problem, and I am happy to have a best friend that won’t brush off the severity of the situation. (If I was with anyone else they would have probably said oh she’s crazy let’s just get out of here). You can hear her tone with Sage. She was listening and slightly reasoning with her. She was saying it wasn’t about skin color but when asked “why me?” it was the repetitive answer “she has her book on that table and I wanted to sit there.” No cussing. No violence. (Also notice how the manger only intervened when I was talking back, but said absolutely nothing when I was getting cussed out 🙃)
It’s so important for our allies to recognize their role in this movement, and I’m grateful. After debriefing this past week, I’m glad I can move on. For people that don’t get it... I realize it may be a “small” recorded issue, but you have to understand context. Asking a black person to remove themselves from their seat because you want them to, violently, is apart of our recent history. It sounds oddly similar to Rosa Parks and refusing to get up from her seat because she has had enough. I’m no Rosa Parks. But I felt grounded in knowing it’s these little moments that define things. Personally and historically. Like I said these micro aggressions have been happening for years for me. I’m over it bruh. In high school I probably would have gotten up. Now, I’m not only saying no but I am also raising awareness to these realities we as black people face. It’s scary to write this all out but I hope anyone, especially POC in public areas like coffee shops.... please... take up space. You are allowed to be there. You are allowed to use a small extra table for your books. Allies, please continue to be our voice when we know we can’t.
You are allowed. Nah. Don’t you dare get up.