“If They Take Dogs and Jews, They’ll Probably Take You…” #fiction #race #holidayshortfiction

*Christmas-flavored short fiction*

It hadn’t dawned on me to warn landlords that we were Black but I guess that I should have…

Inspired by a true event…

Montreal, 1963.

“Sorry, we do have apartments for rent but we can’t risk having other tenants move out if you move in.”

I stood there with the baby sleeping in my arms while my other son peeked out from behind my skirt. He gave the middle-aged woman the same blank look that I was giving her. My husband was registering at the university so we were on our own to apartment hunt that day. It was cold and the excitement of witnessing my first snowfall was long gone.

This was the third visit we had made in response to For Rent ads and it would be the third time we were turned away. It hadn’t dawned on me to warn landlords that we were Black but I guess that I should have – it would have saved my time and my little one’s feet in this eye-opening cold.

Three times was not a charm.

Seeing the look of despair on my face, the woman tried to be helpful.

“Why don’t you try the building across the street, dear? They always have availability. If they take dogs and Jews, they’ll probably take you. Merry Christmas.”

And with that, the woman quietly shut her door.

©2017 Marquessa Matthews. All Rights Reserved.

Originally posted February 28, 2016, adapted in December 2017

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#ThoughtfulTuesday: What You May Not Understand…

I haven’t written a post for my “From Where I Sit” feature for a while so here goes…

You may have heard about the recent “Dove ad” controversy and if not, you can Google it or click here for a general idea.

It was quite interesting to read social media comments that varied from “That ad is racist and I’m boycotting the company” to “In what world is that ad offensive? Get a grip you over-politically correct people!

Whether the ad was insensitive, offensive or racist, that’s up to you to decide.

However, for those of you who don’t see how the ad could possibly be disrespectful, I’m sharing a few experiences to show from where some of the controversy may come.

People may not understand about:

  • that little boy in my kindergarden class (who had probably never seen a Black person before) who turned up his nose in disgust and asked me why I came to school “dirty” right before scraping his finger along my arm to see how much “dirt” would come off;
  • my second grade teacher who had no shame in saying how “brown” and “black” people were stupid and smelled back (I was the “black” one, the “brown” boy was from Indian descent and believe me, the only unshowered stink came from her); or
  • the next door neighbor girls who would call me “caca” through our chain link fence for years and years.

But as a child, I understood that I was seen as “less than” and dirty because of the color of my skin.

People may not understand about:

  • a loser classmate in high school who would sit behind me to pull on my braids and call me “Medusa” (until I introduced him to my fist);
  • growing up bombarded by ads and messaging that reinforced that the only path to “pretty” was having blond hair and blue eyes; or
  • not being able to buy basic make-up for my skin tone because “skin tone” color had nothing to do with me.

But as a teenager, I accepted that I had to live with being “ugly” because I would never meet the impossible beauty standard plastered in magazines, on billboards and on television.

People may also not understand the reality of being “complimented” on how you are “pretty for a Black girl” or having someone touch your hair without your permission to see if it’s real (because if it’s long it must be a weave) like you’re some kind of object unworthy of boundaries.

But as a grown woman and having endured those kinds of experiences as an early backdrop to my life, I quickly noticed the “issue” with the Dove ad, as did my 79 year old mother and 16 year old niece when I showed it to them.

At face value and for many, the Dove ad is…quiet.

But for others, it speaks volumes and is a reminder of the false truths we learned about “black” being “unclean”, “unworthy”, “dirty” and “not ideal”.

You see, if you had experienced just a tiny bit of what I’vr shared with you, your eyes may also have caught the image of a Black woman bathing the ‘black” off to get “clean” and “pretty”…

From where I sit and through my brown eyes, that is what lies behind the controversy.

All Rights Reserved ©2017 Marquessa Matthews

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“Most Black People Like Rap Music ” (2015) #race #blogger

Originally published on July 8, 2015

stupid-487043_1920

https://pixabay.com/en/stupid-dumb-thinking-brain-symbol-487043/

“What do you mean that you don’t like rap music?”

He sounds truly amazed at my statement.

I, on the other hand, am getting more and more annoyed with his small talk.

My friend’s neighbour is leaning on the frame of his door chatting me up because he has nothing better to do. I’m on my knees, trying to fix the lock on my friend’s door. It’s really hot, sweat is pouring down my back and the booming base of rap music blaring from the building next door is getting on my last nerve.

“Yup, that’s what I said. I don’t like rap music.”

My hand slips as I try to keep the lock balanced in place and everything, including my screwdriver, crashes to the floor.

“How can you not like rap? Have you looked at yourself in the mirror?”

I stop mid-reach to the items that had fallen.

Now, I can’t help myself and I look at him. I wipe the sweat from above my lip with my less-than clean hand.

Did he seriously just say that to me?

“What do you mean?” I need him to clarify before I decide what next to say.

“You’re Black and you don’t like rap? That’s pretty weird. Most Black people like rap.”

I feel my face getting hot and it’s not from the heat of the beautiful summer day. I see this conversation going in a number of different directions, most of them not good. And getting angry is at the top of my short list of options since I’m not in the greatest of moods.

But in looking at him, I can see that he genuinely believes what he is saying and isn’t being mean. And he isn’t trying to be stupid.

Well, at least not on purpose.

What is more surprising to me is that we are the same age and that he has such old-style stereotypical thinking. Then again, there is no age limit on the type of stereotypes a person can hold.

I choose to go a softer route, especially since his kids are home. I’d heard from my friend that his kids are so constantly confined to his apartment that the noone realized that children lived in the small building.

I pick up my screwdriver, determined to get the lock fixed so that I can escape the conversation. I put my focus back on the task at hand and talk as I do.

“Well, then I guess that I’m not most Black people. How many White friends do you have?”

“Uh, I don’t know. Lots.”

“Ok and out of all those White friends, how many of them like rap music?”

“Oh, lots of them do. But I personally hate it.”

“And how many Black friends do you have?”

He hesitates before answering. I can tell that he is not trying to stall with his answer, he’s just trying to count the number out in his head.

“I’d say 2 or 3.”

“Do they all like rap?”

“Uh, no.”

I try to remind myself that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. The last thing I want to do is make him feel stupid. And I’m not interested in schooling anyone today so I choose my words carefully and decide to make a light joke out of it.

“In your circle, it sounds like your White friends like rap music more than your Black friends. So it sounds to me like you should be the one looking in the mirror.”

He cocks his head to one side, contemplating what I just said.

“That’s funny. You may be right.”

He seems to have caught the undercurrent of my message – if you are going to generalize, at least do it based on your own personal experience.

We hear a loud crash from inside his apartment and then crying. He turns to head inside.

Peace.

Finally.

But just before he closes his door, he turns to me.

“Are you sure that you don’t like rap music?”

It takes all my energy to mask my frustration.

Very sure.”

©2015 Marquessa Matthews. All Rights Reserved.

 

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This Is Who I Am – #writer #writerslife

Like I said in this past post, I don’t do selfies.

I much prefer to be behind the camera than in front of it.

But since a few curious readers asked me “what I look like”, I’ve decided to post a photo.

A photo.

One photo.

A one time thing that will likely not happen again for a very long time.

And this photo may go POOF and then disappear when I revamp my blog in the coming months.

If you would like to see “who I am“, you’ll need to scroll down.

Yeah, scroll down.

Scroll down some more.

Scroll down some more again.

You’re almost there.

Okay, there you go…

This is who I am.

This is also who I’m interested in rediscovering.

Wait…what did you say?

I never said that the photo would be a “recent” one! 🙂

All Rights Reserved ©2017 Marquessa Matthews

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No Strokes For Different Folks #microaggressions 

This is clearly not me…taken from and credit to: https://giphy.com/gifs/hannahbronfman-hannah-bronfman-3og0IAsEcf8EfYAAUw

I’m rolling my eyes at the fact that I felt the need to write this this “disclaimer” as an intro…

This post is NOT intended to call anyone “ignorant”. It’s to raise awareness about how uncomfortable people can feel when seemingly harmless things are said and done to them, oftentimes by people who don’t mean any harm and don’t realize how their actions are being received.

But when we know better, we do better right?

That is the objective of this post.

Hopefully that was clear because I’m climbing onto my soapbox now…

This could have been included in yesterday’s “Pet Peeves” but I felt that it deserved its own post. 

In my “Life of Pie” – 12 Totally Random Things You Never Needed To Know About Me” post, I told you that sometimes people I barely know have gotten into my personal space and have touched my “_____”, taking me off guard before I could even react.

In that post, I purposely left it blank so that you could guess. Some of you guessed right and some of you guessed …not right.

Well, as luck would have it, someone who knew exactly what I was referring to in that post forwarded me a real-life example of my #12.

Take a look:

Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

I cringed the moment I saw that outstretched hand…

It boggles my mind why some people think that it’s “okay” to cross that personal boundary, physically touch someone they may barely know and even sometimes go so far as to glide their hands over another person.

How would those same individuals like it if someone they barely knew stroked them?

I don’t care if the gesture is meant to be a compliment – do not touch me without my permission.

I repeat – I. Do. Not. Care. No. Touching.

Yes, that woman looks amazing at 53. And I’ll even let that co-host’s words slide this time (because it’s an entirely different conversation).

But the touching?

Uhhhh…no, no, no.

There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. Don’t do it. Not everyone will be as polite as the woman in this video. Recoiling like a snake while giving you my “subway” face has been my go-to move for years now because it’s been much more effective than being “polite” by pretending to be okay with it.

Oh…the stories I could share with you but I won’t.

As food for thought, I’m leaving you with a link to “21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis“. If you don’t have time to read, the photos speak volumes.

Microaggressions are not limited to “race”. There are many that abound related to gender and sexuality too…

Okay, I’m climbing off my soapbox now. My rant is over. 🙂

All Rights Reserved ©2017 Marquessa Matthews

 

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“Who’s Laughing Now?” #bully #meangirl

 

Image result for Who laughs last, laughs loudest.

credit to and found at: http://www.idiomsandslang.com/he-who-laughs-last-laughs-best/

Who’s Laughing Now?

*inspired by Who’s Laughing Now? (video below)

The woman was plump, had a face full of wrinkles and looked beyond dowdy in her washed out yoga pants and oversized T-shirt. She stood shaking her head in frustration as her children raced up and down the grocery aisle. It was obvious that she wanted to crucify them but she seemed too tired to deal with them as they screamed and darted around people’s grocery carts.

Something about her felt familiar and I wondered from where I knew her. As I continued to scan the shelf for what I needed for the weekend, I eliminated the possibilities. She wasn’t from my university days, past jobs or from elementary school where everyone knew each other. High school was the only feasible place left and I immediately knew who she was – Eva the bully.

Eva was an older girl who had bullied me when I first started high school. She was in the graduating class and had taken a “liking” to me, taunting me in the meanest ways possible on the bus and whenever our paths would cross in the school hallways. I was her perfect target – young fresh meat, four years younger than her and one out of the handful of Black kids in the entire school. Her insults always focused my “blackness” – how ugly and Medusa-like my braids were, how my skin was brown like a monkey and anything else that came to her nasty little mind. Eva was a class act with her promises to beat me up if I opened my mouth and told on her. Yes, she was a first class mean girl who had a good laugh at my expense.

But even at that age, I knew better than to give her what she wanted  – the satisfaction of scaring me, even if I was on the inside. But when pretending not to care only aggravated her more, she doubled up on her efforts and I had no choice to get the family involved. I couldn’t live on pins and needles until she graduated. She was already as dumb as a doorknob – what if she failed and had to repeat her grade…what would happen then?

I must have been deep in thought and staring at her while I took that 30 year trip down memory lane because I found her staring curiously right back at me.

“Do we know each other?” Eva had the nerve to smile and it irked the shit out of me.

I was about to shake my head with a “no” and simply go about my business but when one of her kids crashed into me and kept running, it ignited a fire in the pit of my stomach. I found myself approaching her.

“I’m sure that you won’t remember me but I definitely remember you. You’re Eva, right?” I smiled.

“Yeah, I am. How do we know each other?”

I couldn’t help but smile even wider.

“You were the racist bitch that bullied me in my first year of high school. It’s hard to forget a face as ugly as yours.”

Eva’s face quickly changed from a smile to shock. From her wide eyes, she was confused at how the words coming out of my words were not corresponding with the smile plastered on my face. She opened her mouth but couldn’t form a full sentence.

“What?”

“I said that you were the racist bitch that bullied me in my first year of high school,” I repeated a little louder, attracting the attention of a young couple standing nearby.

She tried to recognize my face from all those years ago, probably flashing back to what and who she had been back then and maybe to what and who she still was.

“You were nothing less than a monster but from the looks of it, you’re living a nightmare of your own. And you definitely deserve it. You reap what you sow.”

I pointed to her kids spitting out f* bombs at each other like they were candy, fighting over something from the shelf down the aisle. I didn’t give a flying fig that the couple watching were fully fascinated by my words and were looking at Eva in disgust.

I gave Eva my back and returned to where I had left my cart a few steps away, feeling her eyes on me the entire time. From the corner of my eye, I could see her standing motionless, unsure of what to do and looking extremely embarrassed. I finished taking down what I needed and glanced back at her.

“Have yourself a wonderful day Eva,” I told her and walked away to the cashier.

No, it’s not true that I walked away.

I strutted my way down the grocery aisle, my stride overflowing with satisfaction.

You know what they say, he who laughs last, laughs best…

All Rights Reserved©2016 Marquessa Matthews.

Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos directly above. No copyright infringement intended.

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The Things Women Go Through #truestory

In response to “Recreate A Single Day”

scared

Photo credit: San Diego Shooter / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

When I felt his eyes on me, I immediately regretted having pushed my to-do list late into the evening hours.

With the change of seasons, it was already getting darker faster and in the badly-lit and bare parking lot, this dude was totally creeping me out. I hustled into the entrance of the hardware store as quickly as I could.

I’m usually aware of my surroundings so that’s how I noticed him almost right away. He had been staring at me as he had approached his car with one lonely bag in his hand. He had popped his trunk, thrown the bag into it and then continued staring. What creeped me out was the “something” in his eyes that I could see through the darkness. It gave me a sick ache in the pit of my stomach.

I was even more creeped out when he slammed his trunk and I realized that he was following behind me.

Strange how your brain processes information really fast when it needs to.

Why is he going back into the store when he just came from there? Is he following me? No, relax and stop being paranoid!

I joined the returns line near the main entrance and waited for what felt like an eternity before nonchalantly turning around to see where he had gone. Our eyes immediately made four. He was about 3 customers away from me in the same line.

What the f***? He’s got nothing in his hands to return…

For the first time in my life, I was glad that it was a long line. It gave me time to think.

Did I tell anyone about my errands and where I was going tonight? Should I call my brother and tell him where I am in case something were to happen? No, that might freak him out.

If I leave the line now, Weird Dude knows where I parked and could simply follow me back to my car…or even home. No, you can’t go straight back to your car.

It was my turn at the cashier. I handed her my bill and credit card and all the while, my thoughts were elsewhere. I looked back. Now, there were about four customers behind him.

As I placed my credit card back into my wallet, I played it cool and walked through the turnstile into the main part of the store. Stopping at the first aisle, I turned around to see that he was unsuccessfully trying to get himself out of the line, first from the back and then from the front. Other customers were getting annoyed with him trying to jostle past them.

I need to lose him. If I walk along the back aisles of the store, it would be easier to do it.

But as I did, I realized that with only one set of exit doors, he could be waiting there or even near my car. I immediately regretted wasting time and not going back directly to my car in the first place.

I called a friend who stayed on the line with me as we tried to decide on my next move.

And that’s when I decided to act like a creep myself.

I shadowed a man and his young son who was enjoying a lollipop headed in the same direction as my car. Fortunately, the man didn’t realize that I was invading their personal space but I was close enough for the child to eye me suspiciously as if I was about to steal the lollipop out of his hand.

Sorry kid, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

©2017 Marquessa Matthews. All Rights Reserved.

Originally posted on September 24, 2015

If you liked this piece and want to see more like it, please click on “Like” and/or “Comment” below and share with others who would also enjoy it. You can also sign up for my mailing list here to get the latest news from me. 

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