“Lessons Your Parents May Not Have Taught You” #racism #black #writerwednesday #unconsciousbias #blackhistorymonth

For #BlackHistoryMonth, I’m sharing some of my thoughts…



A few weeks ago, a “Grey’s Anatomy” episode (Season 14, “Personal Jesus”) had my full attention.

I also had tears in my eyes during those last 10 minutes when Bailey and husband Ben teach Tuck  “how to behave” when stopped by the police. And yes, I said “when”, not “if” because getting stopped is eventually just a matter of time.

The scene perfectly depicted the type of  “Talk” many of us received growing up and which I referred to below in my old post under #1, 4, and 5. If you find this unbelievable, take a few minutes and read the comments left by fellow bloggers.

If you want to see the “Grey’s Anatomy’ scene I’m talking about, click here and scroll to the very last video. Hopefully, the video will still be active by the time you click.


“Lessons Your Parents May Not Have Taught You” – Marquessa, July 2016

As children, our parents taught us a number of life lessons at a very young age. Whenever we would gather around the dinner table, they would regale us with stories of their upbringing, childhood and their day at work and in return, we would share all the details of what had happened during our school day.

But being raised by vigilant parents, oftentimes those dinnertime conversations would be sprinkled with “lessons about life” that were important for us to know as First Generation children of immigrants growing up Black in a mainly White and French speaking environment – an environment where being “outside the norm” wasn’t always well-received.

These “lessons” were rooted in real-life incidents experienced by those in our small circle of family, friends and friends of friends.

Growing up, your parents taught you lessons too.

But different teachers provide their students with different content material based on the classes they took in the school of life:

  1. When stopped by the police (not “if” you are stopped by the police), keep your hands visible on the wheel and do exactly what you are told. Shooting first and asking questions later are the rules of the game. Dead men tell no tales and when you’re dead, only one side of the story will be told and it won’t be yours. Remember that…
  2. When you’re in a store, never put your hands in your pockets and avoid opening your purse until you’re in front of the cashier. The ones that hate you because of your color will not give you the benefit of the doubt and will be quick to treat you as a thief. Remember that…
  3. Excellence is the best deterrent to racism. Be kind to all, get your education, keep your eye on the prize and secure your future. Racists assume that you are nothing, come from nothing and know nothing. Surprise them by being “someone”, coming from “something” and knowing that you are capable of greatness. They will have to find another way to try to break you and your spirit. You won’t let them because you’ll know better. Remember that…
  4. Think carefully about your actions and how you approach certain situations. What is perceived as “a pass” for someone else will likely be seen as a “crime” if you’re in the same situation – remember that! ; and
  5. When you see your friends doing wrong, walk away. Because if the authorities are called, you will be the first one they haul away – no questions asked. Remember that…

Those are just a handful of life lessons I learned being in the skin I’m in.

©July 8, 2016 Marquessa Matthews. All Rights Reserved.













“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

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

Originally published on July 8, 2015



“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.



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.








#Showcase Sunday: “My Black Son’s Heritage” | Anne Marie Aikins @femwriter #black #race




As I was going through my paper decluttering process as part of my 52 Things In 52 Weeks challenge, I came across a folder of old magazine clippings I had kept aside because they were well written and thought-provoking.

The one you see below is from a Maclean’s magazine in 2001 (yes, 2001) and is share-worthy. It may be “old” but much of it is still quite relevant today.

Like I said in a previous post, I find that lessons about race that sometimes have the most impact can come from those not in brown or black skin.

Note: This is a scan of that article. I’m posting it with the permission of Ms. Anne Marie Aikins – @femwriter