Let me share this short true-life story that happened about two years ago.
The story begins with a white lady making threats. She was standing in a stairwell. Opposite her was the lady whom she was threatening. A black woman.
The black lady had her phone out too. She was live on Facebook with this woman threatening to call the cops on her, obviously disturbed.
True to her words, the white lady did call the cops and the officers would arrive a few minutes later: a tall short-haired white male officer and blonde hair female officer.
“What’s the problem?” The male officer probed the black woman.
Apparently, the white lady had called the police on her because this white lady felt threatened by her presence, the black woman responded. She was out working on her paper in the common room, she’d slept off, the white lady came in, put the lights on and the first thing that occurred to her was to call the police.
This strange woman in the common room was after all ‘black’. And as far as this white lady knew, she was the dangerous kind. The skin tone said it all.
But they were both Yale students. Both with rooms on the same building, yet this lady felt threatened by her.
Would this white lady have felt the same way if she had come in and met a white lady, just like her, in the room? Would she have called the police on her? What was it beneath the black skin that labelled so much danger, that spiked so much fear?
The police continued throwing bombs of questions in a bid to investigate this ‘incident’.
This black woman continued with her live video because she was not sure things would turn out in well for her. Would it not be better to document it? To have some shred of evidence if things should go south and she is held for what she did not do? She was after all, by her standards, innocent and had no fear having the rest of the world see this event play out as though through her own eyes.
She felt that people should know that they had let the white lady go and she had to wait to be checked and cleared.
The clearing process took more than ten minutes during which another officer arrived. After the black lady was IDed, the officer instructed her that she was free to go, but they would reach out to the Dean for further verification.
It is indeed a short and simple story but it captures the chunk of a bias that plays out almost everyday within our society.
By way of summary, allow me to put it this way: a lady was having a smooth evening until a white lady, a student just like her, shows up in the dorm and disrupts her evening because she was black and she felt threatened by her. The black lady faced several minutes of verification, checks, cross-checks, duress, and anxiety before she was eventually cleared.
Why? Again, because she was black and the white lady felt threatened by her.
The fact that there is most always that general assumption, that if an issue crops up between a white folk and a black folk, the black folk is by default at fault and mostly victimized. Statements like “He deserved it!” rings out from the mouths of people that might not even have a clue to the circumstances that surrounds a black folk’s tragedy. “He was probably selling crack.”
Those are what could happen in the light of other events. But what about this one?
What would have happened had a black lady made the call on a white lady? Would the same standards be followed or her impressions discarded as paranoia? Would they have taken that long to investigate this white woman- if the black woman’s allegations were taken seriously at all?
It is black disadvantage: the longer stops for your ID verification, the longer job interview sessions, the double-standards that sometimes apply.
As long as there are some things you wouldn’t have had to face if you weren’t black but face because you’re black, you’re living through the black disadvantage.
It’s an unspoken rule but it plays out in almost every aspect of our global society.