Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Racial Microaggressions Are Racist, Bro



A microaggression is a casual or subtle comment or action that degrades a visible minority or reinforces stereotypes. A common example is touching a black girl's hair without permission and making unsolicited, intentional or unintentional dehumanizing comments about its texture. If you have done this and gotten away with it before, please make a mental note not to do it again. Just because we didn't call you out or voice our grievances on sight, doesn't mean it's #chill or that we weren't insulted and annoyed. We are people, not animals at a petting zoo.

This post was inspired by a particularly shitty experience I had at a local pub in Toronto called Hurricanes. Yes, I'm calling them out by name. Miley, what's good?

I was having a few drinks with a friend and we had settled up and intended on heading out until we noticed they were setting up for karaoke. Obviously, this meant we had to stay so I could perform my hit single: Pony by Ginuwine. If you know me irl, you know I'm obsessed with that song. So we ordered up another round and grabbed a couple song books to flip through. This is where things took a turn for the worse.

A character and complete stranger to me, who I will refer to as Frat Bro approached me out of nowhere to inform me that "the Beyoncé songs start on the second page." I was taken aback by this and looked at my friend to see if his reaction was the same as mine. I saw the same confused and insulted expression on his face that I could feel crawling across my own. I decided to give Frat Bro the undeserved benefit of the doubt and asked him why he was telling me where the Beyoncé songs were, to which he responded "I'm just letting you know." I took his vague and condescending response as confirmation that my first reaction and assumption were justified. "Is that like... a racist thing?" I asked.


This was where things went from zero to a hunnid, real quick. My question seemed to send Frat Bro into a "calling me racist is the real racism!" rage. Through this entire encounter, I remained seated at my table while he stood next to me in his uninvited spot hovering over me bellowing a series of rebuttals including but not limited to:

"You people think everything is racist these days!"
"I can't even talk to someone at a bar without being called racist anymore!"
"You're the one that's racist for thinking Beyoncé is owned by one race!"
"Beyoncé is the number one adult contemporary artist in the world!" (lol. wut bro?)
(I'm paraphrasing the homie here, because we don't use F-bombs on Regal Rubbish)

At this point everyone in the room had turned around to watch the the debacle unfold. I admittedly matched his level of aggression, which added fuel to the fire, but I was raised by a strong black woman who taught me to always stand up for myself and never let anyone intimidate me into backing down, and that includes big, goofy, racist frat bros. That, and I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bigotry. I reminded him (since he thought he would educate me about Queen Bey and what genre she falls under) that her last album Lemonade was a commentary and expression of the trials and tribulations of the black female experience. I reminded him about her controversial Black Panther salute at the 2016 Superbowl. I asked him if he had ever even heard the song Formation or if he had just mentally white washed Beyoncé's body of work as a defence mechanism. I may have rambled about Beyoncé more than I needed to, but whatever. You know as an after thought, having a white man tell you that Beyoncé is not actually the embodiment of black excellence and an unapolagetically black artist is problematic in and of itself. I turned to my friend and said "He seems really defensive for someone who isn't a racist."

Frat Bro seemed genuinely taken aback by the fact that I talked circles around every ridiculous argument he made. He then called me a "Social Justice Warrior" and said that I was "attacking him for no reason." I reminded him that he was the one that randomly (or not so randomly, let's be real) approached me, made a weird, racist comment, then started yelling at me when I called him out. I guess when you make an entitled person feel stupid and embarrassed about their behaviour, they assume the position of victim instead of just acknowledging that they were wrong. At this point I was through with the conversation and dismissed him with a simple "I'm done with you. Go back to your table." He called me a snowflake, turned to my friend, told him to "check your girl" and went back to his table. Words were then exchanged between my friend and Frat Bro which resulted in Bro standing up and suggesting they "take this outside." Really, dude? *facepalm*

Only then did staff decide to intervene. Our server approached me and asked if we'd like to be moved. I said no and recommended that he move Frat Bro or better yet, kick him out.

Our lovely server responded "Why would I move him when you're the one with the problem?"

Here we go again.

"Im not the one with the problem. He's a racist who completely unprovoked, just approached and verbally attacked me and then threatened my friend." I explained.

"His girlfriend is Asian, how can he be racist?" he said.

My friend and I looked at each other in shock. I could not believe what I was hearing. How in fresh hell can someone be this socially uninformed in 2017!?

"I'm not moving them. You can go sit by the window if you're uncomfortable or you can leave." he said with an annoyed look on his face before walking away.

At this point I'd had enough. We hadn't a chance to even sip our drinks yet because of this whole situation and just had our grievances dismissed by the staff. I guess racism is A-Okay at Hurricanes! We had no choice but to leave at this point. We made the conscious decision to walk out without paying for that round of drinks. We'd already settled up our first bill and because of the neglect and endorsement of bigotry by the staff, did not have the opportunity to consume the 2 drinks on our second tab. I was not about to give this place a penny more. I made sure to look the server in the eye and wave goodbye before walking out. As we were walking away, he stepped outside of the bar and screamed "Thanks for paying your bill, assholes!" at us down the street.

Although I felt like I held my own and made my point loud and clear, it still felt like a loss. It still felt like we'd been bullied out of that pub by a racist while a room full of white people gawked at us. It still hurt that the couple of other visible minorities in the room stood by in silence. It was still embarrassing. Most of all, it was a reminder that racism is alive and well. I broke down in tears in the bathroom of a fast food restaurant down the street. I'm actually tearing up a bit as I write this. Living in Toronto and having surrounded myself with a group of like-minded, loving and progressive people, I get to live my day to day life for the most part without having to deal with very much "everyday racism" as some might call it, but incidents like this make it real all over again.

I feel like Canada and more specifically Toronto, has been painted as being this utopia where we all love each other and get along when that's not always the case. We need to do better.

I was hesitant about posting this, as I usually am when it comes to posting anything politically charged because I don't want to alienate my audience. Usually when shit like this happens to me, I just make a witty, passive aggressive Facebook status and laugh about it in the comments with my friends but maybe this was the straw that broke the camel's back. At some point you can't just "shake it off" anymore. I guess I just really needed to get this off my chest.

If you made it through till the end of this post. Shout out to you. You the real MVP.






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