Friday Boot Camp is one of my favorite hard ass classes. I arrive early, chat with the teacher and set up the gear in my favorite spot.
A few weeks ago, some small pushy white woman with long dark hair pulled back into a pony tail, came late to class. There were other spaces in the room where she could have set up. But she picked the space too small for anyone to fit into…which was right next to me. I would have to move over in order to give her space to take class. And she was late.
Now, I can feel the resistance from some of you already. Just be polite, just move over.
There were plenty of other spaces she could have occupied in the room, but she chose to be next to me. This short white woman with the dark hair pulled back into a pony tail, picked a space she wanted, and EXPECTED me to just naturally accommodate her. One of two black women in a class of about 20 women.
So, when this small white woman with the dark brown hair pulled into a pony tail pretended she did not see me standing right next to her and slammed her weights down right next to me, I could have quietly moved over but I said something. I said, sarcastically…
“I guess you want me to move over.”
“Actually, yes. There’s plenty of room over there.”
Let’s stop here for a moment. On paper, this can be a total non-event. Woman is late, kinda rude, so be the bigger person and make space for her right?
Sure on paper. And it’s not like this is the first time something like this has happened to me in the world.
It happens all the time and that is the problem.
I am a member of an upper-scale gym and there are a bunch of entitled white women who are also members. (Yea, I’ll admit it…I’m a bourgie wanna be. I like expensive gyms.) By the way these women behave, it’s obvious that most of the people of color they know are people who serve them. And, I’m sure some have a husband who is black and one black friend and you know what, judging from their actions, these white women must believe most black people are on the planet to be in service to them.
I’ve been a member since 2013 and since July have worked out 6 days a week and I notice things. I noticed that, very few of these white women who are members speak to the black women who are members. (I mean, to be brutally honest, most of the white female trainers do not speak to black female members or the black female trainers.) When it comes to the locker room, these white women are downright nasty. Leaving their long hair in clumps in the shower drains and splattered on the sides of the shower walls. They flick stubble filled used shaving cream and soap all over the showers, and leave their used razors on the floor of the shower. Not flushing toilets, hogging the benches in the locker room, flicking their hair all over the place with the hair dryer when you are trying to walk through the dressing room to the bathroom…and I’m not even going to mention the state of the sanitary napkin receptacles with no regard for the people who already have a shitty job of cleaning up other women’s messes.
The Black and Brown women who work as bathroom attendants are invisible to these white women unless…they have a problem.
“Umm..excuse me miss..I forgot my combination. Umm…miss where are the tampons?” One time this white woman actually asked one of the Latina attendants to fish her key out of the toilet when the woman had dropped her key in the toilet bowl when she was taking a pee. Yes, this white woman wanted the Latina bathroom attendant to stick her hand into the white woman’s urine water…to fish out her key. These white women at my gym who behave like this, make it really, really easy to hate them. I work hard not to. Seriously.
We live in a world where black and brown people are automatically thought to be accommodating the needs of everyone else. If there’s a black person in the room, they must be somehow in service. Even if the black person is not in service, It’s okay to just invade their space, push them aside.
So, when that short white woman with the dark hair pulled back into a pony tail expected me to move over, I said, “Of course, because everyone has to accommodate your needs. You are the one who was late. Why should I have to move.”
I moved my things over. “Yea I told that bitch. I could have kept my mouth shut, but I told her.” I thought. “Yea I’m moving my stuff over… but I told her.” She went into the weight closet. Then she returned and she could have kept her damn mouth shut, but she did not. She poured on the sarcasm,” Thank you so, so much for moving over! I mean, what’s with the attitude? I don’t understand…”
Then, I don’t know what she said because in my mind’s eye, I saw myself taking my fist and punching her right in the face. I did not wanna slap her, I wanted to curl my fist into a ball and just punch her. I recognized my anger and took a deep breath. I said nothing, picked up my things and moved to the other side of the room. During this interaction the spaces in the room had filled up. The only open space, other than the one next to that short white woman with the dark hair pulled back into a pony tail, was behind the pole where I could not really see the instructor clearly.
I did class behind the pole, releasing my anger through physical activity, saying nothing. The instructor, checked on me later during class and said,”Why are you back here? Can you see? ” I don’t wanna be anywhere near that bitch up there” I said. “We’ll talk later” he said.
The workout kicked my ass and cleared my mind. Class ended and instantly endorphins flooded into my brain and a wave of love and happiness passed over my entire body, but the imprint of that interaction remained. The following week, the instructor changed the format of the class to a moving circuit class where we work through stations. I never saw the short white woman with the dark hair pulled back into a pony tail leave the room. At least I think I haven’t, honestly, I have no idea of who this short white woman with the dark hair pulled back in a pony tail is. That day I did not have my contact lenses or my glasses on and was working out in a blurred world.
At all times a black woman’s reactions will be judged harshly. We do not have the freedom to behave like that short white woman with the dark hair pulled back in a pony tail. We constantly must manage not only the regular daily stresses of life… we have to deal with so much more. Even when we attempt to create safe spaces for ourselves in the world..are they ever really safe when the perspective of this white ruled world is blurred?
I don’t wanna leave ya’ll in a negative space. I’ve started to play around with the idea that my safe space is not external. My safe space, my happiness comes from within and I carry that safe space with me everywhere. So, no matter who says what to me. No matter what I hear from the media. No matter how I am rejected, disrespected, under rated or pushed aside, I am connected to a well of safety and happiness that I can connect to any time I want. That connection goes back generations and I am always connected to that power.
Is there ever safe space for Black Folks? Yes, we have an unlimited well of authentic safety within and that my friends is why we still stand strong and we always will.
We have to. It’s the only way to survive in a world that is blurred.
This post really helped me. Writing and telling our stories is also very healing. Confronting the oppressor and her ignorance in as calm and direct method as possible has also play a HUGE role in maintaining my own sanity and it increases my belief in humanity. Occasionally one will will sincerely apologize for their unintended slight. So maybe next time, they can make a different choice. Either way, I feel heard because I spoke up for myself. Keep the faith. Thanks.
Thanks so much Crystal 🙂