This town can’t meet my Black needs!

moeLiving in what most would describe as a nice sized town, I’ve realized why a lot of minorities prefer the city. These towns cannot meet our Black needs! A friend of mine was really excited about the release of the new Forest Whitaker movie Repentance. We made plans to see it together the weekend it premiered because we just couldn’t wait any longer then opening night. Too bad for us it didn’t open in our town. The same was true of 12 Years A Slave. Oscar award winning movie, but we would not know why it received such prestige unless we had driven the 2 hours to the big city to see it. Let me not omit the whole truth which is that the movie eventually came to town but well after it had become the talk of all movie critiques and consumers for some weeks. I pray Repentance is as successful because if not I will have to make a road trip in order to see people who look like me on the big screen.
Wal-Mart, everyone’s favorite one stop shop, makes this side of town unable to meet my Black needs. I live on the “good” side of town, the suburb. Wal-Mart, on this side of town, has a very small section at the end of the hair care aisle just for me. But, I have to beat the rest of the 7% of African Americans who live on this side of town. I am often angered by the fact that I have to go to several stores to get what I need and on some occasions have to go to the other side of town where the aisle that caters to me is much larger. I feel torn by my view of the situation with the local Wal-Mart. On one hand, I understand why this large chain store has made the decision to put more Black hair care items on the other side of town. That is where more Black people live. With only 7% on this side of town, I guess we only get 7% of the hair care aisle shelves. That viewpoint I understand. After all, Wal-Mart is a business and that makes good business sense, you cater to your consumer. But on the other hand, I am angry because this very small section makes me feel like I should not be on this side of town. I’m on the wrong side of the tracks. I, and the rest of the 7%, could complain but I’d be willing to place a hefty wager on the fact the 84% wouldn’t let us get too far. I mean if we get 10% of the shelf they are losing some of their products because you really need 10 fragrances of Herbal Essence shampoo to choose from! How dare I suggest that you only have 9 fragrances of shampoo because I need 1 row of Luster’s Pink Oil Relaxer!
The difficulty of living in a society in which you are a minority invades my thoughts every day. Sometimes these thoughts arise because I need to relax my hair and I cannot find the product my hair requires or my excitement about seeing a similar complexion on the big screen is crushed by the fact The Hobbit needs two theatres. Sometimes they come because I recognize how little White people know and/or care about my culture and my needs. Dr. EW asks tons of questions about Black culture. Her desire to know and understand my struggle is a part of the foundation of our friendship. African Americans often talk about getting tired of having to educate White people. Because obviously they should have learned everything there is to know about us during Black history month, all 28 days of it!! I know why White people wash their hair every day because normally I’m surrounded by White people who wash their hair every day. They didn’t have to teach me I was immersed in it. It’s like learning a foreign language. If you go to Spain you are destined to learn some Spanish. It’s all around you and you cannot avoid or ignore it. In the U.S. someone has to teach you because English is all around you. You have to seek out a teacher or resource to learn Spanish because you are not immersed in it in America. So I am happy to have conversations with Dr. EW about Black culture because I don’t expect her to know and I appreciate her desire to learn. Now the nosey women who saw a wedding picture of mine in which my husband and I were jumping the broom, I’m not as thrilled to teach her. Why? It was obvious she had no desire to learn and really understand. To take in the fact slavery was a real thing and we were treated like animals in a society that at the time did not even have an ASPCA. She was fascinated by the Black folks just as much as a spectator at a zoo enjoys the antics of the lions (since we are often compared to animals let’s just roll with that allegory). She even called over another spectator and asked them had she ever seen anything like this. What played in my head, “Did you know the N****s have a new trick”. However, the new spectator was not a spectator at all but an educator as she explained flawlessly why some Black couples choose to jump the broom and what it represents. In that moment I realized that a once spectator now turned educator has more power to educate about my culture to the remaining spectators then I will ever have. Of course you wouldn’t listen to the lions explain the antics, they’re lions, but if it came from the zookeeper, now that’s knowledge! But then again somewhere a lion taught a zookeeper about lions. Somewhere a zookeeper wanted to really know about lions and started to study and observe them. Somewhere a lion taught a zookeeper and then the zookeeper was able to educate others. So I’ll be a lion!! But the question remains while I’m teaching these zookeepers about me, how do I get my needs met? Do I drive two hours to see the movie I want to see? Do I go to the other side of town to get the hair care products I need? If I protest will the zookeepers see me as hostile and want to put me down? If I play nice, like a kitten, will they take me seriously? What do I do with this town that cannot meet my Black needs?

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