This piece is written by Vanessa Newman, one of Spicy‘s Guest Contributors. Vanessa is a writer, event producer, DJ, and creative strategist based in Brooklyn. You can follow them on Instagram @fiveboi and view more of their work at fiveboi.com.
Dear White People,
I wonder what it’s like to have so much free space in your brain. See, if you look at the brain like a CPU, you know how your computer or phone gets slower the more storage is on it? I wonder what it feels like to have the processing system of a white person.
You see, while you get to wake up, leave the house, go to work, go shopping, go partying, go raging, my brain has to process all these activities while doing double the work. When I wake up and get dressed, I have to think about how my outfit of the day will affect how the world will see my blackness. Is this appropriate to meet with a client? Is my hair neat enough or should I wear a hat? Will this black hoodie get me shot? Did you know that when I go shopping, I never have my hands in my pocket? When I walk into a store, I make sure to look at the security guard and nod, in a way that looks assuring, not coy. I make sure that my hands are visible and in front of me at all times so no one can ever assume I’m shoplifting. I’m a very indecisive shopper, but I try to carry myself with authority so I don’t look “suspicious.”
When my day is done, and I return home, I have to make sure that I don’t look like a police suspect, while also thinking about all the comebacks I have for when that white person side eyes me for walking into the same building as them, as if I couldn’t afford it. “Oh yes, I live here, describe the inside of my apartment to you? Well there’s a Basquiat hanging on the back wall, directly above my artisanal rug from West Elm.” As of these receipts of affluence would protect me from my own blackness. Do you know what it feels like to pull out your keys the minute you get into your apartment elevator to prove that you live there before any assumptions are made? Or constantly be thinking about the proximity in which you’re walking behind someone so a white woman doesn’t feel threatened by your presence?
I really, really do wonder what I’d do with all that free processing space if my brain wasn’t running subconscious code that analyzed my blackness relative to everything I have to interact with at any given time of day. I personally find it incredible that even with all that space, you can only manage to remake bad movies, steal black music, never learn how to season your food, open bars that keep your pets safer than actual people, and launch the same app, over and over again, under ten different names.
Shit if I had that extra free space in my brain, I’d be fucking unstoppable. But I guess that’s why you’ve all worked so hard to make sure that I don’t.
A Tired Black Person
Photo courtesy of Doreen Pierre (IG: @dapperpenniless)