So, I had this crazy thought.
Today, I’d like to call in “white.”
You know, sometimes you got to call in sick. Why not call in white?
Just for today. I’d like to be white when I walk out of my house; when I ramp onto the highway; when I walk into CVS; when I pass an older white woman on a lonely street; when I stop for gas in an unfamiliar town; when I wait for a friend at Starbucks.
Yeah, think I’ll call in white today.
Is it too much to ask to have just one microaggression-free day?
A day I don’t have to explain what I have to explain?
A day when I don’t have to keep my hands away from my pockets in the upscale boutique; don’t have to question why we got a lousy table at the restaurant; don’t have to wonder why she thought it was so important to tell me I’m articulate; don’t have to suppress rage because some random Caucasian half my age just gave me the finger; don’t have to feel hyperaware that I’m THE Black guy in the room. Just 24 hours for the opportunity to be emotionally neutral toward “But what about Black-on-Black crime?” and “You know, there’s reverse racism, too” and “Really, all lives matter!”
Let me call in white. Just today.
Can we take this one step further?
Every so often, our state offers a tax-free holiday. It’s a day when there’s no sales tax levied on retail purchases. Thank you, Massachusetts.
So, can we apply this to another tax — the “Black tax?” For those who don’t know, the Black tax is the axiom, the shared understanding, that Black people need to work harder than whites to achieve the same level of success. So, why not a Black-tax-free holiday? I’m only asking for one day, y’all!
I think I’ll call in white today.
Except . . . I can’t.
Because I’m black. 24. 7. 365.
I’ve been told that there are only two things I have to do: be Black and die. So, not trying to do the latter, today I will be Black, like I’ve been every day of my life. Like my dad’s mom and my son’s daughter. Like I will be until that sweet chariot comes to take me home.
Real talk: I actually don’t want it any other way. I’m proud, grateful to be part of a heritage that includes Crispus Attucks, Katherine G. Johnson, John D. O’Bryant, Elijah McCoy, William Grant Still, Jesse Owens, Anita Hill, Scott Joplin, Simone Manuel, T’Challa, and my late father. And as unfair as it is, the Black tax has pushed me to a level of excellence, strength, and integrity that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
OK, and, yes, I will admit that I love being able to share “the nod” when I pass a fellow chocolate chip in a sea of vanilla ice cream. It’s cool that when the Black preacher says, “I won’t be before you long,” I know s/he’s lying. I would never give up the visceral cultural pride and connection I feel when I see the picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics or smell collard greens and sweet potato pie cooking or hear the opening strains of John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” or read “The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson.
So . . . I guess I won’t call in white today…
. . . or ever.
But that won’t stop me from wondering what it would be like to be able to.
Bil Mooney-McCoy lives in Dorchester.