By Maya Kieffer, Writing Class Radio student and creator of Dear Person, an advice blog.
When I hear the word black, the first word I think of is lives and then matter, which is good in a way. I’m glad this movement was successful enough to be the first thing I think of, but at the same time I’m so resistant to being advertised to that I hate how my thoughts go to a slogan. That’s sort of the point of a slogan though, right? To be memorable.
The other day a guy came into the bookstore — a really hot black guy in a Black Lives Matter t-shirt — and he asked me if we had any history books about slavery. The weird thing is, we don’t. The weirder thing is that I didn’t say, “We don’t.” Instead, I said, “We don’t, but we do have this,” and I showed him a copy of a book called Things That Make White People Uncomfortable.
This was a stupid joke, a bad move considering I’d never met this guy and couldn’t guess whether or not he’d be offended, but I’m trying this thing where I say and do things without over-analyzing them. Normally, I’d consider the joke and then retreat down into some frightening cavern in my brain where I try and assess if this is a good or a bad idea. But my hair looked good that day, I was wearing my favorite shoes, and like I said I’m practicing being bolder. So I made the joke.
He didn’t laugh. But he didn’t look angry, either. He looked confused, as if I, a white person, seriously thought this book was a viable substitute for a history of racism in the US. I tried to save myself and said, “Sorry, bad joke.” His puzzled face softened into a half-smile, but I’m pretty sure it was more out of pity than amusement.
He said, “Thanks” and walked out the door.