Friday, July 05, 2013

How Brittney spent her Fourth of July.

"I hopped on a plane Wednesday morning so I could attempt a mad dash from Jersey to Louisiana to be with my family for the Fourth of July. I am well aware of the myriad contradictions of a radical black feminist chick being gung-ho about this holiday. Less invested in America’s ever-unfulfilled narrative of liberty and justice for all, the Fourth is a time that my family comes together to enjoy each other’s presence, to grill out in the heat of a Louisiana summer, and — through our practice of unapologetic, unadulterated joy and celebration — offer a small but meaningful counter-narrative about how we got over.

But the complicated nature of such reverse migrations usually shows up right around the time that the TSA officer decides that she must run her fingers through my Afro-Puff, in search of as yet unnamed “weapons.” Surprisingly that didn’t happen this time, and I let out a sigh of relief that the journey through security was uneventful.

Standing just ahead of me to board was a handsome, traditional nuclear family. The mom was tall and striking and she had two beautiful boys roughly around the ages of 10 and 7. For some reason, they became the intent subjects of my usual people-watching, as I boarded the flight. The mother was gently nagging the older boy about doing his summer reading and making sure his exercises were accessible on the flight.

As we boarded, I noticed that this mom and I would be sitting in the same row, I in the window seat, she in the center. As we sat awaiting takeoff, I finished a text conversation and signaled to the flight attendant for a seat-belt extender, a fat passenger’s best friend. Then just as the call came to shut our phones off, I glanced over at her, and she was still texting, rapidly. I caught a few words of the end of her text that made me look more intently: “on the plane, sitting thigh to thigh with a big fat nigger. Lucky me.”

My breath caught in my chest.

And then there was pain. Humiliation. Embarrassment. Anger.

I still remember the very first time I was called the N-word. It was 1988 or so, and I was in third grade. My classmate, a poor white girl named Vicki, chose to punctuate the end of a childhood spat by yelling, “You DIRTY NIGGER!” Seven- or 8-year-old me was bewildered. And silent. I had never heard that word used that way before. I didn’t know what it meant. Yet I felt its force and its vitriolic intent viscerally.

Later that evening, I inched close to my mom in the kitchen as she was putting dinner on, and asked, “What does the word ‘nigger’ mean?” Before she answered with words, I simply registered pain on her face. In hindsight, I understand that pain to be the pain of a parent confronting the inevitable reach of other people’s issues from which you cannot protect your child. It was also the pain of a black parent confronting the inevitability of a child’s first encounter with racism. After asking why I wanted to know, she told me simply, “It means an ignorant person.”

When I got called it today, some part of me felt like that little girl again. I felt the slur just as viscerally, the foreboding sense that something was wrong not with anything I had said or done, but simply with me. Immediately I was hyper-aware –  looking around, feeling marked, wondering if others find my large, dark-skinned body as distasteful as my seatmate did.

I know I am fat. And I am most self-conscious of being so on planes, as I worry about taking up too much space. In my head, I always think people will dread to see me coming because Americans are great believers in personal space. I am no exception.

Even so, I was acutely aware, at least intellectually, that the problem lay with her and not me. But what would my recourse be. Though she was no toothpick herself, she is a white lady, a mom, with children and a husband – all the trappings of American middle-class respectability. Moreover, she sent those words in a private text communication. I am a fat, dark-skinned black woman. Had I gone off and set it off as she deserved, in all probability I would have been seen as the terrorist threat. Especially on the eve of the Fourth of July.
And that is the thing about American holidays: All too frequently they misdirect the focus and confuse the narrative, so that the villains are seen as benevolent and the victims are seen as the aggressors. Thanksgiving, the day that the nation memorializes the genocide of Natives, while giving thanks for generations of wealth built on the plunder of their lands, is a case in point. The ways that American holidays normalize the kinds of routine violence that have given birth to this republic make counter holidays like Juneteenth, the day we commemorate the actual end of all U.S. slavery, so necessary.

What, then, could I say? Something. I had to say something. But what?
I started by sharing her words in a status update on Facebook — in part because in recent days, I have seen one too many friends, both black and white, readily defending Paula Deen, and arguing that her use of the N-word was an understandable byproduct of her Southern roots and most assuredly a relic of a bygone era.

However, as far as I could tell, this young family, in which the parents looked to be mid- to late 30s, were Northerners. So after waiting awhile and getting a handle on the tears that started coming steadily after I saw her words, I simply got her attention and asked her to read the Facebook status from my smartphone.

She saw it, kind of grunted her assent, and then said nothing. So I pressed forward, in a low voice: “I just want to let you know that your words were hurtful. And I hope you don’t pass that kind of ignorance down to your beautiful boys.” She replied curtly, “I don’t.”

And then we rode the rest of the way south together, her being a mother hen to her boys, me praying that the seeds of hate she’s planting would not fall on fertile soil. [Source]

*Brittney Cooper is an assistant professor of Women's Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University.*

Thank you for your story Brittney, I hope this sad incident didn't ruin your Independence Day.

Honestly, I am glad the holiday is over, because reading it would have ruined mine.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just came from seeing the Kevin Hart movie and he must have used the N-word over 50 times. I am from the Jim Crow days where bm were called the N-word when stopped by the cops, or hung for entertainment by Whites at their 'family' picnic.

Make no mistake about it, there is NO change in the mental/emotional/spiritual psyche of Whites about Blacks...NONE whatsoever. No matter how much you claim how things have changed for the better for Blacks, they are still very much the same--with a minor difference: the N-word is no longer used by Whites in public because it is considered uncouth and racist.

However, as shown in this post, it's very much used by Whites whether from the North, South, East or West. For Brittney to indicate that she hoped the Mom wasn't passing such hatred on to her children was a waste of time and quite foolish. Whites don't want to be sitting next to a fat black woman, let alone being on the same plane with them.

Such is the nature of America. Unfortunately, Blacks are the minority and the ones who are less than human in the minds of the ones in power.

Anonymous said...

Count your blessings. She didn't call you a creepy-ass cracker, and then proceed to knock you down, put her knees on your shoulders, and slam your head into the concrete.

Oh wait. Different story.

Anonymous said...

I agree with "Anonymous #1" white folks didn't fall in love with black folks just because Obama was elected to office. It only showed that "desperate times called for desperate measures." And anybody that mistakenly believes that whites want to be anywhere near blacks is in "la la land." Let's not forget that, when blacks move in, then whites MOVE OUT! cause there goes the neighborhood! They're not staying around to differentiate the blacks from the niggers. Cause to white folks, all blacks are "niggers." Get even the most liberal white person angry enough at you and the first thing out of their mouth is "NIGGER!"

Wesley R said...

I grew up listening to great comics because we didn't have the internet, facebook, twitter etc.. Listening to their records taught me how to get even. So I don't get upset with folks like the one on the plane. They get it back a thousand times more.

Anonymous said...

The chance this story is even remotely true is incredibly weak. Let's breakdown the facts shall we?

#1. Ms. Brittney is a proffesor of a completely false field of study.

#2. A family is more likely to arrange thier seating as to remain together.

#3. A mother with a 7 and 10 year old with out full attention to her children unlikely.

#4. A White middle aged woman using such language at all with friends or family? Doubtful especially text which we all know can be used against us.

#5. Should we address how rude Brittney was to be reading another persons text message? I guess manners do not count if you are trying to out a racist White person.

#6. Last but not least if history tells us anything most of these stories are hoaxes. Don't worry Brittney most Liberal White women will give you a pass because it "could" happen.

Regards from SBPDL with out that site there would be no traffic here!

THE MAN-FRIEND said...

Comments such as these show why racism is here to stay...because many white people excuse their guilt to the point that the become angry at the victim.

Anonymous said...

My dear brothers and sisters, the sooner you accept that there is a White Establishment of power in America and a Black Non-Establishment with very little power, then we will FINALLY face the disturbing truth: Racism is not treatable, let alone curable.

We have more therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, ministers and spiritual teachers in America than anywhere else on earth. Yet, racism persists. None in the mental health field have even addressed this terrible disease. Heck, they don't even have any White psychologists on race. Why? Because Whites in those professions have no reason to do so because their patients are White. And believe it or not, Blacks are a non-issue when it comes to the mental health of a white person. As a matter of fact, white psychologists and psychiatrists and certainly therapists have prejudices against Blacks.

Anonymous said...

One thing about my peeps is we have no self-restraint when it comes to food, and even worse, killing each other.

It's a shame because everyone can see how big and overweight most AAs are. As far as the killings go, everyone can see that too.

I wonder where are we headed? Wherever it may be, it sure doesn't look good.

If I had emailed that same message the white mom had sent, Brittany probably wouldn't have been bothered by the N-word or what was said because she is huge and grossly overweight.

Why doesn't she lose weight because no one wants to sit next to her, period. That white mom just made it even more glaring.

Anonymous said...

Been a reader here going on 5 years now. My 1st comment! I have to call BS on this lady. 1)She already showed that she gets stressed out over things she imagines happening (her afro being searched) and 2)No one would let someone see their text messages, especially if they are about a person sitting "thigh to thigh" next to them. 3)The reaction would be of denial and embarrassment, not cold uncaring. Oh where is the sharp minded Field circa 2008 who would have seen this for the obvious fabrication it is?

Whitey's Conspiracy said...

As uncomfortable as that flight was for Ms. Cooper, it's something of a blessing in America for a black person to encounter a racist as a seatmate instead of as an an arresting officer, boss, teacher, judge or juror. That's where racists do their real harm.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that, when blacks move in, then whites MOVE OUT!

I could directly refute that from personal experience, but you don't want to hear it so why even try?

Anonymous said...

Fat or skinny; rich or poor; educated or illiterate; President or not, we will always be seen and thought of as "niggers", period. Get over it. The "color/race" disease is consuming its victims. We black people - (some of us, anyway) - need to get on with claiming our own dignity.
Assume that others, immigrants of color included, know no other narrative than this particular disease, this "peculiar" institution of "color/race" in A-merry-kkka.
With that said, we: African/Black?Negro/Colored peoples must be relentless in claiming our own dignity; unshackle the chains of "double-consciousness".
"Liberate your mind, your ass is sure to follow".
Stupidity should be painful; ignorance fatal.

Anonymous said...

I had my doubts about this story also, but I understand where she was trying to go with it. I grew up in the80's in Marin County, California as one of the only African-Americans in my class. One day at a classmates swimming party I was asked why I wasn't swimming. I kept replying that I didn't feel like. The real reason being that I didn't know how to swim. My classmate's mom came outside and asked the same question and before I could answer one of the kids in the pool said, "cuz she's afraid she'll turn the water black." And everyone started laughing. I was humiliated, embarrassed and mad and the mother said nothing to the child. I am in my 40's and that story still hurts to this day. Ignorance will never go away, how you choose to deal with it is up to you.

Anonymous said...

anon2:02am, could you explain about the dignity part and how to do it? I seem to miss what you are saying. Do you mean "ignore" being called "niggers" or to fight anyone who calls us one. What exactly are you saying? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

anon2:10am, How do you deal with racist comments? I mean, we talk a lot about racism, but I hear very little solutions or stories of strength and hope...just stories of a lot of hurt.

Where are the rreal life stories of getting over being called a "nigger" or "turning the water black"?

Where are the stories of being healed? Are we doomed as a race to be 'on guard' and at the mercy of white racists forever?

Anonymous said...

anon2:38 That's my point, you never 'get over it'. The only thing I can do is explain to my children because they will one day be faced with the same thing. (if they haven't already.) Racism isn't going anywhere so we have no choice but to decide how we will react to it. Every story is different so there is not one magic answer. I will never be at the mercy of anyone but I won't allow racist whites to define or control the way I act or feel about myself.
anon2:10

NSangoma said...

~

Anonymous 0210:

Before the Civil War, more blacks than whites could swim,” Lynn Sherr, the author of “Swim: Why We Love the Water,” said in an interview. “There are many stories of shipwrecks in which black slaves rescued their owners.
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/swimming-and-the-fear-factor/

`

NSangoma said...

~

field booty, suggest to girlfriend, Brittney Cooper, that she stop working out at krispy kreme and start working out at a local gym.

field booty suggest HIIT, high intensity interval training, to Brittney.

`

`

BARBBF said...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The chance this story is even remotely true is incredibly weak. Let's breakdown the facts shall we?


This sounds like typical white denial. No surprise.

field negro said...

SBPDL, sounds like a sexually transmitted disease. If that's a web site that sends traffic of people like u, please forget that this site exists, Oh wait, u can't. You can't get enough of your black man jones. Got it now. *winking*

Black Yoda said...

Is she aware of the myriad contradictions of being a radical black feminist? Anyway, the white person in such a scenario [assuming it to be true] is 100% wrong for what she said, but the radical, black feminist was 100% wrong for eavesdropping. You can't stop people from thinking what they think. She's also within her rights to express her views in a private conversation. The feminist didn't want TSA running their hands through her afro puffs, right? Why not? It would probably feel like an invasion of her personal space, an invasion of her privacy. For the same reason, she should refrain from reading private communications not intended for her. Again, was the message completely ignorant and/ or racist? Yes. But you are allowed to think your own ignorant and/or racist thoughts and even express them. As long as you’re not bringing them to me personally, I'm not interested in trying to ferret out how you really feel about me by spying. My energy is better spent elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

W.E.B. DuBoise once coined the phrase, "...the bind of double consciousness...": Meaning that we African/Black/Negro peoples suffer the disease of always perceiving ourselves through the eyes of others.
Once we unshackle and free ourselves; once we cure ourselves of this disease, it will not matter how many and how often "others" - (immigrants of color included)- call or refer to us as "niggers". Race/color consciousness in a-merry-kkka is here to stay; it is deeply imbedded in the narrative that describes these "united states".
Today, 2013, we African/Black/Negro peoples have "bigger fish to fry": 1.(Black)men protecting and taking responsibility for our children. 2. Vigorously claiming our own dignity by ignoring derogatory comments. 3. We are obligated to STOP the unabashed and relentless fratricide - the domestic/urban terrorism that keeps us in fear (gone are the days when we only had the KKK to fear).

Bill said...

>As a matter of fact, white
>psychologists and psychiatrists
>and certainly therapists have
>prejudices against Blacks.

And FN wonders why white people think black people are racist.

Bill said...

>Let's not forget that, when blacks
>move in, then whites MOVE OUT!

But isn't it also true that when blacks get money they move out too?

Does that make them racist?

Do poor white people move out when poor blacks move in?

Anonymous said...

We all know about the folly of wouldacouldashoulda, aka "l'esprit de l'escalier, but I think Brittney should have leaned over and said, "Just some friendly advice. Be careful about texting within full view of a stranger sitting beside you. She might be able to read your words." I would have been curious about her reaction, whether she'd register shock, embarrassment, etc. but I probably would have intentionally looked away then, out the window. But I would have put her on notice that I had her number.

And they say racism is all around us, but the fact that the plane was bound for Loosiana may have dictated a higher incidence of the old-fashioned cracker-types, middle-class trappings or no.

—anotherbozo

field negro said...

"Yes. But you are allowed to think your own ignorant and/or racist thoughts and even express them. As long as you’re not bringing them to me personally, I'm not interested in trying to ferret out how you really feel about me by spying. My energy is better spent elsewhere."

All true. But damn near a seat mate on a long flight? I am good at ignoring people, but maybe this sister was friendly and wanted to bond over a long flight.

PilotX said...

Traveling by air is an interesting way to people watch, especially here in the good old U S of A. It gives you a dose of reality and if as a blah person you are able to expose your children to it I highly recommend it. You are able to see all different types of people good, bad and ugly and can attest to the fact people are people and no one race or ethnicity is unique in any area.

parvenu said...

Anonymous said:
"We have more therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, ministers and spiritual teachers in America than anywhere else on earth. Yet, racism persists. None in the mental health field have even addressed this terrible disease. Heck, they don't even have any White psychologists on race. Why? Because Whites in those professions have no reason to do so because their patients are White. And believe it or not, Blacks are a non-issue when it comes to the mental health of a white person. As a matter of fact, white psychologists and psychiatrists and certainly therapists have prejudices against Blacks."

Anonymous has provided a true statement of FACT. If you surf the net for "Treatment of Phobias" you will find pages upon pages of links to websites for treatments for every kind of phobia you can imagine EXCEPT ONE, and that is NEGROPHOBIA! During my particular surfing session I even found "IRISHPHOBIA" listed with a link to a treatment site.

So I agree with the Anonymous' comment referenced above. It defies common sense that in a nation where RACE has constantly remained both a deciding factor and a determining motivator in so many crucial decisions on all social levels throughout America over a period of three centuries - that such behavior has not been publically labeled for the mass psychosis that it is?

This is the real meaning of the W.E.B. DuBoise phrase, "...the bind of double consciousness.. ". It is the maintenance of these two opposing viewpoints as both being valid in the consciousness of white Americans. One perspective is constructed around the belief that there is little or NO racism in American society. While the other perspective acts emotionally to make a conscious decision to reject "the other" (person) based exclusively on the skin color of "the other". This is why when attention is publically drawn to point out this duplicity in any white American's mind, it immediately encounters hard psychological resistance and uncompromising pushback.

All of our major colleges and universities have responded to a glaring omission (The Psychology of American Racism)in their catalog of studies by setting up a department of "African Studies" as their offering as their concept of a viable substitute. This academic tactic has become universally sanctioned by all of the "Ivy League" schools regardless of the fact that such a course does not specifically the need to educate the public concerning all parameters regarding the singular greatest mass psychological phenomena in the modern world, namely the Psychology of American Racism.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"W.E.B. DuBoise once coined the phrase, "...the bind of double consciousness...": Meaning that we African/Black/Negro peoples suffer the disease of always perceiving ourselves through the eyes of others."

You make a very IMPORTANT point because it's very true. As a matter of fact, it's been that way since slavery, generation after generation. Ever hear of the all saying among Blacks, "the White man can figure out anything that he wants to? Or, "the White man can do anything."? Please note: The wm didn't fabricate this, WE did! And just what was the underlying meaning behind it? The White Man is superior to Blacks....

I don't think we have EVER gotten beyond that self-denigrating belief. We are like beggars, begging to be accepted by him. It won't happen. It CAN'T happen. Have you EVER accepted someone as your equal when they themselves didn't feel equal?

Anonymous said...

All of our major colleges and universities have responded to a glaring omission (The Psychology of American Racism)in their catalog of studies by setting up a department of "African Studies" as their offering as their concept of a viable substitute. This academic tactic has become universally sanctioned by all of the "Ivy League" schools regardless of the fact that such a course does not specifically the need to educate the public concerning all parameters regarding the singular greatest mass psychological phenomena in the modern world, namely the Psychology of American Racism.

4:11 PM
---------------------
What's ironic about this is Black Psychologists have played NO ROLE in setting up courses on Racism. You would think there would be some. But Black Psychologists have "pysched" themselves out to settle for African Studies.

Remember Henry Louis Gates, the Prof of African American Studies? Isn't it ironic that he screamed racism and yet NO BLACK PROF in academia has thought of the need for studies in American Racism? It's weird, but the truth is NO ONE wants to go there, Black or White. MLK, MalcomX, and several others during the 60s are dead and there is no one to take their place. We have less today in our convictions and fight for dignity than ever in our history.

Obama has proved it because he treats us like crap and we still worship him. Remember his speech at Morehouse? He essentially said what Whites have said: "There is practically no discrimination in America. BM have no excuse today." And top it off, FIELD and a lot of his FN followers agreed!

We still look down on ourselves and we don't even know it. It's a fact.

Whitey's Conspiracy said...

11:10 AM
field negro said...
"... maybe this sister was friendly."

Field, that's your understatement of the year. That would have been a much longer flight for the seatmate if it had been almost anyone other than Ms. Cooper so insulted. Imagine the tweet-frenzies/4chan mob-attacks a lesser person might have fired off. She could have landed in New Orleans notorious enough for an "undisclosed location."

Anonymous said...

Good for Brittany. She held up a very shiny mirror for that mom to see her ugly evil texting self with. That's the hallmark of "racism", it's EVIL. Those who practice it goes against humanity and God.

Anonymous said...

I would have asked her, "OMG, a fat nigger where? Should we call for help?"

Anonymous said...

"I would have asked her, "OMG, a fat nigger where? Should we call for help?"

Such is unconscious EVIL.

field negro said...

*nodding head@Anon 10:53 pm.*

Anonymous said...

Since Europeans hate Africans so much, it would have been beyond cool, when the first slave ship landed, if every one of them packed up and headed right straight back to England, Ireland, Scotland, or the caves of origination. There would have been straight jubilation on Turtle Island.

The Sanity Inspector said...

She mentioned the family being northerners, as if that made it doubly surprising that the mom was prejudiced. Snort! Let a black man strike up a conversation with a white stranger in my Sunbelt small town's square, and they'll have a pleasant chat. Let the same thing happen in a park in Philadelphia, and the first thing the white person will do is look around for a cop.

Hattie said...

God this is sad.

Anonymous said...

For the anonymous that "questions" the existence of Brittney or that deparment at Rutgers. Smh

http://africanastudies.rutgers.edu/about-us-navmenu-135/53-academics/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=30&Itemid=147

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the story. It's not that I deny the reality of racism, but the behavior described reads like an aggrieved black fantasy of what a white racist would do, as opposed to how it would actually work.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree she is full of it a story is all.it is ! I did not believe.it for one.second Britney cooper seems to be a pathological liar ..her.other fun story was on a bus when.she.botched that someone was wanting a vacant.seat next.to her but she had.her.work stuff and computer bag on it an ignored.the person and then turned it in to a racial.incident she is a liar easy to see in her reporting .

Anonymous said...

Britney nigger. Liar pants.on.fire.

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