When I was working full time in Real Estate, during the recent crash of the housing market, a fellow Realtor said to me “Business must be really good. It doesn’t look like the market hurt you.” She said this as I climbed out of my new truck. She was being sarcastic. I continued to retrieve files from my back seat and without hesitation, I responded “No. I just got a new Sugar Daddy.” I closed the door and walked off. She stood there, mouth agape, eyes wide, heart pounding.
I had checked her. Never again would she make an assumption about my finances and even though I lied-she got the point.
I learned the art of checking my first semester in college. Every time I saw a particular girl on campus, she would make a comment about my skin color. “White girls shouldn’t wear peach shirts” or “Do you know this dance white girl?” It irritated me. I had been used to being called out about my pigment but every day from the same person was a bit much. One day in response to “hey white girl” I said “hey darkie”. She never said anything in reference to my complexion again.
I checked her.
From that moment on, I checked everyone. I stopped accepting what I had learned to expect and began checking. Throughout the years I perfected the craft of checking and the rules of the art:
First-you have to be quick with the comeback. Some people are naturally witty. If you are not one of these, attempting to check someone may prove to be a difficult task when you’re at a lost for words.
Second-once the moment has passed, it’s gone. There is about a three second window of opportunity to respond and you cannot after that time is over. There’s nothing more pathetic than a comeback five minutes into the next conversation.
Third-make your statement and move on. Don’t offer any room for commentary or follow-up. Walk away, change the subject, or completely dismiss that the person is there by turning away.
One. Two. Three. That’s how I did it. I say did because recently, I was caught by a statement that left me speechless. While enjoying a bottle of wine with some friends, we began discussing my work. One of the guest turned to me and with furrowed brow said “You’re not black enough to work there.” I was stunned. I did not check her.
Fourth-If you let the opportunity to check pass, it will haunt you.
I want to go back to that moment. I want to show her the ignorance, stereotype, stupidity in her statement. I don’t know why I didn’t. Maybe I knew that it wouldn’t make a difference. Maybe a history of being told I’m “too white” resurfaced as a belief. Maybe I would have slapped the hell out of her.
A few weeks later, I missed another moment and now I see that just as I found strength in that moment in 1996, I’ve found weakness in that moment in 2010. I’ve got to refocus because if I don’t check the college freshman, the housewife, the coworker…their ignorance prevails.
I’m not looking for the chance to prove I still got it, but don’t give me a reason to right now. 😉