Written By: Imani Jones—“We’re not in Birmingham, Alabama, Dorothy, but there are traces of racism in our interactions with others. It’s not racist, it’s racistish.” Nicole Parker-Jones.
. . .
“Do you live here?” the concierge asked as I sauntered past his front desk with bags of groceries in my hand. At first, I didn’t know whether he was talking to me. Maybe someone new to the condominium building that I called home had snuck in behind me as I walked by, and the concierge was talking to the trespasser. I scanned the lobby: no one was there except for me, and the concierge, who was waiting for a response to his question. And so I politely responded, “Yes, I do” and proceeded to carry on with my day. I immediately wondered, was he racist? Maybe the concierge carefully monitors everyone who comes to the building, and asks everyone who walks past his desk whether they belong in the building. If that is true, I should give him the benefit of the doubt and move on. But what if the concierge singled me out because I am a thirty-something black woman, living in a high-end condominium, and based on his beliefs about thirty-something black women, I couldn’t possibly live where a two-bedroom condo commands a one million dollar asking price—surely, I would be in the wrong place if he believed that. Except, I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am a thirty-something black woman who can afford the mortgage on her one million dollar condo, and after living in said
apartment for five years, but continually being mistaken for a trespasser, I cannot help but wonder whether Kanye West got it right in All Falls Down when he lamented, “even when you’re in a Benz, you’re still a n***** in a coop.”