Thursday, October 12, 2006

They Don't Really See Me

When you go to the eye doctor, they do a test where they show you a row of letters, usually black, on a white background, and you have to let the doctor know when the letters comes into focus for you. Once you've taken the test many times, you know that the biggest letter on the first line is the letter E. Because you've seen it before, sometimes, your mind compensates for the fact that it's not in focus and allows you to 'see' it even though it's very blurry. I think being black in a mostly white environment is like being that out of focus big letter 'E'.

I work in an office with 2, no make that 3 black people. There is one other black woman and a black man. None of us look alike. This week, we have an in-office visitor, a black woman from another office. In the black community, no one would say that we resemble one another. However, today, when I returned from a team lunch, the project Big Cheese said to me, 'Hey, good to see you. How was your flight?'

I stopped, gave him a quizzical look and replied, 'This would make a great skit for 'The Office'.' He chuckled.

'I was just kidding. I knew it was you.'

I gave him a smile that said, 'sure you did buddy.'

The Office is a popular show around these parts. The often politically incorrect jokes make many of my co-workers feel that they are not alone in their stupidity.

It's not like BC doesn't have a personal relationship with me. Oh wait, maybe it's just me that has the relationship with him. We had one on one conversations many many times. I think the issue is that maybe he only knows me in the context of being the smaller black girl in the office. Now that there are two smaller black girls, he's just confused, right? I know he doesn't think that we ALL look alike, right? I really think that unless you have an intimate relationship with a white person, they don't really 'see' you. You're just a blur that they know in a particular context. That intimate relationship can be physical, emotional, mother/child, or the like.

It was soo funny when he realized his mistake, he was quite embarrassed. I wasn't really offended, I've been the only or one of a few chips in the corporate America cookie for a long time. As long as he doesn't get me mixed up with anyone when he's assigning promotions next year, I'm cool.


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