An Open Letter to an Ugly White Woman
Dear Ugly White Woman,
I take the Chicago Redline almost everyday with other busy commuters. Although the train is usually quiet, the occasional outburst or disturbance does occur. Welcome to life in the city. In these situations, most people mind their own business; if severe enough, someone may attempt to deescalate the situation or call CTA security. This is the unspoken social protocol that the Redline brethren generally follow. Not you. Your reverence for humiliation and disregard for a person's feelings exposes your twisted values and underdeveloped emotional intelligence. You lack decorum and grace. Where is your sense of humanity, Ugly White Woman?
You see, the kid you yelled at on the train plays football AND baseball. He loves the Chicago Cubs and he is 12 years old. When he gets older, he would like to play baseball professionally or become a doctor. Talking with the boy and his brother, you can tell that the two are close. Oh, Ugly White Woman, you didn’t know any of those details, did you? All you saw were two black kids rough housing on the train before you cowardly screamed, PUNK! and made for a quick exit.
So how did it feel to hurl your offense to a child? Clearly your whiney shriek was intended for the entire train to hear. As you got off the train with your fellow white people, I can only imagine the boastful explanation you’ll give at dinner about how you sprung into action as the Redline hero. You’ll probably say things like, “Ugh, these kids on the train were making a complete scene. I tried to put a stop to it but they were punks.” Then, you’ll follow up with, “I mean, yes they were black but I would have said that to anyone and I’m not a racist but...'” Ugly White Woman, I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and not accuse you of mean-spirited bigotry. However, whether intentional or not, your white privilege was showing. And it was ugly.
You see, not a minute before you decided to take the situation into your own hands, you missed the black woman who calmly asserted herself into the situation saying, “how would your coach feel if I called him up and told him you were rough housing this way? You ran into a woman and didn’t even apologize…” She was doing a beautiful job. Few other circumstances could surpass the ideal social situation of a black female explaining to the boys why their behavior was inappropriate. Please, let this sink in for a moment: A leader who possesses socially oppressed racial and gender identities, inserts herself into a situation where she has authority and tells the same-raced boys to settle down. In a society that is riddled with social injustice, that same message delivered from a non-black person simply would not have had the same effect. And you know what? The black woman was getting through. The boys were calming down.
Then you, high on your authority trip, decide, “I should say something.”
Did you feel empowered because you saw a female exercising her voice that so inspired you to express your own? Maybe, the black woman’s calm demeanor had you irked and you felt public humiliation was the better way to go. Worst of all, perhaps you just sat in your seat, concocting in your mind the perfect verbal assault that you were unaware of the transformative moment unfolding before you.
Regardless, you saw an opportunity assert your dominance as a social oppressor and you took it. You took it without knowing about lives of these two boys and without understanding the situation. You saw black males wrestling on the train and you made a snap judgment. We all make unfair judgements about people from time to time, myself included. For that, I do not blame for you. I do blame you for calling a black boy a punk, someone who is worthless. Ugly White Woman, we share the same gender and racial identities as one another, yet we view our world so differently. My path to recognizing social injustice was supported by an inspiring mentor, critical literature, and a hunger for awareness. I recognize that social awareness through education is in and of itself a privilege, and I hope to do my share of spreading that awareness through my work in higher education. But as I sit here and write and think about your actions, I can’t help but wonder how your narrative of our social system reads. Will you ever realize the injustice in your actions or will you continue to commit the same micro-aggressions time and time again?
Ugly White Woman, did you know that after you hurled your offense, the boy sat in the seat across from me looking embarrassed as he quietly said to his brother, “She called me a punk; I’m not a punk”? If you knew the hurt feelings your words evoked would you have said them? Perhaps I was saving face for my fellow whites but I would be ashamed if I had sat there and allowed a white woman like you to undermine the confidence and integrity of that boy. For the rest of the way home, I talked to my new Roosevelt stop friends and asked them all sorts of questions about school and sports. They were delightful young men. Sure, there was some prepubescent angst but Ugly White Woman, I pity you for your narrow mind and over-inflated sense of authority. So as you head out on this Friday evening feeling gratified in your actions, I write this post to expose your behavior in the hopes that another white woman may read this and consider her positionality and privilege before oppressing another.
Your Fellow White Woman