RHYME AND REASON: Much has changed, still room to grow

Angela Oliver

The meeting started as it always does. My co-staffers and I sat in our fancy conference room chairs. Announcements were read, then opinion page content. Nothing spectacular.

It’s my job to suggest the editorial idea for the week. And I presented my ideas as I always do. Then it happened. I dropped the W-bomb.

I said we should talk about Provide-A-Ride, prefaced with this reasoning: “Inspired by almost getting hit by a bunch of drunk white girls last night…”

I continued my idea and why it was important to address drunk driving. But my initial statement looped in my mind as I saw a few uncomfortable expressions and rosy cheeks. I realized I may have offended someone.

I waited until just before I left to acknowledge my mistake. It just kinda slipped out, you know, like words sometimes do when they weasel their way past the wall in your brain that controls what you should and shouldn’t say.

What I failed to explain to them was that the four women in the car, I suppose in their drunken stupor, shouted, “Move, nigga!” after I came to an abrupt stop. As I was turning right to leave The Gables, their car sped toward mine in my lane.

I wanted to let it go, but it hurt to know they felt that way.

Before that, for the second night in a row, six friends and I were followed by several workers on late-night trips to Walmart. I should note that there wasn’t an ounce of lint or trash in the sections we perused. But the employees trailed us, one pushing his broom to my feet and motioning for me to move out of the aisle instead of waiting for us to finish trying on shoes, as any decent customer service policy likely suggests.

Soon, the manager came our way. We were deciding which shoes we were going to buy for a performance, but I guess we were taking too long for their comfort.

Sure, society is more openly tolerant of racial differences than ever before. But I’d be naive to think racism wasn’t still an issue.

I’m from Atlanta, but my parents are from small towns in Georgia and Mississippi. I’ve heard snide comments from white senior citizens in towns still separated by a railroad track. I’ve had my foot run over by older white women pushing buggies when there was more than enough space to maneuver in the grocery aisle.

But I shake it off because I accept that there’s no changing their minds after decades of them thinking people who look like me are somehow inferior because we’re generously pigmented. Besides, I know it pales in comparison to anything my parents and grandparents endured.

In his song “Changes,” motivated by social injustice, Tupac raps, “I see no changes – all I see is racist faces.”

Even with our progress, his statement relates. It doesn’t faze me coming from our gray-haired counterparts, but I never expect it from my peers.

And I don’t expect it from myself.

Perhaps my co-workers forgot about it. It’s just a tiny word, right? But it’s been on my mind since I said it because I know that if it had come from them in reverse, it would be a big deal.

I might have come off as rude, but it wasn’t my intention. The race of the women was irrelevant then; for the editorial, it only mattered that they were intoxicated.

But my mind was still in an angry mode from the night before. And all of the people I was angry with happened to be white.

It might seem like a small matter to most of you. But I needed to get it off my chest. The women’s disrespectful epithet should not have led me to define them by race alone. That’s something I’ll work on. Besides, the N-word is littered through the hip-hop that I love. Just know, I don’t like it there, either.

Like ‘Pac said, “It’s time for us to start making some changes … let’s change the way we live, and let’s change the way we treat each other.”

I can only promise I’ll do my part.

This commentary doesn’t necessarily represent the views of the Herald or the university.