Letters to the Museum

Concessions

I've read your brilliant essay, and feel like moaning. There is no way I can express what I feel. Reared in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1950s and 1960s, I thought Jim Crow was only about drinking fountains. I've been naive and in denial. It makes me sleep better at night when I try to delude myself into believing it's over, but I know that's a lie.

It was only a few years ago in a racial sensitivity session no less, that a prominent white attorney pointed toward me and said, "Why, look at Annette. She's black, overweight, and wears glasses, so you know exactly what you're going to get with her." All I had done was walked into the room and taken a seat. Hadn't said a word, but based solely on appearance, I was summarily discounted and dismissed. And why is it that I know I need to 'sound white' when making business calls? Once when I'd made an appointment by phone to view an apartment, when I arrived I was told nothing was available. I pursued that through Fair Housing and long story short, ended up in mediation across the table from the owners, an elderly Jewish couple, who said they could tell 'just by looking' that I wouldn't be a suitable tenant.

Yes, I salve myself into dullness to be able to sleep at night and to function at work. But in my heart, I quietly wonder if the future can bear the tension of perpetual tolerance. And if not, what comes after that?

I am a dark-skinned black woman, and feel grateful that you do what you do. Thank you.

Annette P., Los Angeles
-- Feb. 28, 2005


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