Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Who Gonna Check Me, Boo? The Hazards of Putting 'Em In Their Place

She played rugby and was big as hell—one of those corn-fed, meat-and-potato girls who looked like she spent her summer vacation stacking potato sacks in the fields, then eating her weight in carbs at dinnertime. That didn’t stop me from getting all up in her face, though—all 101 lbs, 5’ 1” of me.

She had taken my wet clothes out of the communal washing machine in our dorm laundry room, see, and put them on top of the dirty dryer so that she could wash her own load—and, um, yeah, homie didn’t play that. And that’s basically what I said, give or take a couple dozen cuss words and a call for her to bring it outside if she kept insisting on not apologizing.

Let’s just say the girl wasn’t phased.

Let’s just say I was happy she didn’t take me up on the call-out, because she would have Whooped. My. Ass.

Still, though I came thisclose to being squashed like a bug, it didn’t stop me from breaking bad whenever I felt wronged—speaking up and out when I thought someone had crossed the line and needed to be checked. Though I’m not nearly as loud as I was at 18, I assure you that I’m still not one for mincing words—which pretty much makes me no different from a host of other black women who haven’t a problem saying what’s on their minds, and wielding their words like a weapon.

But a racially-charged assault in Morrow, Georgia last week really made me take pause and reconsider just when, where, and how I should be using my Wu Tang Clan-styled, Samurai word swords. A young Army reservist mom, who had politely asked a stranger to excuse himself after nearly hitting her 7-year-old daughter in the face with a door as he rushed out of a Cracker Barrel, was brutally punched, stomped, cursed, and called all kinds of “nigger” and "bitch" by the man she checked—in front of her child!—an assault local NAACP officials are demanding be considered a hate crime. Troy D. West (that's him in the picture up top), the nut that assaulted Tiffany Hill was charged with misdemeanor battery, disorderly conduct and cruelty to children — a felony cruelty to children charge was dropped — but the Clayton County district attorney says she may file more felony charges. The FBI is also investigating whether a hate crime occurred. West is free on bail.

By all accounts, Hill was respectful and polite when she told the man to watch out. I know plenty of women—specifically, African American women—who would have cussed him out for nearly hitting the baby and not apologizing. Ditto for the guy who repeatedly slapped a crying 2-year-old in a Wal-Mart in Stone Mountain, Georgia after warning the child’s mother that if she didn’t “shut up” the little girl, he would. You don’t get to hit/slap/look hard at a black child when her mama is lurking somewhere nearby, just waiting for a reason to open up a can of verbal whoop ass.

Thing is, with all the snarling, angry, half-crazy, desperate, on-the-fringe nuts parading across my television screen and newspaper everyday, it’s becoming painfully clear that all-too-many people are on the edge and willing to jump—no matter how big the bark being lobbed at them, no matter the consequences. The world increasingly is becoming one full of crazies who, provoked or no, aim to hurt others for no reason other than that they can. What’s worse is that they’re doing it in front of—and in the case of the Wal-Mart incident, to—children.

I have to admit that after reading about these two incidents, I’m a little bit more loath to pop off at the mouth at people who transgress against me and mine. Because now that I have babies to protect, I’m pretty clear that there are plenty of nuts out there who might be more than willing to hurt us, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I can’t fight all of them in any meaningful way (despite the stereotype that in-your-face, angry black women can kick ass, you can rest assured a vast majority of us don’t have the physical fight to match the decibels we reach in our good, old fashioned cuss outs). Not saying that the Army mom was in the wrong or had the beat-down coming; clearly, she was respectful and had every right to speak up without being hit for it. But really, is it ever safe to demand manners from a stranger who angrily stomps past and almost hits a child with absolutely no care in the world for the girl’s safety and well-being? Similarly, is it ever safe to stay in the aisle with a crazy who threatens to “shut up” your child “if you don’t?”

I mean, my balls just don’t hang that low. (Unless Nick is with me. But he’s been warning me for years to stop depending on him to regulate after I pop off at the mouth.)

I don’t know—just food for thought: The world is full of can’t-get-right people just itching to do you and the babies harm; better to let them stomp off and exert their crazies somewhere else while you explain to your children that he/she is certifiably insane, rather than let the babies see it first hand.

post signature


  1. This was a horrific incident and I love your post about it. It just kills me that some people stood there and watched, and to see that the media and everyday people were more interested in the shenanigans that celebrities participate in and they never speak out about incidencts like this.. smh. Also as a new mother, I have learned to pick and choose my battles, esp when it comes to the saftey of my daughter

  2. Good piece, Denene...I, too, am one of the many AA women who don't mind standing Tall when it comes to telling someone a piece of my mind, especially when it comes to my children (and hubby)...A couple of weeks ago, there was a couple of signs posted near my neighborhood that had Obama with the Joker face and the word "socialist" under the photo. My blood BOILED to no end...I told my husband to stop the car because I was taking the sigsn down. My family told me I was CRAZY..and he refused to stop. So, me and my bad self rode silently home and jumped in the other car with a garden tool in hand..I went back and took the signs down all by myself. This angered my 10 year old because he thought someone would hurt me over what he said were "just words". Now, I did get a few crazy looks from folks passing by but I was so angry, I was ready for a fight (I think)...The story in Morrow bothered me as well, you know the kind where you go "I wish I would've saw him..." and what would I have done? You're right, you have to think twice before popping off at the mouth, some things just aren't worth it. I do feel the need to take a stand on some things and I think my 10 year old will appreciate it later..but, weighing what's important vs something I can slide is truly important with all the crazies out there...

  3. This is the first I'm hearing of this and I'm horrified. You make such good points in your post. So much to think about. It does seem that so many on on the edge and just one step from blowing. You really have to be careful. It's awful.

  4. You are so right. I actually have a contingency plan these days, known as the "fall out and call the police". I too, would take on a bear in my invincible youth but the people have raised the ante on crazy and I've therefore had to raise the ante on restraint.

    This is the first I'm hearing of this case, I'm still not quite right about the Walmart incident. These cases are the signs of a society gone completely amuck. How are we ever going to progress when our future is threatened with such total disregard? Any crime against children is simply abhorrent...and this is both a hate-filled crime against a child and a hate crime. Ugh.

  5. Denene - hadn't heard about the latest cracker barrel incident but i DID hear about the wal-mart incident and wondered aloud "how in the hell was this man even to get within striking distance of this child? and if he was initially close enough, how in the HELL was he able to hit the child MORE THAN ONCE?"....

    you know that part in Kings of Comedy where (i think) Ced does the part about "i wish a ----- would..."...i found myself saying the same thing while reading this piece AND the walmart situation....but then I had to think to myself....hmmmm....if i'm whoopin butt, who's watchin my kid..ANOTHER CRAZY would at that point could do lord knows what to her....

    I love my girl to pieces and often wonder what kind of world did I bring her into...almost makes ya wanna apologize...

  6. You raise some good points...I have always told my friends don't be popping off at the mouth when you out with me because I will do like Joan did on "Girlfriends" and hide while you fight lol.

    But seriously we do need to be careful because their are alot of crazy nuts out there who won't be scared of our words.

  7. @Baiwinn: Isn't it amazing how little ones totally make you rethink how to act and react in tense situations? And you're right: This incident deserved WAY MORE attention. I did find an interview conducted by Rick Sanchez on CNN, but he practically attacked the woman, asking her if SHE did anything to provoke the attack. Like, YOU MUST HAVE DONE SOMETHING TO MAKE HIM HIT YOU, instead of, man, that's horrible you caught a beat down in front of your kid, how are you and your daughter doing after such a heinous incident. It just smacked of ill-regard for this woman and her child, who were both assaulted that day—physically and mentally.

    @Shila: I understand your anger at the incident, and I freely admit that I've wanted to take a hammer to the foul signs around my neighborhood, too. But we DO have to be careful. Perhaps there are other ways to fight back? Donate $25 to the democratic committee, or volunteer to participate in activities that inform people of the side on which you stand, or put up your own sign next to the ridiculous one in your neighborhood, so that the sensible makes the crazy look even more insane. I don't know—just a different way to attack, but it's an attack nonetheless, right? I think your 10-year-old's reaction says a lot about your mothering, though: What a wise, beautiful child to understand that "words" aren't worth getting harmed over.

    @Kwana and T.Allen-Mercado: I TOTALLY co-sign.

  8. @thatonegirlsaid: RIGHT?! I said the SAME thing when I saw the story, and even said out loud, "Well, don't they sell guns at Wal-Mart? He woulda caught one!" But then, what would have happened to my children? Better to walk away and do what T.Allen-Mercado suggests: Call the law and let THEM handle it.

    @Krystel: YOU FUNNY!!!! I feel you, though. I'm much too old and little to be throwing down over some craziness...

  9. Living in NYC, you learn to let the rudeness, ignorance, comments and slights go. I have learned that, instead of getting angry every time someone lets the bus door slam in my face, to be grateful for those people who get off the bus to hold the door open for me and my children, or who have helped me carry my stroller down into the subway. And now that my kids are older, I try to teach them to be kind and considerate of others. I rarely pop off at the mouth anymore, because I want to model good behavior for the kids. Every now and then, though, I slip...you can't be good all the time!) The ignorant get all the press, but the good people are out there, in full force.

  10. (wo)Man, Denene! You hit some major nerves w/ me on this one. I too am guilty of oh-you-surely-want-soma-dis-here syndrome when I feel threatened. When my daughters are involved, my patience level actually increases, b/c I know they will use my behavior as an example of what to do. I guess that's yet another benefit of having children -- they put my boxing-gloved hands on serious pause. The stories you cited were horrific, and you couldn't have said it better re: the can't-get-rights out there, and the necessity of us considering the novel idea of just letting it go. Thanks for the food for thought, as usual.

  11. All I can say is you are so on point and all the while, you just crack me up even when the topic is serious!

  12. Denene,

    So sad, but so true! He looks like a relatively decent man and I would have been right behind her saying the same thing if he had done the same to my children. In this day and age, I still haven't managed to always check myself when it comes to correcting other people when they've done "my people" (my kids) wrong. I use to be just as bad when I was younger, but always polite unless otherwise warranted.

    I still look at people funny, but I don't taunt while driving; never did. I'll report a wrong doing (or right) at customer service rather than argue w/a sales associate. I've had to also check myself when mentioning a wrong or dislike while around my children. My kids were forever negatively verbal when walking past smokers because I've been telling them it's not good to do. You just don't know how people are going to react. On the other hand, you don't want to let people walk all over you and teach your children the same. As parents, we just have to be a little bit wiser and more cautious when it comes to protecting our children and ourselves.

    I love it - "better to let them stomp off and exert their crazies somewhere else while you explain to your children that he/she is certifiably insane, rather than let the babies see it first hand."

  13. I have a temper so this hard for me. My first reaction is to let words fly but you're right, too many people seem all too quick to resort to violence and I can't risk something happening to my little guy.

  14. I feel you. I've curbed my slick talk and quick retorts in recent years for the very reasons you mentioned. People are crazy. period.


Speak Your Mind Here

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin

wibiya widget