Let’s Talk about Illiteracy: Read the Room, Black History and a Moment of Silence

“Read the room.” is a clever statement uttered in TV shows, or movies that means someone is saying or doing is totally inappropriate and implores the offender to look around and realize they are behaving idiotically. Directly used, the offenders stops and alters behavior; indirectly  used,  it is an insult.

Read the room. The thing is, in real life, people are illiterate; there is no reading of the room. This week, it’s going to get worse. Indoor mask requirements for the fully vaccinated are changing and it will be helpful to read the room.

  1. If people are staring at you when you walk into an establishment, seriously, read the room. Are you unmasked where everyone else is masked? This does not mean you have done anything wrong or need to change your behavior. Just read the room and please refrain from sideways accusations like,”why are people staring at me, we don’t have to wear mask.” Read the room in silence. OR
  2. If you are unmasked and people back off from you, same as above. Read the room and maybe the footnotes. You don’t know why someone is masked. You are not provided with  a personal history and it is not your role to evangelize.  A friend recently lost her Dad to covid last week. She flew double masked  and her fellow passengers glared at her and a few mockingly did a fake cough. Read the room in silence. There is no need for comments from either side. Just be quiet.

That is the challenge, people can’t take that moment of silence. I know to how read the room, silently. As a negro, I’m often in places and when I “read the room”, I know there are those who don’t want me there. I have heard the direct comments, like are you lost or the sideways comments, we need to get better security. I’ve navigated the ability to know, even when it is “legal” for me to be in a room it is not “safe.” Hence, I say,” you will all be black and most of you won’t like it.” You will feel the need to say something directly or indirectly. You will want to whip out a cell phone and record or just gesture wildly.

A Florida bill is advancing that will ban public schools and private businesses from inflicting “discomfort” on white people during lessons or training about discrimination. Late last year, my building purchased folding privacy screens that can be put in pace so residents wouldn’t feel uncomfortable with people looking in at events held in the lobby. Note, the building is over 10 years old. Read the rooms.

The African American population is 13% in the  US, which means most people have no history with systematic, animosity and outright hatred. Note, I said history. The examples and anecdotes offered by other communities pale in comparison to what African Americans have historically and continuously experienced.  While most viewed justice in the sentencing for the murderers of Ahmaud Arbery,  it doesn’t make US safe. This week, a Black FedEx driver, making deliveries, was chased out of a neighborhood and shot at for 7 minutes by a  white father and son. So, again, while I am experienced with reading the room and  navigating tenuous situation,while I understand,  I will not join the chorus of discomfort of those that can’t survive blackness.

The African American population is 13% in the  US, which means most people have no history with systematic, animosity and outright hatred. Note, I said history. The examples and anecdotes offered by other communities pale in comparison to what African Americans have historically and presently experienced.  While most viewed justice in the sentencing for the murderers of Ahmaud Arbery,  it doesn’t make US safe. This week, a Black FedEx driver, making deliveries, was chased out of a neighborhood and shot at for 7 minutes by a  white father and son. So, again, while I am experienced with reading the room and  navigating tenuous situation,while I understand,  I will not join the chorus of discomfort of those that can’t survive blackness.

There is a small margin of intersectionality of safe and legal for African Americans. For context, we’ve experience the surge in Asian hate crimes, Jewish hate crimes, attacks against sexual orientation and gender identity. Know this, the racism, violence and hatred against African Americans continues to be shockingly real, historically prevalent and presently dismissed. Lauren Smith Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls, are two black women who died on the same day under suspicious circumstances in Bridgeport Connecticut where two different detectives did no investigation followed by misstep after misstep starting with failure to contact the next of kin in both deaths. While both detectives are now suspended and there is now “an investigation” you have to ask, why were the suspicious deaths of two black women on the same day in December 2021 ignored until the families pressed for answers and hired legal counsel.

I am not doom and gloom or doling out guilt by association; far from it. I am happily optimistic. I just chuckle when I hear the various anecdotes slights. I do my default smile and nod because I am thinking, yup, you want to defend your choices and not be judged unfavorably. You had a black experience and you didn’t like it. Your righteous indignation is not mine. This week, consider your literacy, have you read a room lately?

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