Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

Until it wasn’t funny.

Pak’s Alterations squatted third from the corner, one of a handful of tiny businesses that butted up against each other, along the block. A rare books shop, a used-record store, a juice bar. Their doors opened right onto the sidewalk, hand-lettered signs on cardboard stuck in the windows. Curbside customer parking provided, except for a yellow loading zone at one end.

My white husband pulled up at the curb to drop me off in front of Pak’s. He grabbed his phone. “I’ll wait in the car.”

He’d stopped in the yellow. Maybe he hadn’t noticed. Hand on the door handle…

an antique drawing of a skeleton
an antique drawing of a skeleton
An antique illustration of the human body (1900) by Larousse, Pierre; Augé and Claude. Digitally enhanced from our own original plate.” by Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel

And it’s because:

Photo by Vladimir Soares on Unsplash

I also want to be a rock star

When I was in high school in California, I liked to stand at the shoreline, challenging the ocean. Waves rushed in and slammed against my legs at the same time that the sand was sucked out from under my feet. It was exhilarating, the sensation of slightly off-balance, the smell of salt on the breeze.

At seventy, I’m pulled inward and outward simultaneously. Inward toward quiet self-reflection. Toward acceptance. Smart enough to stop trying to prove it. Getting comfortable with my intuition, which has proven to be more reliable than my calendar. I’m slowly adjusting to reading for pleasure without…

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Diversity Committee issues final report after investigation

Kansas City, MO
January 13, 2020

Report commissioned by: Dawn Downey, CEO of DD Inc.
Diversity Committee Members:
Dawn Downey, Blogger
Dawn Downey, Lifestyle Critic
Dawn Downey, Accountant
Dawn Downey, Readers’ Representative
Implementation assigned to: Dawn Downey, Public Relations Director for DD Inc.

This Report follows an investigation launched after Concerned Citizen Dawn Downey lodged an official complaint with the Dawn Downey Diversity Committee: Complaint #159, dated November 1, 2019. The Complainant (Dawn Downey) alleges that Author Dawn Downey practices and perpetuates segregation inside the Dawn Downey Friendship Circle. In fact, the Complainant alleges Author Dawn Downey has become color-blind…

I was the only black woman in the room, because I had put myself there. It was time to find other rooms. I quit an all-white writing group and joined…

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I plowed through an online form, annoyed at repeating the same information a million times a week. Why couldn’t the world centralize this stuff once and for all? I plugged in name and address, checked Black, supplied phone number, copy-pasted my website url. Bla bla bla. After finishing, I went back through to catch typos. Above the race/ethnicity list, I noticed the instruction: Select all that apply.




Do it.

I checked White.

Energy surged through my ribcage. It made me sit up straighter.

I checked American Indian.

My chest puffed out.

I felt bigger than myself, made…

Than you! You've written exactly what I've been living. You're so right that when I'm the only black person in the room, it's not fun. I'm on edge. You captured my being pissed off that my white friends live segregated lives and don't care. At the same time, you made me laugh, showed me I'm not alone. Somehow, you managed to make me feel good about how bad I've been feeling. Thanks.

I just read Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. My enjoyment of this exquisite story was deflated by the author's inclusion of a Magical Negro, a cliché so common, it's practically invisible. Invisible, an inhuman prop - that's how I feel as a black woman reader, when this trope shows up. Even incredibly talented and skilled authors can benefit from a sensitivity read.

Photo by Taylor Deas-Melesh on Unsplash

After writing Blindsided: Essays from the Only Black Woman in the Room, I was interviewed for a podcast by Antoinette Scully, creator of Black and When Ms. Scully learned that most of my readers were white, she asked about my relationship with the white gaze.

She referred to a sensation that someone is looking over your shoulder. That writers of color need to make themselves understood by, and/or palatable to, white readers. The question floored me. Only a person of color would pose it, and, up to that point, I’d only been interviewed by white people.

Thank you, Antoinette…

Dawn Downey

Dawn Downey writes about love and pain. Her latest book is Blindsided: Essays from the Only Black Woman in the Room.

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