By Marley K.
I’m in Arlington working this week (I’m finally contracting again) and something interesting happened that really shocked me, but I don’t know why. I had the “snowflake” experience with my very own Elevator Ellen. That’s what I’m calling her today.
Black people and men know what I’m talking about. For White people reading this who don’t know what this is, let me tell you all about it.
The “snowflake” experience is when White women either get onto the elevator with “strange” people on it they deem scary (or those they’ve been taught to be wary of), or if the “strange,” scary people enter the elevator that we’re already on.(*strange can be any man of any race or ethnicity who doesn’t meet her standard of safe, or people of color who make White women feel uncomfortable). It’s so bad, men have been taught not to ride elevators with White women and girls.
Back to my story.
This Elevator Ellen in question is a woman I’ve worked with in the past when I have come to D.C. A few years back to back as a matter of fact, but of course, she must have forgotten who I was — because in this field there are so many Black women we are simply unforgettable (just kidding, usually there are only 5–6 of us out of 50–60 people).
Elevator Ellen and another colleague that I’m working with for this entire week who is also White enter the elevator I’m already on along with a nice looking White gentleman who is off-duty military. In any event, both White women get onto the elevator.
The woman I’m working with this week is younger, and she’s staying a few doors down from me. We begin to chat about our work for the week. The man stands in the corner on his cell phone ignoring all of us like most men I imagine in tight quarters with strange women I suppose. The older Elevator Ellen is observing our conversation, not saying much and never acknowledging my existence — because she’s forgotten me.
Our first stop is Elevator Ellen’s floor. As we reach her floor first, she gets off the elevator, never acknowledging me or the gentleman for that matter. I never acknowledge her either.
She wishes colleague for the week a good evening as she exits, but then she dips her head back before the elevator closes to tell my work partner for the week to be careful on the elevator going up alone as if me or the guy on the elevator eat White women or something. I looked at him, he briefly looked at me with the “I’m minding my White man business” face and continued minding his cellphone.
We both watch Elevator Ellen for the brief moment before the door closed. I asked him if he eats women, and he smiled — shaking his head no. My partner looks at me, embarrassed and doesn’t say anything. We both get off of the elevator and walk to our rooms in silence. She knows that I understood the Elevator Ellen’s White woman snowflake code. It was unnecessary, and it was discriminatory without ever saying a word to either of us.
At first, I was angry, but then, I was insulted.
Here I was dressed professionally and clean. So was the gentleman on the elevator with me. I smiled to show I’m not a threat. Both the gentleman and I spoke when they entered our space — We were on the elevator first. We stood far enough away from both women so we wouldn’t give either of them any vibes that we were going to harm them — because someone always wants to do something to White women, right?
And still, the gentleman and I are seen as scary strangers White women need to warn other White women about.
This is one reason I love to ride the elevator by myself or with men. I know it’s not all White women, but this has happened enough to me in my lifetime that I no longer find it laughable at age 47. If I was 25 years younger Elevator Ellen would have gotten an earful.
In any event, the damage has been done. It’s yet another layer and another example of the types of microaggressions People of Color must endure trying to maneuver in America. Also at that moment, I was able to put myself in the shoes of any man or even my sons entering an elevator with a woman like Elevator Ellen and her White friends who co-sign snowflakes racist stereotypes.
The incident caused me to have empathy for the White man on the elevator at that moment because he was trying to mind his business as well until the old scary White lady comes into our space bringing her scary White baggage. I wonder what his life is like as a man having to worry about getting onto an elevator. I never thought about this until today.
There is so much to unpack. So many scars. There is so much wrong here.
Why do White women walk around thinking someone always wants them? Why do they always think someone wants to do harm to them? Why do they get to determine who the “bad” people are? Why do they get to police our bodies and every space? All they have to do is see a man or Black skin, male or female, and they go into protection mode.
White women, it’s time to let that shit go.
A White woman’s biggest threat on an elevator is a rich, powerful, well-dressed White man — the kind they typically respect, not me!
White women have nothing I want, and I do mean nothing. I don’t want your purses. I don’t want your husbands. I don’t want the keys to your car or office. I don’t want your cell phone. I don’t want your little White children. I’m not trying to touch you unless I have a really personal relationship with. Hello, and a smile is all you’ll ever get from me unless I allow you into my personal space. That’s how it should be. I don’t wake up thinking every second of the day I need to be careful because someone is going to harm me.
I walk around thinking the best of people — all people, no matter how they look.
I don’t want to harm you White women, and I wish you’d stop harming me. I just want to exist and go about my business without the stress of White people thinking I’m thinking about them in any way.
What I am thinking about is my innocence that’s continually shattered by White fragility and their unwarranted fears. At any moment Whiteness can creep into a Person of Color’s life with subtle microaggressions destroying our self-esteem, causing us to second guess ourselves, or even to examine something as simple as our personal appearances. I wonder how many Black people were injured by a White woman’s fragility and unwarranted fear today?
People of Color can’t work, can’t breathe, can’t ride the elevator, can’t walk down a sidewalk, can’t go to school — hell we can’t do anything without Whiteness believing their lives are at risk. I hope I never have to work with Elevator Ellen Snowflake ever again. She showed me who she really was today on that elevator, and when people show you who they really are…believe them!
In all my years, I’ve never been accosted by a man on an elevator. In all my years, I’ve never worried about being stuck on an elevator with a man either. Maybe my Black keeps me safe, I don’t know.
Well, another fake ally bites the dust. And to think we’re here working for victims of crimes in America!
Heaven help us.