I was the only White Girl in the Room

There are moments in your life that can’t be ignored. If you want to say that you don’t see color, good for you. I see color. I don’t judge people on the color of their skin but to say that I don’t see it would be patently dishonest.

Last night I went to a wonderful viewing party and panel for Braxton Family Values and had an experience that most of us seldom do. I was very clearly the only Caucasian woman in a room that was full of mostly African Americans.

As is the case with many dinners, panels and parties I didn’t know anyone in the room. I did what I always do. I found the best possible seat (I am not afraid of the front row) and plunked myself down in it, and then I tried to introduce myself to the women at the table.

It went over like a lead balloon. Not only did they seem annoyed when I asked them what they did for a living but then three of them went on chatting and introduced themselves to a fourth talking about how important bloggers are. Ummm… okay.

Mercifully the presentation began just as I was finishing my first glass of wine. The food was catered by Bazaar, which I’m pretty sure I’ve already warned y’all to not bother eating, right? It had the makings of a pretty rough evening for the old gal.

I was stunned when Mr. Bill Jones the iconic photographer sat down across the table from me. My hands were trembling and my photography skills are limited but I was able to snap a (sort of blurry) picture of him. My anxieties melted away, but like any good anxiety they popped back up again later.

We watched an episode of Braxton Family Values and it was fabulous in so many ways. These sisters love each other. It’s clear when you’re in a room with them and it’s clear when you watch them on TV. There’s a lot of fun to be had when you watch people interact who genuinely want each other to succeed.

The episode was punctuated by uproarious laughter and I must confess that I didn’t get it sometimes. I was painfully aware that I was odd man out and talk of hair and weaves went right over my head. When the sisters talked about “oral transactions” I laughed so hard I cried. At that same time they were talking about oral as something that white girls do. My crotch and I felt a little ashamed when a few eyes turned our way.

It was good for me to sit in that room and be alone and unappreciated. My site has as much (or more) reach as any of the other women there, but I was dismissed because of my ethnicity. I won’t forget how that felt and I’m going to let it make me a better person.

The sisters had some amazing insight that everyone can benefit from. If you’re a blogger or a kid with a few Facebook friends this is equally relevant.

Enjoy.

Facebook Comments

  • Great post.  It made me remember my old Park Slope neighborhood.  My friend Sarah John and I were the only white girls on an otherwise Latino block.  I loved that Brooklyn apartment, not only did I have my own pad, the best coffee I’ve ever had was down the street at the Cuban sandwich shop.  I remember feeling invisible a lot of the time.  And thinking that I must remember this.  There are people who walk through life being made to feel this way.

    • I’m reading this comment at Starbucks in Park Slope. How long ago did you live here? I’ve lived here about 7 years.

  • Don’t worry Jess, I get ignored at these events too, because I don’t talk ghetto. Not stereotyping, but like all cultures, there is racism and classism WITHIN each race. The ones who ignored you, their loss, probably the know-it-alls of the group. 

    • Really – “because you don’t talk ghetto”? I’m sorry but from your comment it seems as if you might have a condescending attitude going into the situations. I don’t “speak ghetto” and feel equally comfortable at predominately Black AND predominately White events.

      I say that as an Black women who has often been the “only Black girl” in the room at many events.

      I understand Jessica’s experience of being the only one. From my personal experience, it just means that you have to work a bit harder to win people over. You get used to it if you put yourself in the situation enough times. Many Black people do just that.

      • I have to jump in because I adore Del and I’ve met her in person at wacky events and she’s never been anything but welcoming and warm.

        Also to your point Kimberly I think this is the second time in my life this has happened to me and the first time I know I was basically quoted when they made that “Shit white girls say” video. This time I just ate and drank and tried to not speak and sound stupid.

  • I bet that you were the only one that saw only one white girl in the room. Do you always notice the only minority? No, you are going about your own business. 

    When I first moved to DC–from VERY segregated Detroit–I’d walk into my local Safeway and realize I was the “only.” And I thought others noticed me. But after a while, I stopped noticing. And then I noticed that nobody had noticed. I dunno. Maybe it’s different where you are. 

  • Great advice in the video: let it roll off your back or get thicker skin – either way, those mean things people say need to not get you down.

  • There’s so much I can say about this but lets just leave off with…I’m glad you had that experience and wrote about it for more then the obvious reasons