That White Bitch Disrespecting the Black Woman and You Right There Going Along With Her

I was out for lunch with a friend of mine the other day when I spotted a cardigan in a small retro clothing store’s window. It looked just like original art and might have been the costume from a blaxploitation film. It had a rounded oversized 1970s collar with dark brown calf-pelt panels stitched down the front. I liked it immediately.

Walking into the shop, I pulled it off the mannequin and tried it on. It looked pretty good in the mirror. So, I turned to my friend, and I asked, what do you think? She said, “I don’t like it.”

But why? — I asked. Is it too pimp? Too much animal skin on a black man?

The white woman browsing a few feet away looked up from a clothes rack and said, “It looks cool.”

Thanks, I reply. I think so.

She glanced behind at my friend for a moment, a beautiful black woman standing by the door, and then, the white woman turned to me again, “It fits you very well in the shoulders,” she said. “Do you mind?” But before I could say or do anything in response, she had reached out to stroke a patch of the animal skin on my chest. “It suits you,” she smiled.

Now, I had no interest in this woman whatsoever, beyond a bit of banter with a stranger is a shop. But my friend, on the other hand, was livid. I swear I could see daggers shooting from her eyes. I’m canvassing other opinions as well, I jested, directing it quickly at my dreadlocked friend, still hovering by the shop entrance.

I suddenly became aware of the three other people milling around in this small, intimate shore — all white. Everyone was eyeing me intently, standing there in a vintage blaxploitation cardigan, which might have belonged to Richard Roundtree in a lost episode of Shaft.

“No impulse buying now,” said my friend, handing me back my jacket and ready to leave. “We’ll walk around first. If you still want it when we come back, get it, then.”

Yes, mum, I thought I heard my inner child respond, as I smiled, and we huddled back out onto the cold streets of London. It was about twenty minutes of walking later when my friend finally turned to me and said;

“That bitch in the shop. She didn’t know whether you were my man or not. She all up in your face wanting to take you home, and show you what the good white pussy has to offer.”

I said, you didn’t really see it that way, did you?

She said, “That white bitch standing there disrespecting the black woman and you right there going along with her.”

I said, you what?

She said, “You laughing and joking with her like that while that bitch disrespecting me.”

You have got to be kidding, I said. I was just being polite. That woman means nothing to me. She paid me a compliment — I didn’t see any reason to be rude to her.

“Well, I wanted to slap her in her damn face,” she said. “I could have been anybody standing up there with you. No self-respecting black woman would ever be all over some man she just sees out shopping with another woman. The black woman knows her place. These white bitches are so brazen. Always in heat for our black men.”

I thought, damn, girl — I didn’t know you cared! Yet to save the peace, I just kept it moving and didn’t offer up anything further in my defence. But I thought to myself, this is insane. You and me ain’t even fucking. Our relationship is strictly platonic.

It would be different, maybe, if we were dating. But you know that I’m batting for the other team. I love you, dearly, princess, but I don’t dig you in that way. And I would never disrespect you in front of anyone! You need to chill.

I pulled her up on it a few weeks later, but she said it didn’t matter whether or not we were dating, and she couldn’t see the significance of that point, anyway. As far as she is concerned, I didn’t stand up for her in front of this white woman. And that, in her eyes, was the equivalent of disloyalty.

I didn’t pursue the matter with her again. I haven’t wanted to get into an argument or affect our friendship detrimentally. But it bugs me to this day and has taught me how different people perceive the same situation.

Was I disrespecting the black woman? Or was my friend being insecure and overly sensitive? I might have appreciated her response more if she had swanned up to the white woman and said, “Honey, this one is taken!” Then, linking her arm through mine, as we waltz out of the shop. That might have been fun. It would certainly have shown the kind of confidence that needs no man to stand up for her.

What do you think?