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Sleep Deprivation, Misogyny and Thug life.

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Around 3:30 am, Tuesday morning I pulled into a 7-11 somewhere in Maryland.

At this point, Mercedes and I had been driving for a couple of hours. She had to work that day so I told her she should sleep some.

Perhaps I should explain why I was in Maryland at 3am. I spent the previous weekend in Montreal for a Theatre conference. I should have been home Sunday night but due to bad weather, I missed my connecting flight in Toronto. I ended up at the hotel the airline got for me at 1:30 am, after landing in Toronto at 8:30pm. This meant no dinner for Tab. I have a lot of unkind things to say about Toronto’s airport and AirCanada but I can do that later. My new flight left Monday at 8:30am. Which meant I needed to be up before 6am to catch the shuttle to the airport.

Still wearing the same clothes from the previous day. I landed in Columbus at 10am.

Great. Tab can rest! Naw. Mercedes and I previously decided we would take her three nieces back to Philly on Monday. They had been staying with us for two weeks.  So I rented a car and drove to Philly, leaving a lot later than I originally planned. Remember I was supposed to be home Sunday night, in bed by 11pm. But since I am thug and driving long distance runs in my blood, the 8 hour drive (with kids) was not a problem.

Three kids, three different mommas meant I was playing bus driver making multiple stops. The run also included getting some of Mercedes stuff from her old place to bring back to Columbus. I had to pretend like being in a basement at after midnight didn’t scare this never had a basement Florida girl. Plus, I gotta impress my lady and show off my Crossfit strength.

Tab: “Don’t worry boo…what box you need? I got this.

You know I still aint really had meal since brunch the previous day. The thing about the drive to Philly, it is really expensive, $60 in tolls roundtrip. Damn, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. However, your girl was feeling bold and cheap. So I decided to take another route. Technically it was 45 min longer but would save $30. That’s like a lap dance and a half. We got on the road around 1 am but for some reason all the entrance to the highway was blocked. We spent almost an hour trying to get on. Remember, ya’ll I still haven’t really eaten or slept. The plan was to stop get some fruit for me during the drive. The first place was some rest stop type place. It was $5 for thing of grapes. Hell no. I ended getting a banana for free because the lady didn’t know how to charge me for it. So, since I was still hungry I stopped at the 7-eleven, I figured it would be cheaper.

Yeah. That was long intro. Hope you are still with me.

When I pulled up I notice this black man playing music in his car. He looked about 30ish. Nice beard and good build. I walked in and got what I came for. Mercedes is still in the car, half sleep. As I was in line, I noticed him talking to this woman. She was paying for her stuff and she appeared to either be going to work or just getting off.

She was clearly not interested in dude.

W: I’m married.

M: How long has that been a problem?

W: It’s not a problem for you, it aint a problem for me.

The man continues his advances.

Tab is in line behind them. And of course she has to say something.

Tab: “Yo, clearly she isn’t interested. Chill man”.

M: “Who the fuck was talking to you? Mind your fucking business.”

Can we just say that went from 15 to 100 real quick! I am not letting anybody talk to me like that. So me and dude went back and forth until he left. During this time he told me I was lucky the police was across the street and that I was a female. He also mentioned going to my car and getting at my girl. I pretty much told him he wasn’t going to do a god damn thing and he was an ignorant ass motha fucka…among other things. When I left he is staring at me smiling from his car. I pulled off and he attempts to try to follow me and scare me. He got stopped at a light and I sped off to the highway. I guess I will never know if he was really trying to follow me and do me harm or was just trying to scare me.

What bothered me the most about this situation was the (lack of) response of the other two Black men present. When the guy left, the clerk asks me if I knew him. I tell him hell no, I have never seen that man before. The clerk tells me I am “a tough lady.” He tells me that guy has been bothering every women that walked in and he should have left her alone because she said she was married. I told him even if she wasn’t married he should have left her alone.

As I drove away I reflected on how vulnerable women are in this world. This man watched another man verbal harass several women and threaten to assault me. Yet, he did nothing and said nothing. He could have easily asked the man to leave the store or even called the cops (who were camped out in the parking lot across the street). But he didn’t. Him and the other employee sat silently by despite knowing the man was wrong.

I am left wondering where are the men who will interrupt patriarchy and misogyny. Who will say not on my watch, not in front of me. Who will make it their business to speak up. I want my brothers to know that their silence makes them complicit. That their silence will never protect them.

Until then I guess I will have to stay on my thug life swag.

While I can joke about this now. I do want to acknowledge how scared I was. In that moment, I didn’t have the luxury to show fear.

I have never directly experience such aggression from a man. The reality was I had no clue where I was, what this man was capable of and despite the other men presence, I was alone.

I drove away fully awake but oh so tired.

~JustTab

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“Open the Fucking Gate”: Microaggressions

“Are you going to open the fucking gate?” I yelled at the intercom machine. I could not see the person who I was talking to but they could see me. My morning had been particularly stressful and all I wanted to do was pick up a student and leave. This left me on edge.

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

Here is the story:

I pulled up to the parking garage at my job. My ID card wasn’t working

Man: Your card isn’t working? (He can see me via video camera and can also see that my card is white not blue/red which is designated for students)

Me: No, its not working. I have two and I never remember which one is magnetized. Can you let me in?

Man: What is your name and your department?

Me: Tabitha Chester, Black studies. Can you let me in?

Man: Well, students are not allowed to park here.

Me: I just told you my name and my department. Are you going to open the fucking gate?

I am the first to admit I sometimes have trouble controlling my temper. On the surface this incident should not cause me to lose my cool. If, of course this was an isolated incident. Being read as a student is something that I face all the time. While many people suggest that this is a positive thing and I should enjoy looking younger than I am, the situation is a bit more complex than this. As a young Black woman who at times may appear gender non-conforming it is very hard for some people to read me as a professor. The only way I make sense to some people on a college campus, is if I am a student. My biggest issue with this occurs with staff at my university. I rarely have any issues with students or other faculty. Here is a brief list of some of my encounters:

  • I was reprimanded by a librarian for not having my ID or knowing my Student ID number. When I informed her I was not a student and was a faculty member her attitude completely changed. I had so many incident with be treated rudely at the library I now have the student workers go for me.
  • While standing in line for food, I am routinely passed over in favor of someone who is more easily read as staff or faculty.
  • Heading to my office with a bag of tortilla chips. Some lady decided to ask was that my lunch and proceed to lecture me about unhealthy for choice as if she was my mother.

These are just some incidents. They occur when I am wear business casual clothing or jeans. They occur in person and on the phone. The resounding message becomes- you do not belong here. I speak to my friends who are also Black professors on college campuses and they have similar experiences. They are not all read as students but they are never read as college professors. Somehow regardless of age or gender it is hard for many to see us as professors. I have friends who changed the manner in which they dressed to be seen more traditionally professional, it did not alter their treatment.

Of course, this experience does not just happen to professors. Many of my Black students recount tales of being asked repeatedly to show their ID to prove they are students. Something that their white peers rarely have to do. Students have told me they have been pulled over by security on campus for acting “suspicious”. Earlier this semester at a fraternity party, students were told that Blacks and gays were not invited. Again the message becomes both explicitly and implicitly- you do not belong here. These are microaggressions that students and faculty of color regardless of institution affiliation can relate to.

I recently heard a case in Florida, where a black judge was approach by another resident in her condominium and was asked “What family did she work for?” in so many words, this man was telling her that she did not belong. His mind could only conceive that this Black woman had to be the hired help.

Stories like these are not an anomaly. These are experiences that happen every week, day or sometimes every hour. They add up and as much as I would like to admit, they affect me. I have to consciously affirm myself and remind myself I don’t need permission to be here.  I am motivated by Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown, who walks around with her colored wigs daring the establishment to come for her. Forcing the university to deal with her Blackness and never assimilating to university culture. When I ask her how do I have fun with my scholarship and teaching? She tells me “Just do what you want. Cost too much not to.” I won’t let microaggressions scare me from being myself. Sometimes I am will wear a blazer or I might wear a hoodie with my hat backwards. Either way you have to deal with and respect this Black Girl Genius.

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Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown and I

But next time I will take a moment before I tell the man in the intercom to open the fucking gate.

Or maybe I won’t.

~JustTab

I have yet to find another faculty member who has even talked to the person on the intercom. They always just get buzzed in. I always have to prove that I work there. 

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Academia, Learning bout Tab!, politics

 

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Is you a boy or girl?

“Is you a boy or a girl?” I have been asked this question several times by young children. While, I doubt very few of them- if any actual think I am a boy, the question is more about my lack of adherence to their “image” of what a woman looks like.

My hair is cut low and my clothes might not always emphasize my feminine features. I never get mad or upset when children ask me this question, since usually it’s out of curiosity.  However, what does annoy me is being CALLED (different from asking) a boy or any type of male. As a child I detested being called a tomboy. Even now it irks when children who don’t fit others perception of what a “girl” is supposed to be or like or whatever is called a tomboy. Or currently in certain communities the term “boi”, has gained popularity for more masculine gender-queer/ androgynous people. My friends have trouble understanding how and why “Oh, Tab you are such a cute boi”- highly upsets. Yeah, I joke about looking like a 12- year old boy, but those are jokes.  The gender that I identify with is “woman”, no matter what I am wearing or who I am dating that’s what I am- a woman, so to be called a “boi” even by friends is to me calling me out my name and associating me with something I do not identify with. Simone de Beauvoir famously said “One is not born a woman, but becomes one”, this quote was further popularized by Judith Butler in theorization of gender. It speaks to that fact that gender is not a biological fact rather it is a construction. Whereas sex: male or female can be considered a biological fact; which is why people can be born a certain biological sex, yet identify with another gender or no gender at all. . Yeah, it’s kind of tricky but you don’t have to agree with me about this.  Knowing how strongly I feel about my gender identity and the power of being called or haled something you do not identify with I can’t imagine what Caster Semenya had to go through.

If you can recall Caster was the South African runner who was “gender” came into question after she won the 800m World Championship in Berlin in 2009. Her gender as well as her sex became a subject of debate around the world. Was she biological male or female? If she was female, why did she look so masculine? Why didn’t she wear “girls” clothes? Is she gay? Does she take testosterone? Is she intersex? Are just some questions that surrounded her. At some point she got a make-over, but did a dress make her more of a woman then she was before?

Caster story is fascinating to me…who decides what makes a woman? This woman had an 11- month investigation launched about her gender. I just get questions from children. To her grandmother who changed her diapers as a baby, to her friends, to her community, to herself she’s a woman…yet it took a whole organization and 11-months for a decision to be made regarding was she woman, enough. If you have time I would strongly encourage to watch this documentary made about Caster by the BBC. It was filmed during the 11- month wait to receive the results of her “gender” testing. After hearing so much about Caster, it is refreshing to hear from her. It also opens up dialogue on the construction of gender in today’s society, as well as the gender inequalities in sports. Anyway, the doc is dope and I think I might have low key crush on Caster. I admire her strength and her courage. Watch it. I promise it is worth your time.

I would like to ask what makes you a “woman” or a “man”?  Is it dictated by your clothes, your attitude, you’re sexual organs? What is it?

~ Just Tab

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2011 in Gender, politics, Rants, style, Them Black people

 

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New People. New Place.

In my short life I have lived in three locations outside my place of birth Palm Beach County, Florida. Those three places were Tallahassee, Fl; Philadelphia, Pa and Mesa (Phoenix), AZ.  In my transition and move to each of these places I experience loneliness throughout my transition.

In Tallahassee, I was negotiating my way through the new freedoms and responsibilities that come with living away from your parents for the first time. I was lucky to be able to have people who came from my hometown or similar backgrounds at the same point in their lives negotiating similar things. I was blessed with the optimism to see the best in others and the ability to open myself up to the others. I had never really known the sting of hurt that can only come from being hurt by someone you let in and called your friend. The demised of my “friendships” up to that point had occurred because I grew bored with them and discarded “friends” like play things. I came out of high school not really concerned about making lasting human connections. As shallow as that seems it probably saved me from putting too much energy in relationships and saved me the heartbreak of teenage love affairs that my friends endured.

Two and a half years passed in Tallahassee. I made connections. Dare say I even made friends. I got my heart broken and my optimism took some hits. But I emerged from my time in Tallahassee stronger and wiser; with a bit more understanding of why people might be important in your life. I went home, rested up and my next stop was Philadelphia, Pa. I entered Philadelphia with more of the knowledge of what a “life-long friendship” could be and why I might actually want that in my life. I was in a new place, so excited about meeting new people that could enrich my time in Philly. I quickly learned that everyone who smiles in your face is not your friend. I foolishly thought that I was building friendship while my colleagues in my MA program were simply scoping out the competition (save for one beautiful exception). At the same time I was going through a period of discovering who I was, which lead to tension within my “friends” from before Philadelphia. Many relationships did not survive this period of “discovering Tab” yet some were strengthen during this period. I learn to guard myself. Everybody ain’t your friend. Everybody will not be in your life forever. I left Philly with both love and heart break. With determination yet very much jaded.

I went home. Saw changes in me and in my hometown. Distanced myself away from my high school and childhood friends because the reflection I saw in them was no longer familiar. I am also sure the Tabitha they saw was also a stranger to them.  I spent the year hanging with my parents and family. The people I associated with in West Palm Beach were mostly those who were easy and superficial with two exceptions. I nurtured my friendships with my friends who lived elsewhere. I spent a lot of time either alone or traveling.

I have always been pretty comfortable with myself. As a child I spent hours reading, a pastime of solitude. I have always craved the option of solitude. When I decided to move across the country to attend ASU, I thought back on my transition to Tallahassee and Philadelphia. Although those weren’t the easiest I believed I could it. I am older and wiser, right? I have built a support network, I can do this! Right?

I find myself facing the same problems I faced before. More specifically the issue of who can I trust. I know better than to be open with everyone. But sometimes feelings, emotion and loneliness can cloud one’s sense of judgment. Not knowing anyone and wanting or even needing a connection from someone that is not over the telephone or through skype- can make someone eager to make a connection with someone- anyone. Then you make that connection too fast or too soon and learn that person probably couldn’t be trusted. As independent as I say I am- I am still human. I still desired to be hugged by someone who loves me. Be around those who love and affirm me. I also have to accept that it is very real possibility that will not happen anytime soon if ever in Phoenix. I must learn to find ways to sustain myself without those types of relationships; while also not completely closing myself of to the possibility of genuine relationships here in Phoenix.

But I came here for a degree. Heart break and pain is not on the agenda.

I guess it will have to be…

~Just Tab (for now)

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Arizona, Learning bout Tab!, my friends

 

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Michelle, the Greatest?

 

I must place a disclaimer on this. I am not a hater…that much…anymore…

If you want to know what people are thinking just check facebook statuses. Last night the general consensuses was Michelle Obama was the greatest Black woman to ever breathe, every girl wanted to be her and every boy wanted to be her husband. I received text messages “Did you see Michelle’s speech”. Um no, I planned to. I really did. I turn on the television and all the pre-speech hype was getting annoying and not helping my already pissy moved. I just wanted to hear the woman speak and not commentators talking about what she might say. I turned off the television.

Sidebar: Did anyone see how BET covered the speech with Cousin Jeff, trying to pretend that it was a legitimate news channel?

Anyway, thanks to the wonders of On Demand by Comcast I got to watch the speech today. This is of course after the speech was hyped up by the commentators and my facebook groupies (friends) to be the greatest speech ever. I mean people claimed they cried over this thing.

The speech begins with her being introduced by her older brother, who shares those eerie sleepy eyes of hers that freak me out. He goes on to give cute childhood stories and how their family is the American Dream. Whatever, not impressed.

Michelle enters to give her speech to some great music. Her dress is fitting her well, showing her great shoulders. Her hair look phenomenal, someone actually convinced her to throw some perm on those edges. Even I can’t say anything negative about her appearance. Her speech was good, I guess. She got her point across, she doesn’t hate America, she loves Barrack, she is the American dream, she struggled, they are just like middle-America, and you should elect her husband. I guess her antidotes were cute and moving. I actually kind of feel bad I wasn’t moved by her speech like the rest of black America. Every radio station was biging her up like she was some black female savior.

“And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they’ll have families of their own. And one day, they – and your sons and daughters – will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They’ll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming.”

I swear she was talking to people like me when she said that. Because I am not sure how I feel about this hope thing. I am so afraid of Blacks and Americans putting so much hope in these people and being let down. They can’t possible live up to the hype around them. At the end of the day, they are politicians trying to get elected. I got caught up in “greatness” of Obama speech after the Rev. Wright controversy; he could no more disown Rev. Wright as he could the black community. Well he did, when the going got tough. I wish I could stop doubting and believing but it’s going to take more than a cute couple and two cute little girls to make me believe in this change. Sorry, I am not yet a believer. At the same time, I am so protective of them; I talk so much crap about them. I am the first to critique them, but don’t let Fox News, or anyone else talk about how unpatriotic and un-American she is, I am ready to fight. At the end of the day she is my sister and he is my brother. I can talk about them, but don’t anyone outside of the family try them.

I guess we shall see if this change is really possible.

Last thing is it just me or does it look like Michelle has tobacco or something in her mouth whenever she speaks.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2008 in politics, Them Black people

 

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What up Doc!

I hate going to the doctor. It freaks me out, I start believing I have some crazy aliment or they are going to tell me I’m going to die…tomorrow! Doctors are such freaks always poking people with needles, making me pee in cups and take off my clothes. It’s never a pleasant experience. Last year, my heart was nearly broken when my mother informed me that my pediatrician would no longer see me. I felt like a rejected lover, I thought me and this doctor had a bond, we had been together since I was born. Yes, I could no longer fit into the chairs at the office and kids keep asking me “Where’s your kid”, not knowing I was the patient. But I was comfortable at the pediatrician; they gave out smiley face band-aids, lollipops and I could catch up on the latest issue of “Highlights” magazine. It was hard letting go of this part of my life, but I figured that I did just graduate from college I should probably go to an adult doctor.

I had a funny feeling about my new doctor, some thing about the fact that my mom, dad, grand mom, grand dad and brother went to her didn’t sit well with me. My biggest concern was that she was a black woman ( I am not a hater, I love Black woman, When I grow up I’m going to be a Black women); it would be like talking to my mom/grand mom about personal issues. Weird. I feel like black woman are always judging me. Well the first time I went to see her, it was ok. I even overlooked the fact that I got a plain Band-Aid with no cartoons after they stole my blood for “samples”.

Fast forward to today. My second annual check up with this lady. The standard questions, whatever. She asks me what I am doing about my acne, and how great my skin used to be! (Damn, Damn, Damn Philadelphia for mutilating my beautiful face) That put me on edge, I’m a bit sensitive about my new found skin issues. But nevertheless I am still PRETTY. Then she asked me why I kept my hair low. “Because I am lazy, it’s easy”. This set homegirl off on this “Don’t you know that hair is a woman’s glory, you shouldn’t cut your hair, even a fro is better then that”. Really!!!!!! This my dear Tabians, would never happen if I went to a white doctor. Never. I told her I never know what to do with my hair when I grow it out. She replied “Wash it and pray about, God will tell you what to do with it”. In my mind I was thinking “(Female dog) did you just tell me to pray about my hair!” Again, one of the reason I hate that she is also the entire family doctor, she knows my dad is a pastor, so I stay calm and just nod and smile. I thought she was done. Then she decided to tell me “Because, really you look like a boy. If you weren’t so cute in the face I would think you were a boy, but boys aren’t that cute. You look like a boy from behind.” REALLY!!!!

  1. How does she know that “the boy look”, wasn’t the look I was going for.
  2. She obviously missed the donk in the back and the breast in the front. No one really was going to think I’m a dude.
  3. I wasn’t even wearing boys clothes, this wasn’t “gay boy chic” day. It was casual Tab day.  I was wearing fitted red khakis, a white polo tee, earrings and a purse.
  4. Did I ask her for her opinion about my hair?
  5. Oh yea, WHAT IN THE WORLD DID THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MY CHECK UP.

 

Black people and their inappropriateness. We feel the need to get into everybody business. When I was in high school my assistant principal prayed for me in her office, to rid me of the spirit of anger that was invading my soul. I do appreciate the non-traditional approach, but is it just me or was this doctor lady completely out of line? I had never had a woman tell me I needed hair as my crown of glory. I expect that from the ignorant male ministers in church but not my doctor.

 

Please believe this is my last visit with home girl. I am sticking with white doctors who stay the HELL out of your fashion choices.

 

But the story has a good ending. She irrigated my ears…yeah they were a little backed up thanks to Q-tips. I can actually hear now!!! No more “Huh” or “You said what”.

 

I’m going to keep my hair short for as long as I want and I’m going to keep being JUST TAB!

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2008 in Them Black people

 

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