THEY GOT OFFENDED AFTER I GOT OFFENDED AND THEN I CALLED THEM RACIST BY WENDY THOMPSON TAIWO

Growing up during the era of colorblind


racism, my father told me that once I got my


first serious job, I should document everything.




It was a phrase that would summarize what it


meant to be Black in America: Document


everything. Even before they stole my food




from the lunch room fridge and spit in my rice.


Even before they reported me for sending a


personal fax and told everyone in the office




how much I made a year when I forgot to peel


my W2’s off the printer glass. Even before they


called me difficult, said I’m hard to work with:




Document everything. He didn't have to explain


white people’s pettiness to me. Didn't have to


hear my fear rattling inside my chest inspired




by the memory of bodycam footage whenever


I came to a full stop next to a police car. Didn’t


have to curse the excuses I made to avoid public






bathroom stalls for fear that they would say


something racist. Didn’t have to take off his


glasses and sigh when the parents at my




daughter’s school—a good school, a white


school—thought they could gather their


administrative clout and weaponize the




principal, teacher’s reports, and witnesses to


destroy me and my child. Didn’t have to shake


his head at me when the same principal






changed Black parent involvement day to


all-family involvement day. Didn’t have to put


on his shoes and jacket and show up to my aid






when I pointed my finger at a room full of


colleagues, hunched over their taupe-colored


guilt and nursing their white privilege with




antiracist book clubs, and asked, Why am I the


only Black face in the room? To which a few


would later huddle together, drawing a salt






circle around themselves, whispering that


my outburst during the meeting had been


“offensive” and “disturbing.” Didn't have to




start the engine nor get his gun because I


became a master documenter over the years:


Every email saved, printed, CCed, BCCed, and




forwarded. Every play and record button ready


to mass-distribute video proof to employers.


Every Black person, a file cabinet, a database,




an archive. But also every Black person,


including your one friend: The knife slit in your


back, the bottle hurled at your riot police, the




fire in your Target, the spill and dream of


looting. From 1619 to the checkout line, there


would be no boat sturdy enough to carry us




safely across this ocean full of whiteness.