This is a story of how I protected a Black woman. To be clear, I didn’t save this woman, she would’ve been okay if I was there or not. It was still my job to be there when she needed me. I’m not sharing this story to make myself a hero. I do think I’m a hero, but that is a fantasy I play for myself to stroke my own ego. The protection of Black women isn’t above and beyond the call of duty. This is an evolutionary responsibility of men to women. It’s how we have survived as a species. I just want people to know what it can look like. Next week I will share a story where I didn’t protect a black woman when I should’ve.
First of all, I love angry black women. People say they don’t like angry Black women, but that’s not true. People don’t want black women angry at THEM. When a black woman is angry at the same thing you’re angry at, she’s a natural resource. Give me one Harriet, one Ida B and Ella Baker over the whole Black Panther Party (which was mostly fueled by the work of Black Women anyway). Black women probably have more to be angry about than anyone else in our society.
Second of all, Black women aren’t “crazy” as a group. It’s actually a miracle that they aren’t considering what they have gone through and continue to go through. They battle historic racism, and try to navigate around stereotypes and glass ceilings on a continuous basis. This can be absolutely maddening. So let me get to the story…
I was in line at my bank with my BabaGotBARS T and my watermelon hat. A bank I’m not going to identify but it’s one of those banks that discriminates in its lending practices to Black people (I hope that narrowed it down). I had about five people in front of me including a black woman around my age directly in front of me in line. She was on the phone complaining loudly. I only made out the fact that something didn’t happen right at the bank a few minutes ago and she was here to rectify it.
I’ve worked as a teller. My first jobs ever were working at credit unions. I’ve given members the wrong amount, or entered the wrong information into an account more than a few times, so I empathize with tellers. I’ve also had irate customers who weren’t easy to deal with, who ended up being loud and wrong. The women who taught me the job made sure I learned how to be courteous and professional at all times. They reminded me that I am dealing with people’s livelihoods, so people will sometimes get emotional or irrational. That would not be my excuse to do the same as the teller.
Behind the bulletproof glass were two men, a Black man and a Latino man. Both seemed a little younger than me. Average teller age, if that makes sense. The lady in front and I got called up at the same time. She began explaining her situation to the teller on the right, the young Latino. I’m minding my own business, but it is obvious to everyone in the bank she is upset. She isn’t irate. She isn’t irrational. It’s just the 5th of the month and a check deposit she just made wasn’t done correctly. I’m in the bank on the 5th of the month and immediately empathize. I’m there to handle my rent check a few days late myself. Evidently, what ever transaction was messed up was done by my teller, the Black man, so the Latino man who was helping the sister who was upset asked if we could switch tellers so the teller who she worked with on her first trip to the bank could help rectify the situation.
I don’t remember what exactly was said, I want to say it was something about her giving him cash or a cashiers check and there being a hold put on it when it should’ve been available immediately. The reason she had come into the bank in the first place was to make a deposit she had planned on withdrawing from with an online check or debit card immediately. They went back and forth in louder than normal teller tones, but not full on argument. Then she raised her voice. Not in black woman battle tone. In, you’re messing with my money and I’m trying to keep it together, tone. A tone a teller should be able to ignore or de-escalate, if with nothing else than apology or a promise to solve the problem. “Why is there a hold?!” she inquired fervently. This man stared at her. Stared at her the way you stare at someone you’re squaring off with. Like she just said something about his mother and she had a few seconds to take it back or there would be repercussions. “Watch your attitude,” is what he said to her after the awkward silence a father gives his child who has come in past curfew. The teller in front of me snickered. This is when I knew I had to do something.
This sister wasn’t in physical danger. There was bulletproof glass and career opportunities between her and this man. This woman was not at a loss for words to defend herself. As she later explained in full Black woman force (the way they always have to in order to defend their existence in the world) she had two degrees and was working on a third. She was going to call a manager. Her neck was going to roll and her enemies heads were going to roll shortly there after. But these two men, sitting behind the counter, no matter how this scenario resolved, were going to call her a crazy-angry-loud-black-bitch when they debriefed each other later. It was obvious. They were going to walk away with their two-man consensus on this incident, and put her in a pile of other angry black women they’ve dismissed. I realized I needed to let them know that’s not what was going on here.
“Hey, you don’t talk to customers like that.”
“You can’t talk to her like that. Like you’re her father. She’s your client. She has an issue. Be respectful.”
He stares at me. “Mind your business sir”.
“I’m making this my business. I don’t like how you’re talking to her. She has a legitimate concern about her money. Be respectful. Resolve her issue respectfully.”
“THANK YOU!”, yells the woman. “It took a damn man to check you. I want to speak to the manager!”. She continues to rant about how they’ve inconvenienced her and tells us who she is and she can’t be fucked with. I don’t mind that at all, because they were certainly trying to fuck with her. The teller then stares at me. Same father to rebuked child, scornful, “I’m about to smack the taste out of your mouth” stare. But mind you, he’s doing all this through bulletproof glass. He didn’t intimidate me by any means regardless, but it was even more of a joke getting this look from him when there isn’t the possibility for him to back up any of that silent barking with actual bite. “WE CAN STARE!” I yell at him after 10 seconds of awkward silence. The whole rest of the bank snickers at him, recognizing the ridiculousness of his posturing. He cowers quickly. Changes his whole energy. Goes back and gets a manager. The sister is now really heated, huffing and puffing, pacing in front of the teller window.
“Yeah. Thank you.”
“No Worries. Breath.”
The manager comes out. She starts talking to him. My teller finishes my transaction so professionally they could’ve filmed the transaction for the next training video. I thank him. He doesn’t look me in the eye. I tell the manager, as he’s talking to the woman, that I witnessed the whole incident and his employee was completely out of line. I walk out. End scene.
I didn’t save her. I just let the world know she wasn’t crazy at the moment. That’s all she needed from me. She took care of the rest herself.