one morning years ago, I was at a board meeting for one of the groups I’s still a member of. I mentioned that I noticed at a local business show there were a high number of very attractive women “manning” the booths. Over the past years I’ve noticed that’s a trend at theme shows, but it was a new thing at networking events in the Syracuse area at the time.


by Andre Melcuer via Nappy

I commented that I was surprised I’d noticed because I’m usually paying attention to something else. At that point, one of the other board members, the only black woman in the group (ever) who are also on the board “outed” me by saying that, like her, I probably always count how many black people are in the room when I go to an event and, because I count that, I probably count many other things, also like she does.

I told her laughingly not to give away an inside secret, but the other board members had heard it and they were shocked by the revelation. They all admitted that it had never come to their attention to which I responded “of course not; you’re not black”.

Yes, I count, but it’s usually a very easy thing to do. I’m usually the only one in the room, and I’m stunned if there’s a second. That’s the way it is at local meetings. At bigger meetings out of town, it’s a different story, but not by much.

There was a health care conference I went to in Chicago. Counting myself there were only 2 black males there along with 4 black women. Out of all the years I went to this particular conference, that was the most ever. This was out of almost 450 people (why do I remember things like this?).

I can tell you how many black people there were on each of the flights I took. I can tell you how many black people there were in every restaurant I went to that wasn’t a conference event. I can tell you how many were in the lobby of the hotel where the conference was… remember, this was Chicago and the people in the hotel weren’t all there for the conference.

Counting isn’t necessarily something that’s instilled in black people; it may be disappearing in today’s world. But it was something that came naturally in my youth.

Whenever a black person was going to be on TV people would get on the phone and call each other. If a black performer was coming to town, the same thing would happen. Whenever we watched the news, we’d be hoping that the really bad stuff wasn’t being done by a black person because we knew that the next day we’d be the ones who’d be asked about it.

Even now, we notice what we deem as “code words” in describing black athletes and black performers. If you listen closely you’ll hear about “natural” talent and “intelligence”… guess who’s being talked about most of the time when you hear it; I’m not making this up.

I count black people in movies and movie theaters. I count them in commercials. Trust me, I’m not alone. It’s not endemic to black people either. Women count how many other women are at a traditionally male event. White people will count how many other white people are at a predominantly black event. I’m sure other minorities count whenever they’re in a crowd. It’s typical to count when you feel a sense of “onlyness”. Sometimes it makes one feel uncomfortable; sometimes it just goes with the territory.

Back in 2008, there was a black man named James Harris who appeared at a John McCain event and literally “begged” McCain to bring the attack to Barack Obama. He received a lot of hate email and phone calls, which was uncalled for, but that wasn’t what struck me. In an interview he later gave to CNN, he said he wasn’t a plant in the audience, as many had claimed, but that he had been ushered to the front of the room because there weren’t more than a couple other black people in the audience, and he knew that they wanted to project a sense that there were more minorities in attendance than there were.

So, even though his off the cuff remarks on video weren’t scripted, he knew he was being used as a pawn and went along with it. I thought about it as I realized that there are events I go to where I’m asked if my picture can be taken, so that it can be put into magazines or news articles to try to show that there was more minority participation than there actually was, and I’ve gone along with it. I understood and couldn’t hate him for it.

The issues of race are intriguing if one’s willing to think about it. It’s part of what happens when things aren’t truly equal, let alone fair. I did a video saying we need a conversation about race; if you haven’t seen it, please check it out below, then tell me what you think about all of this:


https://youtu.be/F24d8as3fWg

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