My Father Told Me
I had only been going to school for about a month. And I never met anyone. Most of the people were white, and the classes were so big it was easy to get lost in them. I hated being there. I felt so alone. The white people were not very nice, and the black people had managed to separate themselves from each other with fraternities and sororities. I didn’t belong anywhere.
One day, while in class someone used the ‘N’ WORD. I don’t remember what the context was, but it was a white person, he wasn’t talking to me but it hurt just the same. I went home that day and told my father I wasn’t going back. I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t strong enough and I just would rather get a job that didn’t require a degree. I was crying, because I didn’t want to disappoint him, but I just couldn’t take it. My mom wasn’t home; she was at work. She worked as a banquet waitress. She was amazon like, tall, strong, regal in some ways. (She still is really) Daddy told me he wanted to show me something, got his car keys and off we went. I didn’t know where we were going and we rode in silence. I didn’t ask questions and he didn’t volunteer any information. He drove thinking, pensive, I could tell he was angry. I thought he was angry with me because I didn’t want to go to shool. We ended up at my moms job.
We went in through the employees entrance. My mother was in her uniform, holding this huge silver tray up that had plates of food on it, clearly they were about to serve. And there was this man, shorter than her, screaming at her, we watched for what seemed like a long time but it was probably a minute or two. I could literally see her getting smaller, her shoulders had slumped and her head hung down. She didn’t look regal or amazon anymore. She looked small. Daddy looked at me and said “You have to go back. That is why you have to go back. Because when you are educated you don’t have to take that. You won’t have to let people shrink you.” The next day, I went back to school. I graduated and I never forgot what he said.
I cannot tell you how many jobs I quit that started with the sentence “my father told me” as I packed my things; refusing to be shrunk ever. As a lawyer, judges try to shrink attorneys. They talk down to us from the bench. The bench is high up so that even when you approach the bench you have to look up at them. During a trial I had a judge that was just awful to me. He was rude, nasty, and it was working . . . my posture was bad, my head mostly down and shoulders slumped over. I went home crying almost daily, my husband wasn’t getting any sleep because I was having such a hard time. I couldn’t deal with it. Then one day during the trial, I decided to wear a pants suit instead of a skirt, it was like I knew I was preparing myself for something, because I never wore pants during trial. The morning started and the judge came out with his normal condescending attitude, my client had even complained to me that I had not been fighting for him. The judge suddenly became background noise to me as I remembered my fathers’ words “when you have an education, you don’t have to let people shrink you.” I started listening to the judge again and I heard him say “and what you said in that motion was just ridiculous.” I answered “What’s ridiculous is the way this court has been treating me.” The judge looked up at me “What did you say?” “What’s ridiculous is the way this court has been treating me.” The next word out of his mouth was “marshall” I knew what that meant so I took off my jewelry and the laces off my shoes and put them on the defense table. Defiant, letting him know that being stepped back didn’t scare me. The marshall found me a cell. I sat still for a moment, not afraid, and not angry anymore, I was just still. It was then that I heard a soft whisper “Good Girl!” I felt a soft wind brush against my cheek and I smiled. I was strong, proud and happy; and my father was proud of me. . .