An unexpected lesson in dealing with microaggressions

By L Michelle Smith | Black Enterprise

Microaggressions can creep up on you at the most unexpected times. It happened to me recently as my daughter and I were enjoying lunch at the local deli. I was filling her cup up at the soda fountain when a woman asked me a question that caught me off guard. I was wearing a shirt with the French words  “Ça va?” printed on the front and the phrase “Tres bien merçi” written on the back. In English, this means “How’s it going?” and “Very well, thanks.”

Be that as it may, the woman asked me, rather pointedly, “Do you know what your shirt says?” At first, I thought maybe she wasn’t talking to me. So I turned toward her and found her eyes piercing at me. That’s when I realized that a white woman was preparing to give me an unsolicited French lesson right in the middle of Jason’s Deli. I was being charged up by a complete stranger to see if I was worthy of the shirt on my back. #WTF?

So, with all the polite firmness and with a chuckle of irony, I said, “Of course I know what my own shirt says. I’m wearing it.”

But she did not relent. “Do you know French?” she replied.

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