New York is one of the best places in the world to people-watch. The subway is especially ripe for taking in interesting sights and sounds (and sometimes smells). I present to you a screenplay of sorts based on two women I observed on the train last night:
White Woman (60-something “jazzy lady”, applying make-up most of the journey): I asked you about the train because you seem like a smart lady. A smart black lady. I love black people. My friend is best friends with a black woman and she has the best skin.
Black Woman (20-something, talks fast, nervous energy): *laughs*
White Woman: Do you know why you have such great skin?
Black Woman: No. *laughs*
White Woman: Touch my face.
Black Woman: *Swipes white woman’s cheek with her index finger*
White Woman: See how thin my skin is? Now touch your face.
Black Woman: *Touches her own face* Yeah.
White Woman: See, it’s more there. You will never wrinkle. Isn’t that fantastic?
During this exchange, I was hoping to everything holy that the older woman did not stroke the younger woman’s face. I don’t believe in petting humans and I most certainly would not have taken up the older woman’s offer to touch her stranger danger-ass face. I can’t say for certain what my response would have been if the older woman had been talking to me about her friend’s black friend, but I’m positive I would not have been have been laughing it up at her “scientific” ramblings about black skin.
I’m never really surprised at people’s insensitive and/or ignorant comments about race, but it still annoys me and sometimes the best I can do is give a look and ignore folks. I do not have time to educate everyone I meet. The older woman will likely to continue to be foolish for the rest of her life, but part of me wanted to tell the younger woman that she is not obligated to engage with every simpleton she encounters. Le sigh.