A Vulnerable Share on an Important Day

Excerpted from Newsletter 1.18.21
Today I honor my Husband, Our Financial Board Director, Charles Henrick Philippe 

Last month Charles and I celebrated our 15th marriage anniversary. This photo was taken about 2 years ago. Each time I look at it I think, “He’s the beautiful one. I’m the white one.” Every April 4th on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination Charles tearfully listens to his I Have a Dream speech in its entirety.

Charles is an African American man of Haitian ancestry. He is a highly esteemed software engineer and cloud architect. However, because he is Black, he has been systematically held back from promotions, raises and bonuses, leading him to leave his final corporate position just before the pandemic hit. SKD would literally have gone under years ago – we wouldn’t even still be here together – if it weren’t for Charles’ sound financial steerage. (I certainly would have blown way too much money on overpriced venues, unnecessary tech platforms, and new dance clothes!) 

George Floyd’s lynching March 25, 2020 triggered our nations’ racial pain body – as well as Charles’. I’ve accompanied him everywhere he goes these past 10 months to experience him moving about as a black man in Fort Collins. Last week I witnessed two incidents occur. The first at Home Depot where he regularly buys and returns merchandise as part of our ongoing basement project. This day the woman at the return desk said he couldn’t return a packaged product because it didn’t have a code on it. He told her that was exactly how it came. He had proof of purchase. She insisted that he couldn’t return it. She made no effort to service him whatsoever. He walked back to the aisle, found the exact product packaged without a code precisely as he’d bought it, brought it to her, and then she allowed him to return it. I thought little of it. 

In the second instance we went through the Cane’s Chicken drive through to get our son lunch. An outdoor employee stood along the car line, took our order on her remote iPad register, took our payment via a card insertion, and sent us along to the pick up window. The woman at the pick up window asked, “Did you pay?” Charles replied, “Look at my receipt.” As she reached for the bag she said, “It’s in the bag.” As we were pulling away Charles fumed, ”How could she ask if I paid when she just put the receipt in the bag?

I’d thought little of it. In fact I responded as I had to the past 10 months worth of such instances with a shrug and something along the lines of, “She’s just a sales person. Maybe she’s just having a bad day. She’s just old. Maybe she’s tired. She didn’t mean anything by it. I think you’re reading too much into it.”

Perhaps you dear reader also hold white privilege and thought the same? Perhaps you’ve not been stopped by a security guard on your way out of Walmart with your 10-year-old son for a “random” security check? 

These incidences inflame my husband, echoing his 52 years living with micro-aggressions such as these. Our 14-year-old son also questioned why she would ask if we’d paid? 

Having been born and socialized as a white body in our white supremacist society, I literally cannot see it; I am intentionally made blind and unconscious to the reality of systemic racism and the daily oppression of living as a person of color in our culture.

Denial leads to destruction. The truth will set us free.

And this is why our antiracism work is so important.
~ With Love ~