Now that I have your attention:
I generally think I have nice hands. They’re strong, my nails are clean and maintained, and the tops have a velvet brown sheen that I inherited from my daddy. Few know that I’ve always been fascinated by hands because I am kinda pervy believe that they tell you a lot about a person. You can see age in wrinkled, spotted hands; anxiety in short, bitten nails; lack of health in brittle, discolored nails; probable career choices in rough or calloused hands; and socioeconomic status by length, hump, intensity of neon color, and distribution of diamonelles after getting yo nails did.
The other day I was with my mom and she was taking pictures of some items she planned to sell on Ebay. Mama is an addicted avid thrifter and she often reinvents and then sells her wares online. I was observing her as she uploaded the photos to Ebay because I was obviously bored out of my mind am fascinated by the human experience in all its mundane wonder. She was cropping the photos to make them more appealing. All of a sudden she said “I don’t show my hands in the pics.” As if I wasn’t 100% certain of her impending response, I asked why. She answered that she knows that some people would hesitate to buy from her or even question the authenticity and quality of her merchandise if they knew she was Black. I listened to all she had to say then admitted to her,
“I do the same thing.”
I had recently sold some designer merchandise through Ebay and on some photos, it was necessary for me to hold tags to display production numbers. I made sure that either the brown part of my fingers weren’t showing, or that my fingers weren’t showing at all. A few pictures I cropped several times until any ethnic identity was severed from the business at hand. Until any ethnic identity was severed.
Please… excuse my hands.
Here’s what’s interesting: A business, for the most part, should be a neutral place, welcoming all to spend dat money yo for commerce. When buying and selling, all that should matter is quality, value, price, customer service, and who it will impress at da club tonight. Ayyyee… But that isn’t life. And on the anonymous world wide web, and sites like Ebay, Etsy, and Craigslist, you are selling a product based on pictures, descriptions, and a whole lot of trust.
There are ideas that Black people inherit from our parents and aunties and angry uncles and granddaddies. Ideas about how to vacillate around others’ biases. What any minority learns is how to play offense; you already sense the play that’s coming. Or is that defense? I don’t know sports. Anyhow, because trust is often based on initial contact, not only do you never get to make a first impression (initiate trust) again, you never get to change your face. Every time, you will be brown. Well, except Lil Kim. But I digress.
There’s an unwritten rule amongst many black entrepreneurs, hustlas, and businessowners:
Green before black.
We don’t roll over when we are disrespected or when discrimination rears its ugly yet familiar head. But there is a certain compromise made when you want to be successful, especially when that success may often depend on people who don’t look like you. When I started as a Realtor in Texas, a friend who was a marketing expert advised me not to put my face on my business cards. “Just let them see a really nice business card, call you, and at least make their decision whether or not to do business with you after hearing how professional and knowledgeable you are,” he offered. Since my given name is real, real white very un-ethnic, I figured that was a smart move.
Please…excuse my face.
Unfortunately, words, names, and apparently hands…matter. It’s not a issue of self-hate and projection. We don’t hate our color and therefore project that into potential situations. It’s simply a remembering of experiences, a noticing of pattern, a knowledge of history…but we make due. Don’t look at me. Look at what I have to offer.
Please…excuse my hands. Or I guess, don’t.