Enough is Enough: Learning to Stand Up for Myself

young african american woman posing

Today, I went to a Bath and Body Works store to get a gift card for a coworker since our team was participating in Secret Santa. The store was swarming with people and there were two long lines. I took my time looking around (and to get my bearings) because that type of environment was draining and overwhelming. I wasn’t looking forward to standing in those long lines to just get one item, but I also wasn’t going to leave the store without getting what I came for. “If I stand in this long line and they don’t have anymore gift cards,” I thought, “I’m gonna be pissed!” I checked and they had more gift cards so I also got a couple of items for myself.

I got in one of the long lines and a man walked up, looking at items on a nearby table. I sensed he was going to try to cut in the line, so I stood a little closer to the women in front of me. He kept moving up and I did, too. An older woman (I’m not sure if they were together) asked  him who he was behind and he said “them,” referring to the two women in front of me. I said, “No, I was here first. I’m behind them.”

The older woman said, “She’s not gonna let you in” and the man said, “I’m not gonna bitch and moan about it” so he moved to the back of the line. Then she says, “Well you know Caucasians are the nice ones.” I said, “HA! You wish!” and stared at her as if she was from another planet. She said to me, “Well, you know it’s true. I watch the news.” I snapped, “Yeah, they lie and you believe it.” She said she’s a peaceful person and I wasn’t. I told her, “I’m not supposed to say anything when someone’s getting in front of me??”

She said that I got in front of her and I said I didn’t. She started saying more stuff and I told her to stop talking to me: “I didn’t come up here starting stuff with you; you came up here starting stuff with me!” Silence. She continued talking with the man as if this exchange hadn’t happened.

I knew people were looking but I.DID.NOT. CARE. In the past, I would’ve held my head down and just let them cut in front of me. I would’ve second guessed myself—“Well, maybe they were there first and we got up here at the same time.” I would’ve felt like crap and mentally beat myself up for not saying something. I would’ve kept quiet for fear of causing a scene and not wanting people to think the worst of me: “Oh lawd, there goes another black woman going off, twirling her neck, getting an attitude, etc.” But I’ve learned that people are going to think what they want to think about you (whether you did anything to them or not and whether you know them or not). And I’m learning that I (and everyone else) have the right to speak up for ourselves. Why? Because no one else is going to!

I thank God for giving me the strength to stand up to this ignorant person; He was with me in that moment. On many occasions, I imagined myself stumbling over my words and having my mind go blank if I was in a situation like this. Instead, the words just flew out of my mouth and I didn’t have to think about what to say. I also didn’t have use foul language or violence to make my point.

In my younger years, I let people walk all over me because I didn’t know my worth. God, thank you for showing me that I’m worthy and that I am capable of standing up for myself.

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