White People Should Smile More
Smile to make me feel comfortable around you.
White terrorism is rampant. Who is to say you won’t attempt to enslave, lynch, murder, rape, plague, falsely accuse/imprison/execute, fire or steal from me at anytime at your whim?
Smile to assuage my anxiety.
Smile to make me feel included.
Give me a taste of being part of the in-group — valued, equal and wholly human. Sirens and blue lights riddle me with fear when driving. Police guns pointed at my head leave me with constant PTSD.
My heart jumps when I see you. I cross the street now, just like you when you see me at night.
Smile, next time.
Smile when I shop at your store or visit your establishment.
Shouting, “Can I help you?” before my foot is even in the door signals aversion to my presence. Stop doing that. Don’t follow me either; over attention and profiling is racist. I bring you new, hard-earned black dollars. I am not the threat your family conditioned you to believe I am.
Smile when I come in.
Smile at work.
I am the valueless token you tolerate to fill cracks in your deeply racist facade. I am alone in a company that refuses to learn my cultural repertoire, forcing me to code switch, imprisoned. I am the unrelatable, disgruntled coworker you ignore at meetings. No one says “Hello” to me upon entering the room.
At least, smile.
Smile. It’s okay to sit next to me on the train.
Don’t get up. I bid you no harm. I’m traveling just like you. Patting for your wallet or clutching your purse means I’m a thief. Cut it out. Also, say “Excuse me” when you’re in my way. Don’t expect me to go around you; space is equally mine. Excuse yourself for attempting to physically marginalize me.
And then, smile.
My smile is a gift.
I share my smile by choice. You are not entitled to it. It is powerful. It is a privilege to be earned. My smile is a temporary silent grant of trust to you for my physical and emotional safety, not a circus trick to be performed at your beckoning. Take care of it. When you see it, a mask gnarled by racism, micro-aggressions, a lifetime of daily assaults on dignity, and a history of involuntary servitude, is cautiously grinning back at you.
This article was in part inspired by a recent denial of service by Richard Anderson at the pharmacy on Koppenplatz 13–14, 10115 in Berlin Germany. Because I did not smile and had my headphones on, he perceived me as “unfriendly” and snatched my prescription. Upon correction, he refused to fill my prescription.
originally published here.
Noted conductor, educator and social justice advocate Brandon Keith Brown seeks to engineer society from the podium by decreasing the racial stigmatization of underrepresented minority classical musicians. Brown is a prizewinner and the audience favorite of the 2012 International Sir Georg Solti Competition for Conductors, and guest conducts prominent European orchestras including the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester-Berlin, Badisches Staatskapelle, Staatskapelle Weimar, members of the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Jena Philharmonie among others. Upcoming debuts include the Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin, WDR Funkhaus Orchestra Köln and the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra. He is a student of David Zinman, Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur and Gustav Meier. Initially trained as a violinist, he attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music studying under Roland and Almita Vamos.
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