The following story was shared with the Constructive Theologies Group in a theological narrative exercise aiming to connect theology and our lived experiences.
Like the good millennial I am, as soon as my alarm went off in the morning, I checked Facebook. Scrolling down my feed I saw that many of my black friends had posted vague statuses urging friends to “guard your heart” and “call in black to work today.”
Hmm…I wonder what new instance of fuckery has occurred in the world to warrant all of this? I thought. Perhaps another killing of an unarmed black person, or perhaps the footage of the Laquan McDonald cover-up has been made public.
As for me, I had to go to work. No sick days, or personal days until after January 31st– the day my church’s governance council will vote on my request for an increase in salary. From now until then I would be at work every day with a big smile on my face and a spring in my step.
I read somewhere that black people who work in predominantly white workplaces fare better in their relationships with their supervisors if they smile often. It somehow makes us more likely to be empathized with or some such. So from now until January 31st I had committed myself to be all about the smiles. If I got stuck and needed some inspiration, I would replay one of Coach Taylor’s pep talks in my mind, and meditate on the mantra, clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
Today was staff meeting day and thus the most crucial day for smiling and offering pleasantries. I entered my boss’s office and initiated small talk: How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun?
Small talk typically begins our meetings. Today was no different. My boss shared with us his impressions of his recent date night. “The music was so lovely and the story was so interesting,” he said excitedly. I nodded and smiled. “Can you believe they got 100+ years of American history into one, three-hour production?” He asked me. “Oh wow,” I said feigning interest.
“But you know what?” he asked, “the one thing I really wasn’t prepared for was the prolific use of the N-word! I mean they said it all throughout the performance! Can you believe that?!”
Must… Keep… Nodding… And… Smiling.
Must… Get… To… January 31st.
Must… Get… Raise!
“And not only did they say it, but they sang it,” he continued. “I was so conflicted, on the one hand I just hate that word and it makes me feel all icky inside, but on the other hand, the vocalists were just fantastic! Especially the man playing LBJ. Oh, he just had the voice of a baritone angel! Even though he was saying some pretty terrible things about Martin Luther King, calling him the N-word and whatnot. I just didn’t know what to do…but you and your husband really should go see it before it closes! I think you both would really enjoy it.”
Yup. Definitely should’ve called in black today.