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December 04, 2006



Yeah Jimi, I struggle with the visibility vs. invisibility thing, too. Sometimes, like if I attend a metal or punk concert, I want to be invisible so I don't get harassed - being too visible could potentially get you a beat-down or a nasty verbal exchange. I'm just trying to find a way how to address people who benefit from society's assumption that we are invisible.A few years ago, I might have flown off the handle and cursed someone out. Now it's about crafting a response (without expletives) that is firm but not overwhelming with anger - which shows the person more about your insecurities than anything else. And I agree, Atena, saying something will defintely make you feel better than if you don't say anything at all. But sometimes the results will piss you off more than if you said anything at all.

A few years ago I lived above these two guys who would play gay circuit music until 3am in the morning seven days a week to the point where my floors and all my furniture was shaking. I routinely went down to ask them to turn their music down and complained to the lanlord, who lived down the hall from them and did absoloutely nothing. Then one day, the landlord comes to my apartment and said that there had been a complaint against me, saying that I was harassing them. I went above the landlord's head and wrote a letter to the owner of the building and threatened to start calling the cops on these guys or seeking legal advice. Again, they just ignored me. I ended up moving.

I think that (besides several instances in public and high school), that experience changed me, made me really bitter. I had lived there for about 4-5 years, always paid my rent on time, was very quiet, and yet I was the one who received a complaint for sticking up for myself. Perhaps the experience of trying to do something and being dismissed embedded my belief that other's needs and wants were more important than mine, and I guess I internalized that. Anyway, just a story.

the izza

Moreso than being female, or short of stature, black people in general have to find the balance between invisibility and too much visibility, because of what those in power see once they acknowledge you exist. Frankly, there are days that I would prefer invisibility to bearing the weight of people's presumptions about my black maleness, which is, by leaps and bounds, harder than being black and female. This, from my skin. From your skin, I might feel different.

thea mcginnis

Hi, firt time commenting. just wanted you to know that i git the link to your blog from a fast company online newsletter i get every day re how blogs can help you get your name out there. so obviously, its working! and i do hope you get a dollop of success, esp some financial recognition. but to get back to your blog on invisibility - i know how you f eel, even if i am just a middle aged white lady. i feel like i am invisible as a woman since i'm kind of an older mom type. i'm single, older and i get ignored by white men all the time. except for real old white guys!! who wants their attention? but then, they're probably ignored by the eye-rolling women they hit on. i guess its a vicious cycle. my advice to you is, since you are still fairly young and still 'hot' is never let anyone forget you are 'in the room'. from your writing you are obviously way too smart and way too clever to ever be ignored. so enter the room with your chest out and a big smile. (wow, is this motherly advice or what?)

joe tornatore

think of it this way. at least you get a party with food and booze. i work for the govt. nothing and I mean nothing is allowed to come your way or is offered up.


This happens to me often, and I wonder if it's because I'm short...it's not as though I'm THAT short -- but for some reason, I get the feeling as though I'm invisible.

So I usually just say "Well pardon me." and give them my patented death-ray "f-you" look...and that usually either elicits an apology, or they scurry away because I look a tad loony.

But I would definitely say something the next time it happens -- some people honestly just have no manners or common sense, unfortunately.

Higgins Canadiana Louverture


I've been to about 12-15 parties (hey, i like to be at partays where you get comp. drinks and much swag) in the last little while where it was same shite, different victims to this boorish behaviour.

It's all crapola.

You and Atena are not the problem, it's something called having manners, respecting different cultural beings in your circumference--which is apparently not a popular concept in some, er, communities.

Yr. dialogue is (Ralph) Ellison-ian (Invisible Man).

Should you two be penning a tome about the Invisible Woman, a new millenium upgrade on some themes that aren't going anywhere, and remain a thorn. I'll write the Foreword, backwards.


Laina - I felt that same unfortunate appreciation after reading this. To know that someone else gets it, though it's a suck-ass type of thing to have to get. And I appreciate that when you're at work, there's a whole 'nother set of dynamics regarding actions and consequences. Thank you for sharing.

Your story brought to mind something similar that happened to me. I was at a Chicago Public Radio panel discussion on race relations with my husband and daughter (who was about 6 months old at the time). There was a meal served afterwards, and the radio personalities were mingling and chatting with everyone. I happened to be on the food line right in front of the event's moderator (who's name I can't remember), who's a moderately well-known radio personality in Chicago. And as I stood there, waiting for the line to progress, a man (a white man) walked excitedly up to the radio dude, and placed himself between us, literally pushing me (however nudgingly gently), as though I hadn't been there. And there it was - the rage, the shame, the shock of invisibility and out-and-out rudeness. He was so eager to get in with the radio guy (who didn't notice me either) that he was willing to negate my existence to do it.

Besides all of the typical reasons for being upset about this kind of thing, I was also feeling the exhaustion that comes from being a new parent. I was just glad to be out of the house, and for a few moments, not holding a baby. And it was ruined.

Incidentally, this guy who nudged me out of his way was also the same guy (that guy) who stood up during the panel discussion q&a and stated that he wasn't a racist, and why don't black people take back their communities, poverty is so sad, if you tried harder you'd be able to overcome, blah, blah, blah (sorry - hyperbolic paraphrasing in effect).

Anyway - after stewing about it, I happened to run into the guy again coming out of the bathroom. I couldn't take it, I had to say something. Maybe because I was holding my daughter in my arms, and I couldn't bear the idea of not standing up for myself when she was watching. So I did.

"Excuse me - earlier, waiting in line for the food, you pushed me out of the way so you could get to [Radio Dude], and I really didn't appreciate that."

(Smiling, fumbling over words)"Oh - I'm sorry - I didn't mean anything by it."

I don't remember what I said after that. Nothing particularly dynamic or scathing. I remember thinking 'That's a fuckin' weak apology - I don't care what you meant by it, you're an asshole.' I remember feeling like he was less interested in expressing contrition and more interested in getting back to the party. I definitely remember still being pissed.

But I'll tell ya, I did feel better than if I hadn't said anything at all.

Thanks for your post, Laina (I think you've inspired me to write 'Me and White Guys, Pt. 2).


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