Do Your Math | Opinion | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

"Do your math”

The calculations. Not homework but daily life work. If you’re paying attention, you do it sometimes. If you’re Brown, most days. If you’re Black, always. Every day or e’rydamnday.  

What’s the constant? It's white + supremacist + patriarchy (WSP).

The variable: you. Add or subtract points on how closely you connect to the constant. 

White: Add the most points for white. Also add points if you’re: white presenting, white adjacent, white passing. Points are reduced from zero to negative numbers the “further” from white you get on the WSP scale. 

Patriarchy: Cis heterosexual male — you get the most points. 

That’s the system we operate in, do your math.

Every encounter is burdened with this equation, and we may not even know it. We are not always aware of the count. The real trauma, the issue, the problem is you never know who is counting, you never know when the math is going to tip the scale against you.  

Something simple turns into a problem. Something innocuous done by a white man is death sentence if a Black man does the same thing.

The WSP tells a Black man to wear a suit, while a white man can wear a t-shirt and jeans — anywhere, all day, everywhere and be considered appropriate. The WSP tells the Black man in a suit that he is being “uppity and pretentious” and “who does he think he is?” The WSP tells the Black woman in a suit that she must be the flight attendant, security guard, or waitstaff because “I have never seen anyone that looks like you here.” 

The math tells the Black woman that her cornrow braids, glitter eyeshadow, and nail art is ghetto until a white woman does it — then it is fashion, edgy, and stylish. 

The WSP tells the white woman she is wearing something that can get her sexually assaulted. It tells the same woman how to dress, act, speak, think to attract a man because that is her reason for being. 

The math tells the Black woman she is not a woman. 

The WSP follows a Black person in a store and opens their bag. The WSP doesn’t see the white kids shoplifting. 

The WSP tells a Black person that wanting to be treated fairly is a “utopia” and it won’t “happen in your lifetime.” Which is basically like carrying a “go to jail for nothing” or “license to die at any time” card for the rest of your life. 

The WSP tells a Black person that they have to be humane, more humane than the inhumane person who is denying their humanity.  

The toxic beauty of this equation is that it could be or may be someone with only one connection to the constant, who attempts to curry favor and use the math against you, against themselves:

53 percent of white women voted for the current occupant of the White House.
And Chuck D told us back in 1990: “Every brother ain’t a brother 'cause of color.”
Now imagine a new equation. An equation that just includes one constant: Life.
So the math would go something like this: You’re alive. Add one point. 
That’s it, that’s the math.  

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