Hey there, Jen. My name is Pia. I’m a Black woman, but I don’t want you to be scared. I write for xoJane too, among other things. I am not inexperienced with having my words infuriate others, and NONE of us is immune to it. Still…just like you were sharing an experience on this site yesterday, I’m going to share one now too; my experience of reading your piece.
Your essay about your emotional crisis triggered by the presence of a “heavyset Black woman” in your yoga class was pretty tough for me to read. You may not even be aware of the level to which you dehumanized the Unnamed Black Woman behind you. You see, unless you are an FBI profiler trained in reading facial expressions, there’s a chance you imagined her “panic and despair.”
You crossed every line from describing your experience into assuming hers, despite having had absolutely no direct contact with her. Unless you have some sort of futuristic closed-captioning software in your brain, you took every liberty in identifying her thought process and went above and beyond by declaring yourself the victim of her obvious-in-your-mind “resentment and contempt.”
I could never quarrel with your experiences. They may be different from mine, but I respect that they are yours. What I do have trouble respecting are the experiences of Unnamed Black Woman as written by you because with no word from her they are wild conjecture at best and pure fiction at worst — and if you want to write fiction about Black women's psyches, go submit it elsewhere and I wish you the best of luck.
Nary a verb nor a noun in what you wrote indicates for certain that she was as obsessed with you as you are, but hey, let's say that she was! So here you are in YOUR yoga class at YOUR studio, when in walks an interloper who is (in the scenario we're imagining) roasting in a bubbling moat of her inferiority and close to drowning in her hatred of her own body and pure jealousy of yours. She is attacking you, non-verbally but loudly nonetheless, and OF COURSE such a direct attack would warrant a response, right?
Sure, you did mention the thought of talking to her, saying “If I asked her to articulate her experience to me so I could just listen, would she be at all interested in telling me about it?” …Well, why didn’t you? Not that she or I or anyone really owes you a conversation to help you understand your discomfort with a Black woman, but why not give human interaction a try anyway? Instead, the next things you describe are more of your existential ponderings and then your tears. If you were having so many thoughts about Unnamed Black Woman in Your Yoga Class, why not make direct contact?
Could it be that the music started playing during the speech and you froze oh no wait, sorry, I was confusing you with Macklemore, who said those words in an apologetic text message to Kendrick Lamar after winning four Grammy awards on Sunday, two in categories where Lamar was highly favored to win. We know of the text because Macklemore shared it publicly on Instagram.