MICHAEL stands in the middle of a paper craft store in Flatiron. He’s wearing a tan sweater with a zip collar, black Dockers, and seafoam sneakers. He furiously types up personal musings about Kim Kardashian on his phone. He looks like a regular guy. He’s also black. But really he’s just a regular person. Looking at him, you wouldn’t be able to tell he was an Account Executive for a start up. You wouldn’t be able to tellif he hated or loved his job. In fact, you wouldn’t be able to tell anything about him. Other than he’s a guy who has been writing something furiously into his phone.
A MIDDLE AGED WOMAN walks in holding some bags. She is white, but it’s okay. She’s wearing a large fur coat. And sweatpants. Another white person in a paper craft store. Michael almost doesn’t see her. But she sees him as she passes three women and one man. We will call her SUZANNE. She smiles.
Michael raises his eyebrow. He does not know this woman, and she is distracting him, but whatever, she’s an elder and she said hi.
Michael: … Hello.
Suzanne: You work here? Right?
Michael is sent into a rage, but the AVG Anti-racism in his brain flags it and his microagression defense contains the righteous fury brewing in his bones.
Michael: Um. No.
Suzanne feels awkward. Her eyes dart. Her soul flies out of her body.
Suzanne: Oh… I thought you worked here. You look like you work here. Where can I find…
I left immediately, because in that moment, I’d rather be at work. This was a perfect microagression because in her brain her assumption was innocuous. And it’s not something I can react to without looking like a crazy person, or a psycho bleeding heart liberal media brainwashed PC policeman, or an elitist myself.
But I do wish I asked her one thing.
Michael: Oh? I look like I work here? Why’s that?
I doubt it really had anything to do with my utterly forgettable outfit.