CNN has elicited stories of unconscious bias for its upcoming special “Unconscious Bias: Facing the Realities of Racism,” to be shown at 10pm on Sunday June 7, 2020. Below is my story. By the time I presented the story it became clear there is conscious bias against the fact melanin is worth more than gold. Presenting that angle to my story probably eliminated me from consideration for their program. Should it air without my involvement the story will still find life in cyberspace anyway.
To answer the question: Yes!!! Absolutely!!! I don’t know if what I experienced was unconscious or not but it was definitely bias. I will never forget that day. It was early spring. I had just finished thumbing through twenty 100 dollar bills I had in my pocket to tip the valet who parked my dream car, a burgundy 1977 Datsun 280z. As I turned to face the then brand spanking new Hyatt Regency Bethesda I saw a friend who was and still is a fashion model coming out of the building. He was with another man. They were coming from a fashion shoot. I told him I was there to provide a service for the hotel on behalf of my employer. As we parted he told me I was “cleaner than a Philadelphia lawyer.”
I had never heard that phrase before. For him to give me that kind of compliment lifted me higher than I already was that morning. I had a good job, made good money, and was good at what I did. I even knew the solution to the problem that morning as soon as I got the service call.
Walking up to the concierge, I told her my mission. She directed me to the elevator directly behind where she sat. I was to take the elevator to the third floor. When I got off turn right. Then left and the office would be down the hall on my left.
Doing as instructed I waited for the elevator to open. When it did a woman was revealed inside. I really didn’t pay much attention to her other than that she was older and “white” with a coat on. What she did next gave me a feeling I will never forget.
As I entered the elevator still glowing from my friend’s compliment she tugged her purse to the side as though trying to prevent a purse snatching. The effect was similar to me falling through the floor.
It took five years before I realized what led to my downfall. That is how much time passed for me to hit rock bottom and get reasonably back where I was before. Then I realized what happened was not my fault. The woman on the elevator did not notice my designer clothes. She did not know I had just valet parked my dream car. She did not know my friend had just anointed me cleaner than a Philadelphia lawyer before she saw me. She did not know I was there to provide a service no one else in the DC Metro area employed by my employer was qualified to provide. She did not know I had twenty 100 dollar bills in my pocket. I might have had more money in my pocket than she had.
I don’t know if she was conscious of what she did. I do know how it made me feel. I don’t think she knew that either.
Now comes the bad part. I’m pretty sure this will eliminate me from consideration for CNN using my story. I have written a book entitled “Melanin Is Worth More Than Gold.” It talks about something I have yet to hear mentioned in the mainstream media. I am almost certain the bias restricting news of melanin being worth more than gold is more than “unconscious” bias.
I mention that because I believe healing, what I call in Swahili Mchakato Wa Uponyaji, will come as people of melanin world wide come to know themselves. Sadly, that may be painful to some people. That is unfortunate. It has been well over 124 years since Abel and Davis first determined the chemical in the ink of Sepia Officinalis, the common cuttlefish, is in the hair, skin and eyes of human beings, among other places.
During March 2014 a series of statements and questions occurred to me regarding the value of melanin. A then new friend of mine and I were preparing to conduct a sacred libation ceremony in honor of the 154 African-American women and girls who were lynched in America. Reflecting on the idea those lynchings not only could happen, but most people not know they happened caused me to realize it was because of melanin that they were lynched and their lynchings overlooked.
Seeking to answer the questions “does melanin have a dollar value?” and “what is the dollar value of melanin? triggered an urgent need to know the answers. When the answer came, melanin was worth $353 a gram. That seemed to trigger another question: “But what does that mean?”
A few days later another friend who I told the above factoid responded with yet another question: “How much is that compared to coltan?” Not knowing what to make of the seemingly innocuous query and respecting the wisdom of my elder I sought an answer. When it came, my sense of disillusionment only seemed to expand.
I fully expected melanin to be worth less than coltan. So, imagine my surprise when I learned melanin was worth over $350 a gram more than coltan. That caused me to question my figures and seek to resolve the conflict with a comparison to gold. Upon seeing melanin was worth over $300 a gram more than gold only compounded my sense of disorientation. Comparisons to silver, platinum, palladium, and rhodium to verify melanin was worth more than all of them combined intensified the feelings.
Now I consider submitting the story of unconscious bias to be an exercise in accumulating experiences. It is an effort on the part of people who see themselves as not having “unconscious bias” to position themselves as allies with those of us who have had to endure such microaggressions. Consider this story a test of whether the support for us is genuine or insincere.
I await your response.