Interpersonal Relationships: Space Entitlement
I Recently read a blog post shared by someone on FB about the issues black women have when It comes to “sharing our space”. I meant to take screenshots of what I was reading and save the page but got distracted and lost it and couldn’t get it back for the life of me. BUT what I read resonated with me in a way I could not ignore. In summation, the post author described a situation where she was in an airport and another black woman tried to quickly move past her on a moving escalator. The woman asked to be let through, and the author quickly moved aside and let her pass. However, when the hurried woman got behind a white gentleman who was clearly standing in the way, she stopped. She did not ask him to step aside and he did not move for her. He KNEW someone was in a rush behind him. He KNEW he was in the way. He did not care. And the lady simply accepted it. She just waited until the moving walkway had come to an end and continued rushing on her way. Why do we do this? Why do we allow certain people, white/black; men/women to control our personal space and comfort? And why do they feel they have that right?
No hello, good morning, anything. Just come in demanding whatever it is they need or want done.
When I speak of control, I mean figurative and literal. And I have had experience with both. I have been in public places and large crowds, waiting for something to be served and have been overlooked or ignored more times than I can count. It could be a combination of things. For one, I’m barely 5’0. I’m not outspoken at all in person, and I’m a black woman. The last part I do not use as a crutch, excuse, or social “handicap”. But others treat it as such. Because I am not “loud”, demanding, or full of attitude as they expect, I tend to get brushed over. Not just in social situations but at work, amongst family, and in past relationships, both romantic and friendships. I have had people (black and white; men and women) snatch seats away from me at bars, cut in front of me, or ignore me when asking for service. And yes, most of those times are on purpose. There are times where my space is invaded with no permission such as reaching over me when they had a clear path to reach another way. And physically (not forcefully but still) moved to the side by a man MANY times in clubs, bars, or crowded areas.
I also have issues with people getting too close to my “3-foot bubble” at work. I work at a front desk at a busy swanky nursing facility as my day job. I meet all kind of people. And it never fails that daily someone oversteps the boundaries by touching me, grabbing my arm, or leaning all the way over my desk (which, by the way, is rude as hell, please don’t do that to people in an office). I have had people come up to the desk and not even acknowledge my presence as a human being. No hello, good morning, anything. Just come in demanding whatever it is they need or want to be done. This includes residents, clients, supervisors, and coworkers. OR they will have conversations in my presence and not acknowledge or include me at all. It is mainly men and white women who do this but there have been times that it has happened with black people as well. Those who believe I have nothing to contribute to their conversation because of social class or profession. A simple hello to someone at a desk is somehow beneath them.
WHY should I have to do that?
Thinking back to the incident described by the blog writer and other incidents I have witnessed and experienced on my own, it is not my imagination that this a thing. Especially between white/black people; men/women; and upper/lower class. I believe it is a conscious (or unconscious) feeling of entitlement and ownership. Certain people feel that they are entitled to everything around them including other people and their spaces. Or that other people are not worth the respect of their time or consideration. Race and class most certainly play a part and it is not my imagination. I do little experiments sometimes for my own amusement. I am on the phone A LOT at work and purposefully answer the phone in my “white voice” to see what responses I get. Believe me, it changes things. I have also answered or responded to conversations with a slight sista girl attitude. Amazingly it is met with respect from some who would have otherwise treated me differently had I been my laid-back docile self. Which sucks. While I DO realize different situations call for a different version of me, WHY should I have to do that? Why should anyone? Which leaves me to wonder if much of our need for counseling, therapy, issues with depression, anxiety and a host of other issues are due to having to fight daily to be respected due to lack of control of our physical, social, and mental spaces?
Most of the reason why certain classes or races of people have the entitlement of space issue is obvious. Black/White: stems from slavery of course. Simply put they owned us. We were property. They Controlled their property. Rights where? What is personal space to people who had to share cabins with 20 other family members? And of course, men/women: Power, strength, Control. Class: Control over goods/finances. See a theme here? Control. We as humans are so immersed with controlling everything around us, we infringe on the right of another human being to make sure WE have the upper hand. In any situation. Because control makes you feel good. Makes you feel important. I believe that’s why social media has become the giant that it has. You can control how people see you. Everything people see about you is orchestrated just as you wish. From how you look to how you live. You get to omit all the little ugly details about your personal and physical life. The more you control how others see you, the more you can control how others treat you. And “real life” mirrors the same. To control one's space, physically or socially, is to have power over them, no matter how subtle. But to have control over your own space gives you the ability to have power over yourself. However uncomfortable as it may be... Never let someone be entitled to YOUR space. Physical, mental, or social. Rest and Live in Power.