Who doesn’t love Questlove?
In the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict Saturday night, it seems everyone has weighed in with an opinion about the controversial case. In a column for the Huffington Post, the Roots drummer Questlove opened up about his own feelings about the decision, and related it to his experiences as “exotic-looking me (6’2”, 300 pounds, uncivilized afro for starters) [who] finds himself in places that people that look like me aren’t normally found.”
In the lengthy essay (which you should really go read in its entirety!) he discusses how it’s a “crazy way to live” to always be trained to defer to others, and constantly be worrying about making others uncomfortable with your presence. “In the beginning (let’s say 2002 when the gates of ‘Hey, Ahmir, would you like to come to [name swanky elitist place]?’ opened), initially I’d say ‘no’ – mostly because it’s been hammered in my DNA to not ‘rock the boat’ – which, since I wanna keep it real, means not make ‘certain people’ feel uncomfortable.”
Questlove then sets up a story that happened to him recently. He explains he lives in a “nice building,” and assumed that because it was so exclusive to live there, once inside people (other residents) wouldn’t be afraid of him. He sadly then explained how he was wrong:
“So one night I get in elevator and just as the door closes this beautiful woman gets on. Because of a pain in the arse FOB card device you have to use to get to your floor, it just makes it an easier protocol for whoever is pressing floors to take everyone’s request like you are at the window of a drive-thru (“What floor?” “54…..82…….43……76……”). So I press my floor number and I ask her, “What floor, ma’am?” (Yes, I say ma’am because… *sigh* anyway…) She says nothing. Stands in the corner. Mind you, I just discovered the Candy Crush app so if anything, I’m the rude one cause I’m more obsessed with winning this particular board than anything else. Plus in my head: “No way I can be a threat to a woman this fine if I’m buried deep in this game – so surely she feels safe.” So the humor comes in that I thought she was on my floor cause she never acknowledged my floor request. … So door opens and I flirt, “Ladies first.” She says, “This is not my floor.” So then I assume she is FOB-less (food delivery people often get wrong floors and we press them to right floors), so I pulled my card out, assuming she didn’t live in the building, to press her floor yet again. She offers, ‘That’s okay.’ Then it hit me: “Oh God, she purposely held that information back. The door closed but it was a “pie-in-the-face” moment.”
He then opened up about how that moment hurt him, and when he explained it to a friend they were fairly dismissive (but recently apologized).
Questlove concludes that when people are dismissive about his feelings in racially-charged situations like that, the message he gets is that he doesn’t matter. “Because… my feelings don’t… count.” He explains that – like with the friend apology – post-Zimmerman verdict, he’s experiencing people being more sensitive, but he isn’t sure where to go from here. “I don’t know how to not internalize the overall message this whole Trayvon case has taught me: You ain’t sh-t. That’s the lesson I take from this case. You ain’t sh-t. Those words are deep ‘cause these are words I heard my whole life.”