My husband, a mid-westerner mentioned that his friends were inviting us to Martha’s Vineyard for a week. I jumped at the opportunity to make the pilgrimage to the place where “Black folks” vacation every summer in August. How could any place that hosts our President annually not be cool?
I am an avid traveler who often needs a vacation from my vacation. I’m the girl who enjoys winter sports, climbs the great wall and explores the pyramids. As usual, my first stop was to check out Things To Do on Trip Advisor………….Hmmmmmm… Trip Advisor actually does not list anything to do on the island except the secret Back Door Donut shop and an African-American history tour. This was my first clue that this was not “my kind of vacation.” By the way, Back Door Donuts is worth the 25 minute wait in line at midnight. It was love at first bite.
I did not let Trip Advisor curb my enthusiasm. I was ready to vacation with America’s Black Middle Class. On the first day, our house mates (who were awesome) whisked me away for a girl’s afternoon at someone’s house. I was excited to start my vacation off meeting new women.
After an hour, I realized that I was actually being interviewed and sized up by the women there. “What does your husband do?” “How many kids do you have?” “Did you pledge?” “Do you belong to Jack and Jill?” “Are you a member of your local Links chapter?” They were trying to find a connection focused around my economic status.
Then the conversation really got interesting. I listened to women boast about how they will never give their husbands a divorce because they “paid their dues.” They bragged; we should simply move our husbands to another bedroom if infidelity arises in the relationship. Basically I was told to “stick it out by any means necessary!” I felt like I was transported back to 1960. After 45 minutes, I finally said “This all sounds so mediocre.” ……………………..Then the silent judgment began. I was not conforming and agreeing to the discussion.
Native to Los Angeles, I know we have our share of “flossers” and “Hollywood Wannabe’s,” but there is definitely a clear difference between east coast money and west coast money.
We brag on the west, but not with the intent to humiliate or belittle. After day three (3), I realized the purpose of going to the Vineyard was not because of the amazing beaches or hikes. It was not because there is an array of activities to keep you interested. It’s simply an overpriced vacation that comes with status and recognition. In fact, many of the women visit every year and never even go to the beach!
Oddly, my experience with these so-called wealthy Blacks, (I didn’t have a chance to check bank statements..LOL) was different than the truly wealthy blacks that I know from the west coast. I have relationships with several Black people who are, in fact, millionaires and have never felt like they had to put themselves in a separate category because of their wealth. (I know that Uncle Sam does this for them) Many of the people who I encountered at the Vineyard upheld the stereotype that Blacks on the east coast, think they are ‘better’ than Blacks on the west.
On the west we will wear sweats or athletic gear anywhere, even to a five-star restaurant. On the east, they wear the fanciest designer labels and brands to the beach or the picnic. They “stay ready.”
Black people spent years being looked down upon by Whites and now we are doing it to ourselves. For many years, our ancestors didn’t have access to education and opportunity. Now that we are doing well financially and professionally, we are looking down on each other.
I recognize that this letter is still a generalization and I don’t have any concrete facts to support my theory. I will tell you that my experience is truthful and I was generally disappointed with my experience there.
I quickly realized that my best memories from the Vineyard would be my T-shirt from the Black Dog.
Don’t get me wrong, Martha’s Vineyard is a beautiful sleepy town that is perfect for anyone looking to relax.
The next few days were followed by day parties and night parties. We ate, we drank and we ate and drank some more. Party after party, I found myself silenced as I tried to be “The Good Wife.” My type A personality did not fit in with these elite women. Honestly, I have read and heard about these experiences, but I honestly believed that a new day was upon us.
On our last day of house parties, we visited a home and I was honestly sick of the dialogue. I heard two women brag about how they are comfortable being perceived as “better than everyone else.” I decided to play Jenga (which had been sitting on the table for anyone to play) As I entertained myself with the game, the inevitable happened……The Jenga fell down. I swear to you that every woman in the room “clutched their imaginary pearls”
It was over. I had done so well until my last day and now my husband was embarrassed. I honestly did not care. I was tired of being silenced, tired of being judged and simply disappointed to know that as a whole; the Black community is still fragmented.
As they ushered me out of the party within 10 minutes of my Jenga incident, I realized that in the sea of brown faces, I was Black and they were African-American. Same color, just two different experiences.