The word ‘bespoke’ recalls an earlier time. It reminds me of Shakespeare and clothing items such as doublets and slops. When one went to the haberdashery to bespeak himself a hat. Or when the satin trimmings on her dress bespoke wealth.
I prefer the definition- ‘suggest, or be evidence of.’
My glasses bespeak my poor vision.
My wedding band bespeaks my promise to my husband.
The small greasy hand prints on my upper thighs bespeak the presence of a tiny human, demanding my attention.
It’s a solemn word. I expect to see it in legalese rather than daily life. I could use it in a solemn statement such as, ‘my whiteness bespoke me a fool.’
Ten years ago, I had no proper understanding of institutional racism. My white privilege wasn’t something I could point to or even name. To me, it was simply the way of the world. Every time one of my black coworkers came to get me to speak for them, whether it was to another white person, who would accept no from someone of their own race… or even worse. They brought me to pose as the white supervisor to another black person. Surely, they would listen to the voice of white authority. I accepted this at the time, not as evidence of my whiteness, that protective power that allowed me to move through the world with more authority and more safety than my black, brown, and tan peers, but as evidence of my intelligence. I took it as evidence of my wonderful talent in the area of management and interpersonal skills. People came for me in moments of crisis because I was such a wonderful asset to have in these moments.
What a fool I was!
If I could go back in time to those moments, I would walk in with an awareness of the armor I wear. With an awareness of the power I wield.
I’d walk in with my accident of birth.