What Happened When A White Man Questioned Me For Wearing Patagonia

by Tiffany Bey

I am a 21-year-old black female senior who attends Ohio University.

It was just a regular Saturday night at school, when me and my friends decided to go out. This was the usual for us. Go to school, do homework, and go out. Repeat. There's really nothing else to do in little Athens County.

I was out at a bar a few weeks ago one night out drinking with my friends, and I overheard two white men whispering to each other. One said, "That black girl has on a Patagonia fleece, I didn't know black people wore those," and they began to laugh.

At first when I heard that statement, I didn't know if it was the cranberry vodkas settling in my system and I was imagining them saying this, or if he really had the audacity to say it in front of me. I soon realized it was definitely real.

The "angry black woman" stereotype was two seconds away from coming out of me, so I calmed down, and politely turned around and confronted the two men.

I asked, "Why is it so crazy that I'm wearing a Patagonia?" One guy appeared shocked I said something, and eventually responded: "I just didn't know black people hiked, that's all."

What does that even mean?!

I told him he was racist bigot, and that I could wear whatever the hell I wanted to wear. Then my roommate went up to him and told him to leave us alone and to stop making racist comments and we walked away.

I didn't know black people hiked.

We discussed how being black in America is really a scary thing at times.

The stereotype that black people don't like the outdoors is false. Maybe some don't and maybe some do, but some white people don't like going outside either. What was the point of saying that statement to begin with?

First of all, Patagonia fleeces are not just for hiking purposes; they can be worn whenever and wherever, regardless of what their brand represents.

Of course right after that situation, I was thinking, well, do all white people look at me that way or talk about me when I wear it? Then I had to realize, I like the sweater because I like the way it feels and the way it looks on me.

I also talked to my mother and friends about it and everyone told me that I don't need to second guess what I wear  just because two ignorant white privileged males made a comment about me.

Life can be hard to deal with when you're so commonly stereotyped. Granted, I go to a predominantly white institute (PWI), so maybe they weren't used to seeing a black girl in a Patagonia, but the point is, why does it matter?

Sadly, this was not my first racial experience at my university, so when it happened, I was honestly not that surprised.

Although racist comments have been made about me to my face and around me, I've never felt worried or shaken by it. I'm very comfortable with my blackness and my identity, and to be black, you have to have thick skin, so it bothered me, but it didn't ruin my night.

To be black, you have to have thick skin.

Patagonia was not made for white people only. In addition, Patagonia isn't a cheap brand, so I also felt that he was shocked that I was able to afford such clothing.

It just got me thinking, there's really no reason to make these kinds of judgments on people without knowing them.

Here are five things to think about before you let judging someone be your first instinct:

Stop and think.

Think about what you're going to say before you say it. Is it nice? Is it true? Do you even know this person for you to judge them? Is it appropriate to say in front of that person's face?

You don't know it, but what you say can affect a person for the rest of their lives.

Would you want to be stereotyped?

Clothes are for everybody.

You wouldn't, so why do it to another person? Just because you're used to seeing a certain group wear an article of clothing doesn't mean you need to be in complete shock that a person you've never seen before is wearing it. Clothes are for everybody.

Is it necessary?

I bet that you making a racist comment is not doing anything beneficial to your life, so just save yourself some time and breath and don't say anything.

The saying, "if you don't have anything nice at all to say, don't say it at all" is so useful at times like this.

Put your family in their shoes.

If someone didn't know your sister, brother, cousin, mother, father or whoever you love and care about, wouldn't you be pissed off if a total stranger is judging them just based off of a material thing as little as clothing?

Better yet, if the person is judging them because of the color of their skin?

Mind your business.

You don't know somebody's story or background based on looking at their appearance. You can assume what you want, because you have that right to do that, but again, it doesn't have anything to do with you, so why even look deep into something that really doesn't even matter?

It's so sad to me that it is almost 2017, and people still feel the need to make racist comments. If you see something that is different than what you're used to, instead of making an assumption, try to look at the bigger picture.

What was said about me shows me that we, as a nation, have so much more work to do.

In light of everything that has happened this year, I think we need to come together as a nation and love one another, rather then finding a small excuse to not like a person.

No matter our skin color, we are all human beings and we all deserve the same amount of respect.

I have three Patagonia fleeces, and I'm asking for another one for Christmas.

I'll wear them with my head held high.