Most of you know me as Taylar and from my writings you might remember that my nickname was “Cookie” growing-up. In fact to family and some old school friends I am still Cookie—just look at my Facebook page. Before I was blessed with the name of Cookie, I was “Sugar Cookie”. Sugary sweet in looks and silence. I was not a baby that ever cried. Then I learned to speak and though I have no memory of ever being called Sugar Cookie, the stories of how I changed to just plain old Cookie are forever etched in my soul memory.
My mother, Claudia, if given the opportunity to this day will say, “Thas why you ain’t Suga Cookie. ‘Cause you mean.” I do not give her these opportunities any more. My brothers tell me this as well. The younger one can go to hell, but my older brother he loves to tell the story and remind me in heated discussions, “See. You ain’t sweet. You just Cookie and you don’t know when to shut up. That’s why Ma always was beatin’ you.”
Outside of my family growing up, I do not have many memories of people telling me to shut-up. The foster homes I lived in were not always the best, but no one really said, “Shut-up Cookie.” Mostly it was, “You just don’t know when to stop.” In high school I had an ongoing battle with my chemistry teacher. I was the only black student during that particular class, and in total I think there were only three black students in all of her chemistry classes combined. Ms. O’Neil was her name and she loved to make me go to the black board after a test and demonstrate the problems I had gotten wrong. I told her she was wicked and old and she needed to give up teaching.
Then it came time for our referrals for the following year’s courses. Each teacher had to sign off on what course the student wanted to take. I had no issues with any of my teachers moving on to AP and GT courses. When it was time for my class with Ms. O’Neil, she called us up one by one according to last name and announced that she was agreeing or not agreeing to our choices. I had selected physics, although I did not need any further sciences for my advanced diploma. When I handed Ms. O’Neill my slip for the next year, she laughed and announced to the class, “I wouldn’t even recommend you for Earth and Space.” Earth and Space was the remedial course for Earth Science. I looked at her and said very loudly, “You old racist bat. I don’t need your damn approval. The committee will decide.” She turned so red and slapped her hand on the desk and replied, “Shut-up. Just Shut-up.” And I smirked at her—a look that often caused my mother to threaten, “Someday somebody gonna knock that smirk off yo face (still smirking and standing I am)—and said, “Your old. You’re racist and I hope you have a heart attack.”
Then I walked out of her class. I was placed in another chemistry class for the remainder of the year. However, right after that quarter’s grades came out and they counted her F (she was the chair of the science department) against the A I had received from the new class I ended up with a C and I was livid. I raged through the halls announcing, “I hope that old bitch has a heart attack.” This was on a Friday. The following Monday we were told that Ms. O’Neill had suffered a massive heart attack and would be retiring. I smirked. One of my friends told me I was scary.
Life went on and it seems that my inability to “Keep my mouf shut,” followed me. By the time my son was three he was in pre-school part-time and sadly he had heard plenty of arguments between his father and me. One day I was explaining to my now EX-husband (of 17 years), that I was tired of the racism from his family that came and went and that they were no longer welcome to phone our home and there would be no more visits until we dealt with the issues appropriately. In fact I yelled, “I will not participate in perpetuating racism in my own home. I don’t give a fuck who is doing it.” He yelled back, “Just shut-up Taylar. Shut-up! Shut-up!” Before I could respond, out pops our son from his room, “We don’t say shut-up. We say be quiet” Then he grabbed my hand for confirmation and his father said, “That’s right we don’t say shut-up.”
In prison it was the same thing, because I do not know how to be silent in the face of injustice. If I saw an officer yelling or mocking fellow inmates, I would just walk by and remind the air of how staff had rules of engagement just like we inmates. Oh there were constant shit shows with me and officers yelling, “Nuevelle! Nuevelle! Shut-up and mind your business.” I would smirk and say, “Following the policies and procedures of the BOP is my business.” Other times I would become my three-year-old son and say, “Pardon me, but we don’t say shut-up, we say be quiet.” I received so many incident reports for “Insubordination, “ and “Interfering with the safe running of the facility.” I was once even written up for, “Attempting to start a riot.” That’s not even a code. As I unpack I have come across all of my “Shots” (incident reports) and my responses to them. I never lost one good day, so that tells you something about the authenticity of the accusations. Yet, I lost so much more and the trauma from the fight of surviving prison lives deep inside of me. But I never shut-up.
Recently, someone did something so humiliating and emotionally abusive to me in front of others, and I sat quietly and spoke very little. There are so many ways to tell a person to shut-up—and lies are one way. This person lied and attempted to trigger my mental health struggles as this individual knows me well. I wanted to rage, but I could hear the Universe telling me, “Shh. Just be quiet.” Then this person went even further and attempted to abuse me further with more mendacity and I became enraged and wanted to take to my computer and scream in writing the lies, hurt and backstabbing. Yet, I heard a whisper, to just be still and quiet.
While I do not want to be sugary sweet because I am being silenced, neither do I want to be spitting out bile.
Here is what I’m learning, when the time is right I will be quiet. At other times I will not shut-up. When I have the space and support then I am able to hear and be still and then the time will come that I will stand up and speak-up and I will not Shut-Up. I’m still standing and smirking. If you get it in your head to tell me to “Shut-up,” take a look at my smirk and worry, I have stories to tell and evidence to back it up. Do not get to comfortable with the fact that I have chosen to be quiet.