|Me coming of age at 1977
I rarely make a point of sharing what its like to be black in a white world. Partly, because it's a simple fact that racism is something that all black people and other people of color face every day, everywhere to some greater or lesser degree. Also because I've been fortunate in my life for the simple fact that thanks to my parents, I was made aware of these blunt,distressing facts but also that I could move as far beyond the confined space that (white) society attempts to pigeon hole me into by force of will and a steely determination.
So thinking about the Trayvon Martin verdict and President Obama's words on the subject with his impromptu press conference stopped me dead in my tracks. Obama's statement that it could have been him is the same for me. His listing of just some of the humiliations black men face was so true and galling I had to say something about it instead of trying to rise above it all.
#1 Being followed in stores by security is a FACT of LIFE, even when you're the designer invited to show your collection for 3 days, have been advertized and even introduced to the staff. STILL FOLLOWED and asked degrading and obnoxious questions like," What are you looking for?".... and it comes not from a salesperson but security.
#2 Walking on the sidewalk behind white women who either clutch their purses and pick up the pace looking over their shoulders, or crossing over to the other side of the street. That is so common that I've become more uncomfortable knowing that reaction is likely to happen and cross the street myself just to avoid feeling that sting of being perceived as a threat and someone to be avoided. I'm tired of crossing the street and accommodating ignorance just to spare an idiot's sense of security and my own pride. FUCK THAT.
#3 The click of a car door's lock is a new one but one I experienced just last week. It galled me so much I was (almost) speechless. Coming out of my apt., (a brownstone on sunny Willow St. in Brooklyn Heights) carrying my luggage to head to the airport for a trip to Holland, I noticed a woman sitting in a parked SUV across the street watching me as I came down the stairs with my hands loaded with luggage, well dressed and obviously on my way somewhere. As I crossed to the sidewalk where her car was parked I passed in front of her car. At that moment I heard the loud clicks of the car door's locks. At first I didn't think anything of it and then realized, Oh, it's because of me. I saw people walking up ahead and a couple of guys on the other side walk and did the math. It was me that she was protecting herself from. I stopped , turned and looked straight at her tense face and said, " SERIOUSLY?". Then I mouthed, " FUCK YOU" and headed to the airport.