Two Racist White Men Harassed Me on a Walk. And Then This Happened…

Two Racist White Men Harassed Me on a Walk. And Then This Happened… November 24, 2018

Photo credit: Pixabay

“Ni**er with the straight hair! Ni**er with the straight hair!”
He kept yelling, trying to get my attention.

I refused to turn and recognize him. After all, that’s not my name.
So he crowed even louder.

“Ni**er with the straight hair! Ni**er with the straight hair!”
I could even hear the amusement in his voice.

The man sat in the passenger side of the truck, as it cruised alongside me on the street.
As I kept walking on the sidewalk, I used my peripheral vision to keep tabs of the situation.

I considered my safety.
I wanted to get home to my family.
I wanted to see my husband and son.
They sped away.
I was leaving a park in what often has been deemed a “good” part of town—a “nice area” that’s “clean.”

Good.
Nice.
Clean.

I have learned that sometimes these are code words for spaces where predominantly White people dwell.
But not just any kind of White, mind you. I’m talking about middle class or affluent White people.
And situations like this one didn’t happen in this Midwestern, more evolved community—A locale where people don’t even see race.

*Cue the heavenly chorus*

On this day, a couple of millennial White men saw race.

After they left, my mind traveled to the story of these men’s lives… how people possibly allowed these men to live like this… they married these men… they spent with these men… they worked with these men… they broke bread with these men… Went to church with them…

I imagined how certain people might defend them if they were challenged on other racially problematic words or actions:

“Maybe, they misspoke.”
“They really aren’t bad people.”

“It was a mistake in judgment.”
“They aren’t racist.”

“Stop pulling the race card.”
“You’re being divisive.”

“I’ve never had a problem with them.”

I didn’t get the memo that walking from a park located north of the Mason-Dixon line caused racial divisiveness.
Nevertheless, I felt sorry for these men.

The only way they could feel a sense of importance in life was to harass a Black woman walking down the street. The only thing they had going for their fragile White masculine ego was their sense of racial entitlement. They needed to have it reaffirmed because the only way they could feel special was to keep a sense of racial hierarchy in their minds. I pitied them and still do.

On the next day, I returned to the park. I wouldn’t let ignorance and hate change my plans. I kept my hair the same, too, because I change it when I want to. And, I didn’t want to. Besides, these men projected their own race and gender fragility onto me.

I laughed within, as I thought about how they assumed their race granted them authority in my life.
As I enjoyed my walk, an older White man, at least in his 70s, walked toward me on the opposite side of the path.
“Excuse me,” he beamed as he attempted to get my attention before he passed by me. “You look beautiful, and that hairstyle is lovely on you.”

“Thank you,” I responded, while thinking, “God, what are you trying to show me?”

As I walked and pondered these two moments in two days, initially, these incidents disrupted the notion that the older generation possesses the racial issues, while the younger generation doesn’t have racial hang-ups.

On the contrary, I think the incidents suggest that racial progress is not a matter of age, but progression by how we choose to think and live. Contrary to popular opinion, we can be younger and backward as well as older and innovative.

Secondly, I thought about how often we give more attention to White people who choose to emphasize hate or the ones who refuse to grow outside their own racial bubbles while ignoring all the White people who want to walk in love and to grow.

Isn’t that life, at times, allowing the little bad to draw our attention away from all of the good going for us?
What if I had chosen only to tell you about the younger White men because that consumed my thinking and completely ignored what happened with the older White man? What about all of the other White people who smiled, greeted me, or just went along their way, not thinking about a need to call me a racial slur?

Instead of choosing to dwell on the racist incident and allowing myself only to see the pervasiveness of racism, I decided to remain hopeful about societal progress because I magnified in my thoughts those across race who pour goodness into the world.

I am reminded of the importance to strive still to make this world better and, equally as necessary, give credit to where it’s due along the way.


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