Afraid of; Afraid For

I went out for a walk this morning; just like any other morning.  This morning I had my earbuds in.  That is something I used to always do, but rarely do recently.  When I started out it was dark, but I wear a reflective vest.  I walked along a major road today; some days I do, some days I don't.  I was going downhill and I was going up.  I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have, when someone jogged past me on the right (being respectful of my space as best).  I was a little startled, but I was not afraid.

 Why should I have been afraid?  I am a short, somewhat overweight (I hate to say it), older (I really hate to say it), white woman.  He was a tall, lanky, young black man.  It never crossed my mind to be afraid.  But as I watched him jog up the hill, I WAS afraid; not of him, but for him.  He's a kid (in my old eyes).  He's wearing a red hoodie.  (It was a little chilly this morning.)  He's jogging/running.  It's no big deal.  But today is occurred to me that it MIGHT be a big deal.

 I'm a white woman.  When I go out walking in the morning and it is still a little dark out, I try to be hyper vigilant about what is going on around me.  I'm not worried about people; I'm mostly worried about animals. I've been startled by deer.  I'm nervous that I'll run into (literally) a skunk (I've come close).  I've seen fox and I keep an eye on them.  I keep an eye on traffic (although there is a lot less of that now).  Since the pandemic started I make an effort to say hello to everyone (because everyone needs some human contact).  But I've never been worried or scared just being out there walking.  And today it really hit me that wouldn't be the case if I weren't white.

 I see the police driving while I am walking.  Sometimes I wave.  I don't give them a second thought.  I'm sure they don't give me a second thought.  Why would they?  But that might not be the case if I wasn't who I was...if I wasn't white.

 My son has always liked to walk.  He's a bit unusual.  (If you know him; you know this is true.)  In the days of BC (that would be before Covid-19), he would walk to school around 7:15 in the morning.  He would walk home from school, sometimes as late as 6 or 7 if he was at play rehearsal.  (If it ran later, I picked him up; not because I was concerned about him walking but because he might have homework and the sooner I got him home, the sooner he could finish it.)  He walks to school almost like any other kid.  Usually in jeans and a t shirt.  Sometimes he wears a funky hat or jacket.  On the weekends he like to walk dressed to the nines.  Weekends are his time to put on a suit and tie.  To wear a hat:  a fedora or maybe a straw boater.  He might bring a walking stick.  He's not typical, but I've never worried about him.  I might have been a little concerned when he wore a dinner jacket to an evening football game, but I wasn't anxious or worried.  I know he isn't your typical kid, but I was never afraid.  I've never been scared.  That definitely would NOT be the case if he weren't white.

 I've been thinking about that more and more.   Every mother has her fears; how would mine be intensified if his skin was dark?  What would I have to teach him?  What would I have to tell him? What wouldn't I let my son do if he weren't white?  What would I have to forbid my son from doing if the color of his skin was different?

I've been thinking about these things all day.  I'll be thinking about them for a long time.

I'll admit that I was naive.  I thought "we" were better than that.  I was wrong.  I was told very frankly today by a friend how wrong I was.  How my different our realities are just because of the color of our skin. It saddened me; it sickened me.  And it awakened me.

I am awake.  I am aware.  I will watch and I will care.  I am one short, overweight, older, white woman.  You may be a tall, lanky, young black man.  We should be treated the same; I KNOW we are not.  This playing field is uneven; that's not fair.  It never has been.  But I will do what I can to make it so because you could be my son, my spouse, my friend.  For now you are a stranger; just another human being outside getting some exercise.  I will not forget you and I will never take my privilege and your RIGHTS for granted.  And I pray that some day (some day soon?) with love and preserverance that our playing field WILL be even.


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