Ex Fabula Fellow Nakia Hood has shared this true story at Ex Fabula Fellowship events in Whitefish Bay, the East Side and downtown.
Picture a bright sunny, Milwaukee day — you know, that time of the year when we’re proud to live in Wisconsin because it feels nice out and we don’t have to worry about the snow? Well on one of those nice and proud days, I’m driving to my in-laws’ house to pick up my furniture that I was storing in their garage. I called my friend, Delvyn, to meet me and help me move my dresser back to my house. We both arrive around the same time. This is in the area by the airport, a real nice neighborhood. I actually live about 10 minutes away.
As we pull up to my in-laws’ house, two older white women are walking their dogs and slowly passing. I thought they were kind of cute for their ages. I said “hi,” like I normally do when catching eye contact with people, due to my southern upbringing and they just looked at me without saying hi, bye or anything. And when they got farther down the street close to the corner they were looking back, staring at Delvyn and me while one of them was dialing and talking to someone on the other end.
I tried not to think too much of such a weird energy during our exchange with the ladies, and even asked Delvyn if he was hungry. He was, so we raided my in-laws’ refrigerator and scored some delightful Puerto Rican leftovers. After we consumed the chicken and well-seasoned rice, we load up my dresser and head towards my house. As I’m driving down the street, a police car is headed towards me in the opposite direction, but I notice when it passed me it made a sharp U-turn while its lights became brightly apparent. Delvyn was trailing me in his car, so after he assisted me at my home he could avoid going back to my in-laws’ to pick up his car.
Now the cop car that drove in between my car and Delvyn’s slams on his brakes to stop Delvyn’s car. While this is going on, a second squad car jumped the curve to get in front of the truck I’m driving and stop me as well. Both squad cars have two officers who get out with guns drawn on us both! They first tell us to put our hands on the dashboard so they can see them and then have us get out of our vehicles as they run our license and plates. They have us sit on the curb while they make sure everything checks out and that we didn’t break into any houses based off the anonymous call they received.
But this is not the story I want to tell. I want to talk about how when my birthday came around in June it was my goal to run a half marathon. So I started training in the dead of winter, but here is my dilemma about going out at night and running: I feel as if some type of post-traumatic stress disorder has affected me. So, I’m getting ready for my walk because I’m to out of shape and self conscious to actually run, plus I’m thinking it’s dark outside and I hope no white person thinks I’m trying to hurt them. Crazy thought, right? Before going out, I take my bicycle lights and wrap them around my belt loops. That way when white people see me they won’t look at me as a threat, so I think.
A part of me is thinking this is rather silly, but an array of emotions that lean towards the prospects of racism and prejudices are jockeying for position in my mind, on top of personal issues of feeling out of shape and having low self-esteem. A lot to think about when the goal is to go for a walk, right?
Here’s the part that helped add strength to my paranoia regarding how, white people see me when I’m out and about. While turning around to head back home, I’m passing a local toy store and a white lady comes out and we catch eye contact and she takes off into a full sprint to her car! My response is delayed out off pure shock that such a reaction is happening because she looked at me. So I make sure to continue to walk away from her and create distance while at the same time asking myself, “Why do I need to feel bad for the fear she has towards me, plus she doesn’t even know me.” But the other thought was, “Is she really sprinting out of fear of me”?
So, I turn around to see if it’s true or maybe my “PTSD” towards how white people want to harm me or think negative of me is totally wrong and has me thinking this lady is running from me. So when she got to her car and stopped to look at me before jumping into her vehicle she confirmed her fear of me. I walked home still surprised and shocked at the whole ordeal. Fast forward months after this situation occurred. This story not only has been told by me, but my 8-year-old daughter has been in the audience and heard it all.
So on a Monday morning I chase her to my car in a game of who can get to the car first and she won *wink wink*. Once we get into the car, the game is playfully pushed verbally in terms of bragging rights, until I ask her what would she have done if I had caught her before she got to the car. She responds jokingly that she would have called the police “like the women who thought you were stealing your dresser.” She confirmed she was only kidding, but I asked her “What should those ladies have done?”
She said, “They could have said hi when you said hi and if they thought you were stealing, they could have asked you. “I guess my thoughts on this matter are that I wish white people would be a little bit more like my daughter.