It's after midnight and I'm standing on the Q train platform waiting for my train to arrive. I've just gotten off of work and I am tired. Dead tired. I just want to go home and get into bed. I have my headphones in and I'm playing TwoDots on my iPhone. I look up as the train is approaching and notice that I'm being stared at by a woman dressed in all black, carrying a purse. She also has on headphones and seems to be doing something on her phone. The only difference between the two of us is she's a White female and I'm a Black male. I look up long enough to make eye contact with her. Instead of looking away, she continues to stare.
At first I think, maybe she's looking past me. I turn to see that there is no one standing behind me. So, awkwardly I give a slight smile just as the train doors open. She doesn't smile back, but she still stares at me. I walk into the train and take a seat. I stop thinking about it. It's a Saturday Night in New York City and I'm headed to Brooklyn, so naturally the train is practically empty. No one is going downtown or to Brooklyn at this time of night on a Saturday. The party is in The City or somewhere uptown.
I'm glued to my phone again. The train stops just as we're about to go above ground and cross the Manhattan bridge headed towards Brooklyn. I look up to see what's going on. That's when I notice that the same woman is standing directly across from me. There are plenty of open seats in this car, yet she stands. This time she isn't just staring at me, she is glaring. Giving me a look I can't even quite describe. I'm not able to tell if this woman wants to f*ck or fight me. I'm a little uncomfortable so I look back down.
I pause the song I'm listening to as the train dispatcher's voice echoes through the train car, "We are being held momentarily due to train traffic." Yeah, right. I roll my eyes and start my song over.
We're moving. I look up as we come above ground. I got service!
I look across from me and there she is, still looking at me. By this point I'm annoyed. What are you looking at? What is it? What can I help you with? I pull my phone so I can slyly look at my reflection. Is there something on my face? No, everything is fine. I put my phone back down and she is still staring. Why?
The train finally gets to my stop. Anxious to get away from this woman, I stand as the train is slowing down and head for the train doors. She comes and stands close behind me. The train comes to a halting stop and the doors fly open. Before I can even step foot off the train the woman brushes past me and begins to walk ahead of me headed for the stairs.
F*ck, we're headed in the same direction.
She turns to see how far I am behind her, grabs the purse that hangs off her shoulders, clutches it to her chest, then turns back around. Really? You couldn't even be more subtle about it? I think: Does this White woman feel threatened by me? Oh, girl.
Almost instantly I'm replaying the entire situation in my head, trying to pinpoint the moment when I could have unintentionally intimidated this woman. My blood begins to boil. This woman spent the last forty-five minutes staring at me, mean mugging me, watching my every move and has the audacity to be the one to feel threatened?? What do I do? Do I snatch this woman's purse out of spite? Should I approach this woman and use this as a teachable moment? Do I walk past her and say, "F*ck you, b***h!"
I turn my music up, put my phone in my pocket and tighten my belt as I prepare to speed walk past her. I say nothing, I don't even look in her direction. In fact the rest of the night I find myself avoiding people in general, trying not to ignite fear in them. Walking down the street headed home I see a couple on the sidewalk coming towards me. I cross the street. I see a woman waiting at a light, wanting to cross the intersection. I jay walk across the street so I won't have to be near her. I'm embarrassed and I can't really figure out why. I'm suddenly ashamed and I just want to hide.
A piece of me wishes I could have spoken to that woman and told her exactly how wrong she was. I wish I could have talked to her, if even for just a second and explained how in this world we're living in she 'wins' just because she's White. Her White privilege alone will be able to open hundreds of doors that I and people like me will have to fight and kick down, and me and no other Black male will be able to snatch that from her. I will probably never see this woman again. Still, I hope someday she realizes that I and any other Black Man are not the people she should be afraid of. We are not the ones who have raped, killed, and stolen everything this country is built on.
In fact, I hope she someday realizes that cutting herself off from people simply because of how they look will do much more damage to herself than anyone else could ever do to her because she'll be missing out on building relationships with great people. Loving people.
But whatever, lady.