Updated: Feb 15, 2022
As I am writing this piece, I am two days out from a situation that set deep-seated fear in my soul. I debated sharing my story because it involves my family. I wish for them to be protected, but if I do not share my story, my lived experience, then who will it benefit? How will my silence of an event that impacted me help my family or my community – my Black community? How will keeping it to myself, my family, and a few close friends help people see that Black people are not safe? We are not at a post-racial point of history.
I want to share the joys of being Black, especially as we amplify our voices during Black History Month, but this is not happening on this day. Yes, I am proudly Black 24/7/365, and yet, no matter what day it may be, we still have injustices that permeate our lives daily. Our community lost another young Black man, Amir Locke, to police violence in Minneapolis. We are reeling from the uptick of suicides in our Black community, not just celebrities but everyday fold near daily.
One of the extracurricular activities that my eldest child takes part in has an ongoing fundraiser. The activity required picking up returnable bottles and cans from individuals and families for her team. On a day that she was not scheduled to participate, assistance was needed in that persons who were expected to do so did not show up. I happily volunteered to assist on my daughter’s behalf as she had another commitment on that day. As I was leaving the home of the first pick-up, I noticed a black SUV parked on the street. My first thought was that I was blocking the person from entering the driveway. I quickly placed the bags into the rear of my vehicle and left. As I was driving down the street, the SUV followed behind me. Initially, I did not think anything of it until I pulled up to my second stop and noticed the vehicle was still behind me. I found this odd because one would need to be deliberately in the area of this street, given the nature of how it was positioned. I slowed down and continued looking in my rearview window at the occupant in the SUV, but I did not stop because I needed confirmation, in the safest method, that I was being followed. My heart began racing, and the next thought that came into my head was Ahmaud Arbery, the young man who was gunned down for being a Black man jogging in an area where many who looked like him did not reside. George Zimmerman also came to mind when I looked at the face in my rearview mirror.
Every street I turned onto, the vehicle remained behind me – EVERY STREET. I was not in the mood to be the victim of vigilante justice. I was being a good parent and helping out my child’s team.
I was in a neighboring city, where over 93% of the residents do not look like me, a Black person. Specifically, as of 2021, 2.07% of residents were of two or more races, 2.07% were Asian, and 1.63% were Black or African American. Some may ask why I would go to an area where the number of Black residents was so low, and that is a great question. The answer is that I never felt threatened in that city. My family often drives through the city, go to their library, and visit friends who live there. It presented the feeling of being welcoming, except on that day. Just two days ago.
I thought I was safe in the area and others around me because I code-switched my vehicle so I could blend in. Yes, I code-switched my truck.
I have stickers from my one favorite international soccer league on my vehicle. I also have symbols of my favorite fandoms (Star Wars, LOTR, Doctor Who, Avengers, etc.) on my bumper. The significant visual is the sticker of the mascot of my eldest child’s school on my rear window because we have students from a few cities who pool into the area. My thought was that, indeed, this would be beneficial and keep me safe-ER. NOPE! That was not the case. Thankfully, I knew the area, so I drove until I reached one of the major streets, which would take me to their police station. After making that turn, the vehicle turned in the opposite direction then reentered the city via the next street.
Some may say, well, you are here, and you are fine. No, no, it is not fine, and I am not fine either!
It scared me out of my mind. After that ordeal, I sent a message to a team member and to the advisor/coach who was as shaken by the events as I was.
This issue comes upon the heels of a competition that my eldest is set to participate in a city that is 4.34% Black or African American races. A few reading this may comment that this is a better ratio than the city next to mine. However, the tournament is being held in a city that is historically known as a sundown town. My husband and I are already concerned about our child participating in the competition given their health challenges and the problems of potentially contracting the contagion presents.
Unfortunately, this is another chapter of Being Black while____________________ (fill in the blank). Yes, it’s in my backyard, and no, this is not the first time and sadly probably will not be the last time I encounter such. I know this: I was born Black. I will die Black. But I don’t want to die because I am Black. The sentiment runs true for my melanated brothers and sisters also.