On one of my first rides out with McKik, back when it was simply a leisure activity for me and not a way of life, we stopped at a Pilot in Lebanon Junction, KY. The idea was to grab showers and a good night’s sleep before dropping me back at the homestead for work that next week. Everything was going according to plan despite an earlier argument over something “trivial”, when on the way to the counter we passed a woman and what I can only assume were her four daughters. Two were teenage, one was preteen, the last an adolescent. McKik passed by without incident. When I passed by, however, the adolescent made the decision that it would be funny to blow a raspberry at my retreating back. Upon looking back at the group I took note of their expressions. The woman and older girls wore looks of horror and embarrassment. The younger had already turned her head and started giggling uncontrollably. I, already irritated by the trivial argument from before, immediately took a defensive stance and stormed out of the store leaving McKik standing clueless at the counter.
The group was “white”. I am “black”. You probably already know the conclusion I jumped to.
The “race card” is not generally one I throw around because, other than in joking reference, I rarely use my race as a personal identifier. I’m Angela, first and foremost, and I just so happen to be “black”. *shrug* This is not to say I don’t take pride in my heritage and “my people”, but I don’t take it so seriously that I pigeonhole myself or attempt to use it as a reason for misfortunes in my life. But on that particular night it was difficult not to consider racial prejudice as a motive. I was the only “person of colour” in the store at the time and my fiancé, a six foot male of Scottish and Canadian descent, had passed by the group without as much as a second glance, as did a handful of other “white” patrons. Can’t say the idea was too far fetched, can you?
My response to what I assumed was my first ever encounter with overt racism set up a dialog between McKik and I that has opened my eyes to a portion of the race game I thought was a fable. While he brought up the point that I very well could have been overreacting to the actions of a jerky little “white” kid who was just being jerky and not racially malicious, what I became keenly aware of was having my feelings diminished and challenged in an emotional moment when I was feeling insecure. Quite honestly, had it been a “black” child I most likely would have chalked it up as just a bad ass kid with no home training; a “black on black” incident that’s more a disrespectful annoyance than a threat. After my feelings subsided I checked myself and opened my perspective a bit to allow for other explanations, but I didn’t forget what transpired or McKik’s response.
All too often we witnesses reports of “black” Americans who say their race is the reason they were denied jobs, entry into schools/clubs, had their person and personal belongings accosted/vandalized, and/or other atrocities we are all historically aware of. Most are justified in their accusations while others, unfortunately, just cry wolf. Sadly, those who do the latter give rise to a perspective that the race card defense is all we know, so why take it seriously. What’s even sadder than that, despite those few hooligans, we still live in a society where a lot of the cards are stacked against us simply because we are “black”, and no other reason. Sadder still is the amount of people who chose not to see that for whatever reason. Not all of then are “white” by the way.
The fear that caused me to jump to my conclusion about the little girl stems from decades of history lessons, news stories, familial tales, and growing up a “black” female just four generations removed from slavery. It was a knee jerk response after years of “training” that my skin colour could possibly cause problems for me. I’m not proud of it because I attempt to fully analyze most situations before making a definitive assessment, but I do understand its origin. In that respect, one can’t realistically tell me to just “get over it” in a day and age where I Google the term “black people” and get no less than three results spouting the term “nigger”. Or when an East Indian beauty is crowned Miss America and labeled a terrorist. As idealistic as I can be about most things, this is one thing just “letting go” won’t be able to easily dispel.