Never Ceases to Amaze
Written sometime in 2015 in Evernote before I accepted I am a writer and paid more attention to time and place.
I have – for most of my life – been one of a few or even the only.
I am always mindful of it. Not in a way that causes anxiety or concern, but rather from the vantage point of being aware of context; gauging my interactions and managing perceptions accordingly, as best I can.
I know I cannot control everything; nor do I want to.
At this stage I have been in enough situations with enough varied individuals that I am pretty good at predicting possible scenarios for how things might play out.
But one thing still amazes me: when a stranger reaches out and touches – no, pets me – as if I am some sort of exotic skin.
And let's just say, it is rarely a person of color who does this.
A particular experience at a local coffee shop in San Rafael, CA comes to mind. I was placing an order and the older white woman waiting for her coffee next to me began to stroke my forearm. There was not a word of warning or an ask of permission – nor was there any way the act could be construed as a casual brush to reach for something. Confirming what I already knew she said, “you have such lovely skin.” As if she was stroking the pelt or skin of something exotic. It still makes me shiver.
It is in those moments that I am reminded that no matter what I do, what I have done, or the degree to which I have chosen ‘safe’ environments – as a Black woman I am denied a sense of personal safety merely because I exist.
P.S. I struggle with the term “person of color” as it continues to center whiteness; it also conflates race and color (technically white and black are considered shades which is a whole different conversation). The term BIPOC makes it far too easy to treat everyone who is not white as a collective disregarding our different histories and experiences and intersectionality.