swerve

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“Hi Kathy, nice to meet you, but that’s not what I need,” he said.

I was so lost in thought while pushing my cart out of Costco yesterday, that I handed the checker at the door my Costco CARD vs. my receipt.

Two incidents occurred there, both sort of connected, that sort of took me over and I’m still thinking about it.

It was a busy day and there was a lot of competition for space with those humongous carts scurrying around. I was there looking for nutrition shakes for my Dad, a urinal (they don’t carry those), paper towels, chicken soup and of course, coffee.

Where are those dang paper towels? I said to myself, after getting as far away from them in the warehouse as possible. I pivoted my cart and found an opening in the cart-crowd and began my mad dash to the very back of the store.

That’s where the first thing happened.

You know how you can see someone coming toward you in an aisle sometimes and you don’t know which way to swerve to avoid them and at the same time, they don’t know which way to swerve, so you both are semi-swerving with these micro-swerves that seem like a little Dancing with the Stars opening to a number, until you either stop, laugh and/or wait for the other person to complete their swerve and move past you?

Yeah, it was one of those. But something struck me as different this time.

The man I was swervecart-dancing with, apologized.

I replied with a laugh “I was just trying to read your swerve”.

But his apology somehow struck me to the core.

You see, this was a young, bright smiled black man, in very, very white Gilbert, AZ.

Why did he apologize? I wondered.

And why was I feeling so bad about that?

Neither of us did anything wrong.

Later, after I checked out, I ran in to a hot mess of Costco stuff, and people blocking the post check-out area turning it in to one-lane traffic only. I began to push out with my cart and another man, who was actually ahead of me, stopped in his tracks to let me out.

I thanked him, moving forward, still haunted by this feeling, now, exacerbated. You see the gentleman who just let me out, was also black (and very very tall).

My mind was flooded with recent memories of travel, and the norm I’ve been experiencing lately of these rushing Caucasian men, who can’t seem to bear to let me out of my airplane row, unless I have a foot firmly planted in the aisle, as we deboard the plane. Even if they are in a row behind me. I have actually said out loud to their backs before “I guess chivalry is dead”.

I am sounding like I am making generalizations, aren’t I? In fact, I am just describing my own, personal experiences. Glad I have a gallant, polite man who lets most everyone out before him, but always me. He is, in my experience, the exception, sadly.

Back to the young man who apologized, because that seems the one mostly stuck in my craw.

I have experienced this many times. If there is a little kerfuffle or something like that, it seems the black person is sort of trained, by ALL OF US, to give deference. Like I, with all my privilege, should naturally go first. Should naturally be deferred to. Like he had something to apologize for, for being in my path, when I was equally in his path!

I have to say, this broke my heart in a way yesterday.

That this exists at all. This vestigial tail of what our black brothers and sisters were required to do–take the hit for the white man, apologize if anything went wrong or didn’t go wrong. But the consequences in our not so distant past were far more devastating.

I am heartbroken also, thinking of ways I may have contributed to this, even unknowingly.

I wish I could go back in time to yesterday and say directly “you have nothing to apologize for!”. Or something. I feel unfinished about it.

I know I’m supposed to hand the checker at the door my receipt leaving Costco, but I was consumed in sadness, flanked at the back with chivalrous generosity, and it was all a bit too much.

I need to be better. I need to be more aware, more sensitive, more something.

But first of all, I just needed to write this to get it out of my head.

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2 thoughts on “swerve

  1. Gigi

    You know, I understand what you’re saying (and I am not discounting racism at all) but in my personal experience black men ARE deferential to women – ALL women (I am of mixed race). And generally speaking, white men are not.

    A few days ago, a black gentleman tipped his hat to me. Now I know most men don’t even wear hats anymore, but how sweet was that? I think it’s partly cultural and how you are raised. And black men are raised to revere women.

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