Thursday, June 25, 2015

It Don’t Matter if You’re Black or White

Contributor article by Jessica Kelly

I was in the store last week with my children when a thug entered. He wore a long, baggy black t-shirt, pants sagging, thick chain and cross swinging from his neck, flat-brimmed hat perched upon unruly hair, high-tops puffy and untied. He smelled like weed, and limped through the store like he was a gangster.

I pulled me children close to me and kept a close eye on them. My friend who works the register at the store eyed him, following his every move.

He was as skinny as a rail and as white as white can be. We did not judge him on his skin color. We judged that, because of how he presented himself, how he walked and smelled and talked, he was untrustworthy. Our judgement had nothing to do with his skin color.

Looks like a thug, walks like a thug, talks like a thug… what must we conclude?

Does race really play the role the media says it does? Recent events in my home make me believe there is more to these stories than we see and hear.

It was the middle of a sunny day. My kids were playing in and out of the house. My husband tinkered on something in the front yard.

I looked up from the kitchen sink through the window that faces the back yard. My gate was open. My heart jumped. I saw a black man walk through the gate into my yard. I was immediately afraid.

I frantically made sure my kids were inside, then ran to the front door to yell to my husband. He was gone. Where was he?!

I was filled with fear and ran back to the kitchen, grabbing my phone to call 911, and about to run into the backyard to confront the man before he could come inside.

Then, I saw my husband… leading the man out of the back yard, holding a gas can.

When the man was gone (and after punching my husband in the shoulder for letting a stranger into my backyard without giving me a heads up), I came to understand that the man had been mowing a lawn a block away and ran out of gas. Having noticed my husband doing yard work, the man thought he’d ask if we had a gas can on hand to borrow enough gas to get his last yard done.

My stomach settled. I breathed a deep sigh. Then I told my husband to never let anyone into our back yard without telling me first.

Fast-forward a few days. There was a knock at the front door, but I was in my bedroom and didn’t hear it. My kids came to get me, and by the time I got there, no one was around.

I walked into the kitchen and looked over the kitchen sink to the window that faces the backyard. My gate was open. My heart jumped. I saw a white man walk into my back yard. I was immediately afraid. My husband was at work.

I frantically made sure all my kids were inside, then ran to the back door, holding the phone to call 911. The man was already in my backyard, and I had to protect my babies. Mom Beast mode.

Without thinking, I ran through the back door. I yelled something at him, maybe “Can I help you?” or something that sounds passive but was actually quite aggressive -  my brows furrowed and voice deep, stance defensive and ready to run inside, lock the door, and grab the pistol. He was shaken, and fumbled for the gate pull.

“I – I just,” he stammered, “I came in and the gate locked and I can’t get out.”

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” I yelled at him.

He was from the phone company. He was there to bury the line we’d had installed two weeks prior.

Recognizing he was not there to do any harm, but still in beast mode, I reprimanded him and told him, strongly, that the situation could have been much worse, and he’d better never come in to my back yard unannounced again. Then I told him how to get out, and even said “Now GET OUT.”

Both scenarios scared me. Both put me in defense mode. Both had me in beast mode, ready to defend my children at all cost.

Had I only shared the first scenario, it would seem that I was afraid of the black man in my backyard. But perhaps, in this media frenzy of race this and color that, there is something deeper. I was not afraid of the black man in my back yard. I was afraid of the stranger in my back yard.

Black or white, my fear was the same. Both scenarios made me fear, for just a moment, the safety of my children. Both set me on guard. Both had my hand on 911 and my mom-beast mode in full swing. It was not the color of the man, but the fact that someone was in my backyard. It was the situation, not skin pigmentation.

If the media would simply report the news, race agenda aside, perhaps we could gain better understanding of what is actually happening out there. Yes, there is still racism. Yes, there is a problem to address. But it seems highly unlikely that race plays a role in every current disaster.

In a time when the President of the United States of America feels it’s okay say “n***er” on-air (a word that I have always despised and would never used to describe a person), when so many stories reported aim to instill the idea that white people are out to get black people, a time when somehow we seem to be more culturally interactive and diverse than ever while at the same time regressing to race hate, it is important that we stop and think.

Step back. Take a look at what you’d think if the news was reported as it should be.

Race crimes exist, yes. But when it comes to a man in my back yard, a stranger threatening the safety of my children in my home, his race will be the last thing I consider when I aim to shoot.

No comments:

Post a Comment