Walk in my Shoes

Bridging Differences A typical rainy Portland day and a typical in-limbo situation with a craigslist ad. Text messages, email messages, and “oh, yes, I’ll be by shortly to look at your item”. I’m like a jaded lover – yes, whatever, dear. You’re on your way now? “Ok, yeah, right”.  I’m counting on it (not). So I get an actual phone call from said Craigslist user. I’m assuming he’s calling to say he won’t be over afterall –  nice of him to let me know. Well, I was wrong. He was calling to tell me he was outside but didn’t know which house was mine. What? I see you across the street in your car, and you are looking straight at my house that has the street numbers clearly marked on the outside. We had quite the conversation for such a simple problem. I had to tell him more than once that I saw him, and that my house was directly across the street from where he was parked. See me waving at you from the window?  I didn’t understand, but whatever, right?

I noticed, of course, that he is Black. Which is nothing of note, until I mused about the incident later.  I now think that he was waiting for me to see that he was Black, and possibly making sure I’m not a crazy person that is going to shoot him just because he is walking up to my doorstep in ‘living color’. If I were in his shoes, wouldn’t I be a bit nervous based on recent shooting incidents?  It’s easy for me to be outraged about the incidents, but the reality is that my personal daily life will not change one iota because of the shootings. I experienced the shootings on a second-hand basis.

I did get a taste of what it’s like to be singled out based on mere skin color when I recently visited New Orleans. My sister and I were looking for a place to eat that wasn’t expensive yet had decent food. We came upon The Trolley Stop Café. It looked cute and homey, and the menu passed judgment by two very hungry yet discerning women.  Some nice gentleman held the door open for us. (I still remember because male gentility doesn’t exist in the Pacific NW). I turned right to go up a few steps to the dining area and pow! I felt like I was suddenly underwater without oxygen floating in a fishbowl. The sounds of the café went dead, the lights dimmed, and everyone stopped eating to look me up and down. Everyone in the café was Black and I wasn’t.  I felt a moment of uncertainty… am I not supposed to be here? And then, just as quickly as a video that finally gets unstuck and plays correctly, all activity resumed.   So, there you have it. The brief experience in the café gave me a visceral taste of what it’s like to be ‘different’. Even though I abhor what happened in Florida with all my heart, I didn’t understand what it is really like to live under a continual cloud of suspicion.

I still don’t, but at least I know that.


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