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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Walking While Black

This morning after my usual high protein breakfast of black beans, salmon, salad and a bite of eggs, I set out on my 15 minute brisk walk.  (I started this routine after hearing Tim Ferris author of The 4 Hour Body.)

I don't like to be cold--except when I'm heat flashing-so I added a mid-thigh black suede coat to my ensemble.

I start walking.  I see a white family of three or four kids and two adults playing while waiting for the school bus.

Immediately, I feel weird.  I feel like a threat. I am Black, dark brown complected.  I have dread locks.   I am wearing a black coat that could conceal something bad.

This is not my neighborhood, not my state and not my home.  I am an outsider.  I am in a middle class neighborhood in Hamden, Ct.

No one in the family speaks and I keep my eyes forward so as not to offend or be offended.  I feel fear.

It is 8:25am.  I worry that someone will call the police about a suspicious Black woman walking.

As I walk, I wish I had chosen my lime green sweater.  It's cute and it seems to increase my innocence.

Black is dangerous.  It hides things.  I'm dangerous.  I could be hiding something.

These are the automatic thoughts that I notice myself thinking only after I pass another collection of white adults and children waiting for the school bus.  As I pass this group, a woman smiles and says "Good morning."  I respond "Good morning" and smile back.  A little.  I keep walking.

Going down a steep hill,  I realize I've internalized all of these messages about Black people, about myself as a threat.  I pick up speed.  There's nothing wrong with me, I insist, still worried about my black mid-thigh suede coat that a white friend had given to me.  You're going to be okay, I tell myself.  I search for a hair band to tie up my dreads.  No luck.

As I turn around to ascend the hill, I open the coat.  There, nobody will think I'm hiding a weapon.  I'm wearing a pink fitted sweater and olive cardigan underneath my jacket.  I am innocently female. (I know, #SayHerName, but I'm just doing what I can.)

As I huff and puff my way to the top of the hill, I feel a little relieved that all the families are gone. I don't feel like a threat.

I practice what I will say to the police:  I'm visiting my friend ________and her address is... I'm proud that I remember her address.  

I worry about my son, about black boys and men who walk outside their neighborhoods.   Threatening.  Suspicious.  (Trayvon Martin sits in the back of my consciousness.)  I worry that they don't have female innocence to draw on.  A cute lime green sweater or a fitted pink top to cue the outside world that they are not a threat.  (Of course that did not save Sandra Bland.)

I am facing traffic.  Cars come at me.  There's no sidewalk here.  People who walk are unexpected. Will the dark coat could hide me from a careless, momentarily distracted driver?

I arrive home.

I go to the guest bedroom.

I meditate.

I write.

This is what it's like to "Walk while Black."

Peace and love,

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  1. Replies
    1. You are welcome. I appreciate that you read it and let me know.

  2. Very real. I breathed this as I read but I know your title is real and I cannot fully imagine this reality while white. The new thing is that Black Lives Matter will change this as ALL of us come on board.

    1. May it be so! And may sharing our stories provide the bridge to tap into each others' beingness.

  3. So helpful to read this, Amanda. It addresses a slight feeling of insult I've had lately at why many blacks on the street won't look at me even when I say hello. (Some do.) You've completely changed my outlook. I just recently learned of Saartjie Baartman, and all I want to do is cry. Don't know where to put all my emotion. Keep teaching us.

    1. If you want to cry at any point, please cry. After the rain come sunshine.

  4. Thank you Amanda.Only by you sharing these painful stories can I begin to know what it's like for you.
    I clicked on your link to join your online community - but landed on a page that said "webpage not available."

    1. The8tre, I'm sorry for the glitch. Here is a link that should work:
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm sorry it took me this long to reply. I get overwhelmed by tech glitches. Please do share this blog on your own blog or elsewhere if you like. Peace, Amanda

  5. Amanda
    The world is a better place because of you. I am a richer person because of your teaching.

    1. Thanks for being so generous with me Joan. The world is better because of you and all you do and all you've done!
      Please share this blog with the PYM group if it seems appropriate.
      peace and love,

  6. Thank you for sharing this, Amanda. Knowing how loving and open you are as a human being makes this all the more shocking and frustrating, that these are the thoughts that living in our culture leads to. Being the white mother of an African American daughter and a biracial son, it gives me pause and helps me understand my daughter's nervousness at going for an overnight at a mostly white college, "Do you think kids will like me?" To me, that question is shocking and ridiculous. I nearly worship my daughter's kind, cool, common sense, no-nonsense way of relating to others. And I pray, once again, that she gets into her top-pick college, Howard, where she could, for the first time in her life to and be just who she is. We have such a long way to go. "Traveller, there is no path / The path is made by walking." Antonio Machado

    1. Sister, Mary.
      She is so poised and amazing. These thoughts are sown in us from before we were verbal. Blessings on your fam.
      love and peace,