in the wake of the trayvon martin murder, a recent guest on an npr broadcast reflected on president obama’s reaction to the murder. he then shared an anecdote about a parent or teacher who was alarmed by the arrival of a busload of Black kids. the black kids spilled off their bus and this women clutched her child. another (white) teacher saw her reaction. as the guest explained it, i assumed the black students were invited to attend the same event as the other kids, and yet the white woman was fearful.
i ask white women: are you fearful when you’re running down Black men to date and sleep with? are you fearful when a Black man is serving your dinner or delivering packages to your home? are you fearful when a Black man meets you in the showroom floor of a car dealership?
there are more white men in this country than black men. do we ever hear that black women are frightened of white men? men who sport confederate flags, shaved (skin) heads, skinny jeans with chains hanging from them, body piercings, and tattoos? no, but we fear black kids who wear hoodies, have sagging pants, wear red or blue, and listen to hip hop.
circa 1990. it was a summer afternoon at eastmoreland park and i was with two white women, one was pregnant. we were walking through the park when out of nowhere a car of white males yells out the window, “nigger go home!” it was broad daylight and there weren’t many people around. consider the fear i felt. do you think the white women with me were fearful? (the baby daddy of the pregnant woman is black.) an uncomfortable silence followed and we left the park.
1997. i won a weekend stay in bend at inn at the 7th mountain. my boyfriend and i packed up my car and headed to central oregon but not before my parents gave me a strong warning.
“you know there aren’t any black people up there.”
“you guys be careful.”
“call us when you get there.”
do white women give that kind of talk to their daughters or sons?
circa 2002. i went for an afternoon drive in estacada with a black male friend. he had a jeep wrangler and we were off-roading on what reminded me of a logging road. (according to him there was a view he wanted me to see.) as we headed up a narrow road trying to find this lookout, a truck sporting a gun rack and carrying white male passengers, passed us. i panicked. my friend noticed i was uncomfortable and tried to find a place to turn around.
did anything happen? no. was i fearful, yes.we were two black people in a very small town outside of portland. no one knew we were out there and here comes a truck full of white men on a remote logging road. i was fearful as a woman and as a black woman.
i hear over and over that white women are scared of black men, as if white men don’t possess any menacing characteristics. who shoots up schools? white males. what is the profile of a serial killer? white males. who just shot more than a dozen people in Afghanistan? a white male. but black men (and boys) are to be feared. do i fear black men? no. i fear neighborhoods where bars on windows are not decoration. i fear any person or object bearing a symbol of america’s racist history. i fear ignorance.