A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip to State College, Pennsylvania to visit a friend of mine who has just finished up the first year of his higher education program at the institution. As I began my journey home, I put in a quick order for Starbucks. A good Strawberry Acaí Lemonade with light ice offers me the perfect amount of caffeine to make ~4-hour drives.
Enter stage left: An old white man (we’ll call him Mr. Orange SUV), who unknowingly takes up abnormal amounts of space.
As I pull my car into a parking spot and open my door to get out, an enormous orange SUV pulls up, stopping me from opening my door. A mere few seconds later, Mr. Orange SUV quickly hops out of the car, showing no signs of realization that I was also trying to get out of my car, as well.
Moments pass, and now we are just steps away from one another as we both walk towards Starbucks. Some folks can guess what happened next, but I’m going to continue so we’re all on the same page. Mr. Orange SUV opens the door, enters Starbucks, and continues into the restaurant as the door closes behind him, closing in my face. Immediately causing me to physicalize my irritation.
I know so many people have felt the anger of expecting a kind gesture, like someone holding the door open for example, and having that same door slam in your face as the aggressor walks aloofly into the building.
Fast forward a short while, and I’m now heading back to my car with my Refresher and Sausage, Egg & Cheese Muffin in hand. Then, Mr. Orange SUV slightly rolls his windows down and sullenly apologizes for letting the door slam in my face, “I’m sorry for not holding the door for ya back there, I honestly didn’t see you,” he says. It was at this moment that I noticed his wife in the passenger seat, whom I suspect saw my reaction to the door incident, causing her to vocalize it to her husband when he returned and proceeded to force him to apologize.
At first, my heart was warmed by the gesture as it seemed Mr. Orange SUV was really apologetic for his audacity. But, as I began to digest and reflect over the situation, two + two equaled Mr. Orange SUV was not sorry at all.
This is the issue of whiteness in America.
Let’s deep dive. Since the birth of the United States of America, whiteness has been the dominant majority. Meaning that White people have the privilege to deny the existence and humanity of Black people. Within a 15-minute span, three actions performed by Mr. Orange SUV, blatantly demonstrated how my humanity did not matter to him.
And some might ask, well he apologized didn’t he? Sure he did, and it was a great performance. However, if I didn’t physically react to him not holding the door open for me, then his wife would not have forced him to apologize.
Almost just like when a Black person is murdered by power-hungry police officers and no one cares until protests flip the country on its side.
White people, take stock of your space. Take a moment to think about how the extra space you take up is diminishing the existence of a minoritized person in your orbit. Checking your privilege is the first step to preventing your whiteness from defining your entire person. And above all, remember that when it comes to anti-racism, “You are here to get it right, not be right.” - Brene Brown.
“The work of anti-racism is the work of being a better human to other humans.” - Austin Channing Brown
I can’t believe that it’s 2020 and I have to say this, but, it’s time to start caring for and respecting other human beings simply because they are human. Austin Channing Brown explains, “The work of anti-racism is the work of being a better human to other humans.” I shouldn’t have to attain a college degree or wear a suit to be respected as a Black man. The Black person that caused you to cross the street that one time, deserves just as much respect as I. I’m not playing this respectability politics game anymore, and I’m not really sorry.
Starbucks, Store #9572. State College, Pennsylvania
Photo by: Waymarking.com