Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cece in the hood

One of the first stories that we read for my English class this semester was by Brent Staples, titled Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space. It's an essay about himself as a seemingly intimidating presence just because he is black and walking around at night. He has written two versions of the same situation. In one, he reacts politely, feeling apologetic that he causes fearful reactions, and goes out of his way in attempts to avoid putting himself in a situation where he'd be intimidating. In another, however, he gets angry and takes advantage of this opportunity by going out of his way to seem intimidating. He'd walk directly in between couples, pace beside locked cars at red lights and glare at the people sitting in them, strategically walk so that he could take people by surprise. He says, "They made me terrifying. Now I'd show them how terrifying I could be."

Now, being a tiny white girl from a small suburb of an urban city, this scenario is quite terrifying to me. I would be scared shitless if I got caught at a red light in Cleveland and some intimidating person paced and glared any where near me. I would be damn sure to thunk all my locks down. I'd never actually been in this sort of situation until last Monday night. I went to the Starkid Space Tour with Laney and her friends and it was a blast (even though I lost my voice and have been sick since). When the show was over my throat was in agony and I was willing to do anything to try to get some water. Including walking down the street by myself to check if Jimmy John's was open.

It was 10 pm and Jimmy John's wasn't more than three shops away from the well-populated and brightly lit venue, so I, being all mighty 17-year-old, felt I'd be able to make it just fine. Which, I mean, I did. I'm alive, I didn't die or get injured at all. But I did get pissed off.

I had to pass two older, presumably homeless, black men sitting on a garbage can. Instinctively I kept my eyes forward and my pace fast, ignoring their calls of "Hey there, little lady. How're ya this evening? No need to be rude!" and "Oh, she walks fast. HAHAHAH!" and "AHAHA!"

Was I being rude ignoring them? Was I being racist somehow? Personally, I feel that if you are a large, grown man of any race sitting on a street corner in the middle of the night and you see a young, tiny girl walking should not talk to her! You should know that, especially in a group of two, that she will feel intimidated by you! Even if they really did mean well and were just looking for someone to talk to and trying to be polite: talk to somebody else. I normally have no problem smiling and saying hello to strangers but not when the closest person is an alley away and most likely distracted. I'm sorry, I am not sorry for not acknowledging you, men on street corner garbage can with a sharpened (walking?) stick.

Jimmy John's was closed, by the way.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I read that essay too. I agree with you. I think race plays a part in some situations…sure but for me, no matter what the race of the person, if they are doing something creepy or intimidating…I'm scared. Whether they're black, white, hispanic or what have you…same amount of creepiness. Anyone can be creepy. Anyone.