I’m in this autobiography writing class. It’s great. Like really, really fucking great.
There’s this young adult in the class that I’ve witnessed being real, engaged, committed to learning and advocating for social justice issue and respectful even when they disagree. I’ve been really impressed with the depth of maturity and Spirit this individual brings into the space with them.
Like, seriously, how many of us in our very, very early 20’s would have been able to listen to someone (sitting right next to you) tell you how they tell jokes that folks might take as racist or ‘offensive’ but, once you get to know the person you’ll know they really aren’t like that and remain calm and respectful and respond by informing the person that those type of jokes are still oppressive and painful. Wow. I was blown away by their ability to hold space for someone to say completely inappropriate things and to then call them on it in such a kind, respectful way that they were actually heard.
We left class together tonight, walking through the poorly lit walking path to the parking lot, talking about our classes and such.
I appreciated the company because I’ve been wanting to reach out and connect deeper with this individual, get to know them better. This was feeling like a good first step in that direction.
But, even more than that, it’s after 9:00pm as we walk to the parking lot. I am a middle aged woman, with a cane, walking to her car through a dimly light walking path VERY AWARE of attempted (and actual) sexual assaults in the area recently. I really fucking hate walking from class to my car. It scares the fuck out of me. I will use up needed energy to walk with purpose and power no matter how much pain and exhaustion I’m in during this walk – just to appear less vulnerable. I get hard feeling when I have to do this walk. I stop smiling at people as I pass them.
But when I can walk with a classmate I feel comfortable with?
I can relax a bit, feel less alone, less like I’ve got “victim” in glowing neon floating above my head.
Yeah, I know this isn’t necessary true. Whatever. I, as a woman living in a rape culture, am always inherently at risk of assault. I feel safer walking to my car with a classmate I’m comfortable with.
I feel deeply comfortable with them. I have held them in high regard since the first class. They exude respectful kindness and openness in a way that can heal the world. I’m not even joking in the magnitude of healing this kind of energy can bring.
So, back to our walk to the parking lot… We’re walking along, talking and connecting. It’s good and I’m feeling happy this is how my night at school is ending. Really, truly happy in.
And we get to the end of the path, the part where the parking lot is, my car, parked in a handicapped spot, just around the silly landscaped bit when they stop and I realize – they aren’t going this way.
“Wait. You’re not going this way? You walked all this way to keep me comfortable?!?” I ask quietly.
They nod with the engaging and authentic smile I’ve come to appreciate of late.
“Thank you. I appreciate that.”
They smile back again and nod.
“Goodnight,” and I turn to finish the walk to my car.
As I drove home there was a swirl of half-coherent thoughts/emotions about this experience.
One was the recognition that this person, being a person of color, was in danger from violence just as I was and yet they choose to take on that extra layer to walk with me, to connect with me.
Another was thinking of just one-to-two generations before me when a black man walking a white woman to her car was in serious, life threatening danger of being accused of heinous crimes and hanged in some areas of this country. what?!? it’s true.
Then the knowingness that they still are in that danger in many ways. If I, a middle aged, disabled white woman, accused him of assaulting me most likely I would automatically be believed and his life would be torn asunder while he found for his freedom.
This thought causes me no small amount of confusion and discomfort. Power and money come into play here too. If he were famous, well-liked and rich like Bill Cosby then I might be completely dismissed in favor of protecting him.
Again, pain, confusion and discomfort.
Why is there so much injustice in our culture?
What can we as lone individuals do to correct this, to help culture bridge these divides and for people to wake up and get over these thoughts that race, power or money matter more than people?
I have no answers tonight.
Tonight I am merely grateful for his company as I walked, in the half-dark, to my car.