To pick up where I ended in my last post, it happened a block from our house.

Maggie was walking our dog down the sidewalk. A man in a  pickup backed down his driveway without paying any attention. Maggie quickly stepped out of the way to let him pass.

Her movement must have alerted him of the near miss. He stopped, looked at her, and asked, “Can I help you?” He did not say this with courtesy.

“No,” she answered.

“Then what are you doing on my property?”

“I’m trying to get around your truck,” she said.

Realizing he was blocking the sidewalk, he apologized and drove off.

You might be thinking: What’s your point? He apologized. Grumpy people are everywhere. Move on.

Precisely. You and I can move on. It’s called white privilege. Think about it.

If I’d been walking the dog, do you think he would have said those things to me? No. He would have seen an old white woman walking her old dog. He would have apologized maybe, but he wouldn’t have questioned my feet on the edge of his lawn.

When he looked at Maggie, he only saw that she wasn’t white. She was the Other who didn’t belong here in Whiteville. I have no idea what kind of trouble he thought was possible by a petite young woman with an old dog during daylight.

Do you?

White privilege meant he had “permission” to inquire about the motives of an Asian. My guess is that when she answered in perfect English, he deemed her acceptable. If she’d had an accent, would he have detained her and called the police?

You might be thinking: None of that happened. No harm. Move on, already.

You and I can move on if we’re white.

She can’t. When she arrived home, I could tell she was shaken. As a person of color, she understood the possible harm she faced, not to mention her dog’s safety.

Worst of all, she now knows she’s subject to questioning. She told me she doesn’t feel safe here.

Tell her to avoid that street.

But it’s bigger than that. As a person of color, she doesn’t have the luxury of simply minding her own business, walking her dog. Every street is potentially that street.

In Whiteville.

sign main st.

 

 

13 thoughts on “On a Street in Whiteville

  1. Wow! That’s about all I can think of to respond. I am so glad you posted this, Mrs. Clark. What an eye opener. You are right. “We” don’t always “get it”.

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    1. I appreciate your WOW discovery, Cynthia, over something I’ve written. From Maggie, I’ve learned more than I ever knew was possible about being a mother. It’s been one WOW lesson after another. Fortunately most of them have been lovely blessings, but the racial part has been and continues to be chilling.

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  2. A timely set of posts that are helpful in turning thoughts inward to discover/examine one’s conscious or subconscious motivations. No easy answers however, except for the presence of people who come, in love, to the side of those affected by the thoughtlessness and prejudice of others.

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  3. When I was very young I thought “Whiteville” was a set of attitudes found in the Southern states of the old Confederacy (plus the land mass once known as Indian Territory, a special case), neatly bounded by the Mason-Dixon line. Only later did I realize these prejudices are found throughout the country. The only positive aspect of this sad realization was the knowledge that there are decent people everywhere as well, Dixie included.

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    1. I grew up north of the Mason-Dixon Line, but even as a child, I had a vague sense of racial matters. When we moved to North Carolina, I didn’t know at first what people were talking about when they brought up the War of Northern Aggression. Many spoke with pride about their Civil War ancestors who were generals fighting for a grand Southern way of life. We are very different countries on one map, and we are not united.

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  4. I have no words right now. I am sorry Maggie had this experience, but even sorrier that she now knows how potentially unsafe the world is for her. Confronting this type of bullying only puts her in more danger. Could this be the reason POC most of the time travel in pairs? Not for protection but for the witness.

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    1. Your question turned led to an interesting discussion for me. She took Racism 101 in college, and they talked about how all the poc kids start eating together as they get older because they begin to connect all the dots about racism. They feel safe with their own because of the shared experience, experiences that white kids don’t have. They feel safe together at the cafeteria table for one point in the day at least. Then she told me how she and a white friend approached walking across campus when they knew they’d have to traverse the town’s main street that intersected the campus. It was known for locals who’d throw things at dark-skinned students and shout slurs at those who weren’t white. Maggie walked on the outside. They knew the white friend on the outside would provide safety because the idiots wouldn’t want to upset or hurt a pretty white girl in order to taunt an Asian. She said they fell into this routine jokingly but knew it was a reality. For now, I walk with her when we walk the dog. (As you know, I really am dangerous.)

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  5. This has caught me at a particularly bad time, when I wake up so angry and go to bed so angry I could scream at our country at the top of my lungs. I am to the point that I have almost given up on the power of love. I’m hanging on by a thread. The hate that is out there in so many of our citizens, the selfishness of the covid is a hoax crowd that are killing those around them including their own families, our nurses, our doctors and our hospital staff. The racists who no longer hide their racism but scream it from the mountaintops without an ounce of shame. I pray that this will soon be a turning point in our country and bring us back to the right path.

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    1. Your comment reflects perfectly what I hear and read, but we’re preaching to the choir. Apparently there’s a choir clutching a radically different hymnal. Our songs collide. Unfortunately, I know other mothers whose Asian daughters have been confronted for causing the pandemic. It will take more than an election to settle this. You and I aren’t likely to hear harmony in our lifetime, but I have to believe the next one will. Meanwhile, believe along with me that we’ll get closer.

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