I’ve been trying to put this post into words that are politically correct since Friday, but somehow I think I will still fall short in the end, so I’m going to just write and I probably won’t proofread. I’m going to start with this James Baldwin quote and hopefully by the end of the post it’ll all make sense.
We moved here a little over three years ago, two months after finding out I was pregnant and a month before we actually tied the knot. At the time we were both living in apartments and neither of us wanted to live in an apartment with a little one. When Sesame was around 6 months, Mr. S encouraged me to find the neighborhood listserv and try to meet some moms in the area because I was lonely and feeling extremely isolated. I did join the listserv and I reached out to the neighborhood association president about contacting other moms in the area. He directed me to his wife and we exchanged two emails with her promising to keep me up to date on local mom events and invites. I never received any invites… It felt like a bit of a slight and I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t because I was Black and she could see that from my gmail profile picture. I remained on the listserv and boy am I glad I did…
Aside from being kept up to date on local things going on, people will message the listserv if their home is broken into or if they see someone “suspicious” in the area. In the two years I’ve been on the listserv, every suspicious person email has been about an African American male or groups of African American males. One time someone sent a message letting us know that we shouldn’t be freaked out if we see an African American man in work vest with a Benz or BMW (can’t remember) because he’s working for the gas company. I rarely respond to these emails, but I couldn’t resist asking why would we be concerned by that seriously?
Okay back to Friday… A neighbor’s home was broken into on late Wednesday night and she informed us of the break-in. ON Thursday she sent a message to the listserv about a young Black man who knocked on her door looking for work, but she thinks he’s just casing the house so they can come back and steal again. My initial reaction was to roll my eyes and think “why would he come back if he got away the first time?” Shortly after that someone else in the neighborhood brought the young man to the first neighbor’s home to introduce him and let them know that yes he’s legit and not trying to break in your home. Well on Friday morning, I checked my email and saw that a third neighbor had asked about his contact information to hire him and said that it was sad that young Black men are considered suspicious all the time. I responded and agreed with her and said that it makes me uncomfortable because hello I have a Black son.
As you can imagine, the post spiraled out of control quickly. The original poster felt like we were calling her racist and wanted us to know that even if he had been white she would’ve sent the message because she was paranoid from their home being broken into. I responded and told her it wasn’t just about her post it’s about EVERY post of someone suspicious being a a young Black man when HELLO we live in an area with a lot of young Black men. Then of course came the “we’re just trying to keep our families safe…” and I lost it. I told them that keeping my son safe will mean not buying a house in this neighborhood because my son is going to be seen as suspicious for doing normal teenage things like WALKING DOWN A STREET AND LOOKING AROUND!!! I also told them that the attitude on the listserv is why I don’t bring my Black son and Black husband to events because the white privilege and racial bias that comes through their messages is disconcerting. For the record, I wasn’t the only one speaking up there were other people including a former neighbor who gave great information on why this view is dangerous, but of course no one listened to her. The original poster even said she thought those responses were “ridiculous.” I’m proud myself for not telling her that I find her concerns about the robber coming back and knocking on her door in broad daylight ridiculous…
The original poster responded to just me in an effort to convince me to come out and maybe set up a play date with our boys. I’m still debating if I’m going to do it because I find it hard to want to socialize with people who dismiss actual scientific research or focus so much on not wanting to be seen as racist that they can’t even discuss some of the problematic things that take place in the world. Mr. S thinks I should do it and maybe I’ll change her view, but yea I’m still on the fence. I love educating people, but sometimes I just want to be a mom with a kid on a play date.
Being a Black woman in America is exhausting, but that’s a post for another time.