I just watched a video of Sunny Hostin, host of ABC’s The View, as she recanted an incident that took place July 4th as she and her family were vacationing in Sag Harbor, NY. She and her family were targeted by about 30 white people who hurled racial slurs at them and damaged property. As they left, they said, “This is our holiday!”
Hostin and her family were clearly shaken by the incident, but called the police to report the incident. In the video, she describes how the encounter ruined the whole weekend for one of her friends. I can relate because even seeing videos like this one or the countless others we see surfacing on social media of black people having the police called on them for existing or people of color being attacked or harassed by Trump supporters, racists, and bigots. Seeing these incidents changes the way you move through the world and it’s hurtful.
We have seen white people call the police on black people for doing nothing more than existing and going about their daily lives. These situations have resulted in trauma that affects how black people conduct themselves in public. I know this is true for me.
I was on vacation last weekend in a predominantly white town, and I could not stop looking over my shoulder and trying to be aware of my behavior. Whenever I passed a white person on the street, I made sure I smiled, hoping I would seem less intimidating. In grocery stores and gas stations, I was more polite than usual. I did my best to blend in, if at all possible, even while driving. But feeling out of place felt more pronounced as I took a walk around the neighborhood and came across a staunch Trump supporter’s home.
As a 6 foot tall, 240-ish pound black man, I know I must seem monstrous to people who have fears and insecurities about black men. As I watched videos of a black woman being confronted for swimming at her community’s pool, a black couple having the police called on them at Subway, a little black girl having the cops called on her for selling water, a black man having the police called on him for grilling in the park, I believe I could have the police called on me for doing just about anything.
Everywhere I went last weekend my eyes were searching for another black person so I would not feel like I was the only one. When in a sea of unfamiliar faces in some place far from home, not seeing anyone you can relate to and not feeling safe feels like drowning.
But I am reminded that, while my black skin is problematic for some people, I should wear it as a badge of honor. So, too, should all people of color in a time where some white people are afraid, they will be outnumbered. If we weren’t something to be revered, they would not be fearful of our rise to power and prominence as we take our rightful places at the table and in seats of power. A few years ago, I learned to embrace the idea of being the first or only one. I am proud of my blackness, and I refuse to move timidly because of someone else’s insecurities.