Recently, I was driving to the mall to check the SAWs Post Office Box in hopes of finding a check from anyone. I had taken a call as I drove into the parking lot and continued the conversation as I pulled into a parking space. A large SUV pulled into the space to my right and, as anyone would do, I glanced over to give a quick check. The driver was a white woman about my age I guess. We made brief eye contact and I returned to my call.
In the next moment, the driver backed out of the space and drove around to the other side of the row where I sat. The SUV then pulled into another space a few cars away facing in my direction. At first, I thought this a little strange. What was wrong with the space next to me? Was it too narrow? No. She had slid into it with ease. Had someone vomited on the pavement where she would have stepped? I hadn’t noticed anything as I parked.
The woman climbed out of her car and headed toward the mall, her purse clutched in her hands. As she passed the empty space in front of me, she looked in my direction and we made eye contact again.
Now, was this a simple change of mind? Maybe. Perhaps. I’ll even say likely with a measure of grace. But the moment left an impression that has come to mind repeatedly since. Did the sight of me make her feel unsafe? What had I done to cause her to fear me? Why did I suddenly feel lesser than? Some might call this a microaggression. One of a thousand cuts. Whether it was or not is unimportant. But how a small, simple, maybe even innocent act drawing on a lifetime of deliberate, dismissive, and judgmental acts, can have that kind of emotional impact is. The insecurity it generates in a sea of gun toting, “Stand your ground” believing, you’re not welcomed here, invisible bigots is fatiguing.
Some might think I have very thin skin, that I am looking for slights that aren’t really there. But having looked into the eyes of people such as these, face to face, multiple times in my life, I know the cost of a lack of vigilance is far too high.