Fear Factor

If I say ____, he will _____ me.  If I ask him _____, he might do _____.  I was married, albeit briefly, to a man who had a drinking and a drug problem but more than that, had a violence problem.  When he was nice he was very, very nice, and when he was mean he was horrid. So I spent the months I shared an address with him always on edge.  Trying to do the “right” thing all the time, so dance and navigate around his moods, his thoughts, the extreme thoughts of supremacy provided by the neurotransmitter chemical interference of cocaine and booze…it was ugly far more often than it was pretty.  So to say I was on “alert” all the time when I was around him, is quite accurate.  So I can only imagine what it feels like to be a hard-working and successful black man, driving an expensive car, in a predominantly white town, or even to be an out of work, -down on his luck-,  black man, driving a clunker in any town…alert, fearful, what ifs…I have a degree in criminal justice and minored in pre-law, and I worked one day a week for over a year in the prosecutor’s office as a volunteer with the criminal case management office and at the jail. A criminal is a criminal, I don’t care what color of skin they’ve got, and I saw and interviewed criminals of every shade, and they were all mad that they got caught doing whatever it was they were doing…BUT a person just out running errands, or on his or her way to work, or the liquor store, wherever, is not presumed a criminal…should not be presumed to be anything but a person on his or her way to work, or the liquor store, or wherever.  It has got to be awful to be on that kind of alert all the time, just because you are black.  I can’t even wrap my head around that, knowing how hard it was to live with a brutal man for the months I was a wife, I can’t bear the thought of living with that kind of anxiety, every day of my life, because of the color of my skin…

Lots of black people are criminals.  Lots of white people are criminals.  Lots of black people have illegal guns.  Lots of white people have illegal guns.  Lots of black people drink and drive, or like to buy drugs now and then.  Lots of white people do too…We are all the same, people, humans, on this planet.  Lots of black people own homes, and have jobs, and check their mutual funds in the Sunday paper, just like lots of white people.  BUT I suspect that lots of black people go into immediate anxiety with a fear factor of 10 when they see the red and blue lights blinking behind their vehicle, far more often and far more acutely than white people do, and that’s a problem.  It’s a problem for ALL people.

About a week ago I had to go water plants for a customer who lives up on the ocean with a narrow driveway easement and little to no room for me to turn around my ridiculously long double cab-extended bed pick-up truck, so I parked on the street, with my hazard lights blinking so I could walk up to the house and do my watering and then leave, without difficulty of having to back down a 700 foot long driveway onto the street…and when I walked back to my truck there was a cop sitting behind my truck.  Mind you, there are no signs that say “no parking” but I think it’s just understood, however I had my hazard lights blinking, which I thought implied that I was not parked but stopped at the moment, so I walked over to the car, and said, “are you here for me?”  The cop was a big-fat-necked, north Jersey accented, non-local of our quiet and laid back and casual beach community, but he was in fact hired by our beach community and was the one with the uniform and the badge and the police car, so despite how I loathed his appearance and tone of voice, I had to remember he was the cop and I was the one with the truck in a place it really was not supposed to be…BUT not once during our few minutes of interaction did I fear for my life, or fear that he was going to arrest me, or fear that this minor traffic violation would escalate into anything other than a parking ticket that would annoy me but otherwise not have any affect on my life whatsoever.  In fact it never even crossed my mind that having a cop behind my truck would lead to my being roughed up or maybe shot.  Those thoughts did not even enter my realm of possibility at that moment…THAT is the difference and that is the problem that black people have to think about every day.   I’m not looking for a debate, I am not looking for an argument, I am just telling it as I see it…it is not fair, and it has to stop, and I think people of all colors should feel angry that it happens.  I know from my brief marriage experience, living in fear is no way to live.  I got out of my difficult situation, there is no way to get out of your skin…

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