White Power

It’s raining.  I live on the top floor of the house and there’s a window in my ceiling.  I can barely see the raindrops that fall, but I can hear them as if the windowpane were a funnel into my ear.  There’s apart of me that likes it when it rains here.  I like it especially on nights like tonight.  On the nights I need to be cleansed.

I caught the bus home after our staff meeting and had to walk seven or eight blocks home from the bus stop.  I was pretty close to my house when a pickup truck (I know, the stereotype has caught my eye as well) approaches and a man sticks his fist out the window and screams, “White Power!”

My response? Confusion, then fear, then frustration, then helplessness.  The anger never came.  I wondered what I’d done to make him do something to hurt me.  Then, remembering that I was alone I was afraid to walk home because  I didn’t know if they’d follow, and attempt to harm me.  Feeling trapped  I couldn’t make a choice on where to go.  I didn’t know what place would be safest so, I picked up the phone and went to call the person who has most recently become my safe place.  He’s leading a backpacking trip for the next three or four days, and is out of cell phone reception.  I wanted to send a message with the details of what happened, but put myself in his shoes.  He returns to the front country to a three day old text message from the woman he cares about telling him what happened, and that she’s hurt and/or afraid.  I didn’t want to burden him with that, at least not in that way, so I didn’t send it.  We’ll talk when he gets back. It doesn’t feel right to mention something like that in such a stale way.

Yesterday he asked me, “What does it mean to you that I’m white?”  It came out of nowhere and took me a second to respond.  I asked him if he wanted the short answer or the long and he said he wanted to hear whatever I had to say regardless of how long it took.  So, I laid it before him as a seamstress lays out a blanket.  He could have stepped on my thoughts, minimizing them to his understanding, or, he could do what he did.  He picked up that blanket and sat with it for awhile.  He sought clarity on the confusing parts, and let his hand rest gently on the painful corners.  Understanding that he could never truly understand he asked for things from me which were reasonable, and impressive.

I asked him, a man with two black belts, a hypothetical question.  I prefaced it with, “I know it’s nearly impossible to answer honestly because the situation hasn’t happened, and may never happened, but what would you do if we were confronted by someone who was obviously displeased with our relationship because of our races?”

His response?

“I’d want to protect you.”  He detailed further, but the overarching theme was his concern for my well-being.  Some feminists are probably ripping away at their bra-less chests, but I’m okay with it.

I don’t need protection.  He knows that.  I know that.  That response was more about him making me a priority than it was him rescuing the damsel in distress

That’s why I didn’t send him a text message about what happened today.  He’ll be back soon enough, and we’ll talk.  On the weekends he comes to visit we’ll, unfortunately, have several opportunities to fray the edges of Port Angeles’ cloak of prejudice.  It saddens me that someone would say that.  It’s also a bit of a buzzer to my system.  I can’t live inside my yurt of peace and serenity forever.  Occasionally, I’ll have to peek out and face the demons of this world.

The past year and a half of my life presented me with enough drama and soul aching pain to prepare me for the time the Ku Klux Klan petitions to host a barbecue in my front yard.  I’m glad the anger never came.  Anger is usually just the mask of another emotion anyway.  Perhaps I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t need anger to guide me to how I really feel.