This past weekend I went running near my parents’ house. It’s a small suburban, yuppie town with too much money, and too little intellect (my humble opinion). Probably, in an overly protective niche sense, a very good place to raise kids, safe, great school system, and a nurturing/fortifying atmosphere – if you’re wealthy, white, and relatively conservative.
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, sunny, dry, and 75 degrees, perfect conditions for my usual 5 mile loop around the lazy side streets where newer mansions find residence side by side the old school ranches from the 60’s and 70’s. Taking off down my driveway, hanging a right and starting to get into that mind-numbing rhythm which always bodes for a “good” long run, I was suddenly jarred to a screeching halt. Making a turn onto my less-than-traveled street was a white BMW of four apparent teenagers. If they were 18 (required age for driving in NJ) or 22 was hard to tell – but what attracted me to pay attention was the waving hand out the window of the backseat. What, for a split second, I thought might be a friendly wave, focused itself as a waving middle finger. Following in sequence, as they sped by me, was the sneering, jeering “KONNNNIIICHIWA CHING CHONGGGG!”.
I felt punched in the face, ashame and shock all rolled into an instant of remembered alienation and stinging illegitimacy. And then the rage. The flushed cheek, inner ear roaring, heart palpitating, tunnel vision red. I had half turned to sprint after them, knowing that they would be stopping at one of the houses on my street. On MY street – but was it really mine? And again, that doubt – that thought, that perhaps I really didn’t belong there, here, in that place where you find wealth, privilege, and white.
I spent a good 3 or 4 miles raging internally, thinking about how I would be sitting on that guy’s chest pounding away on his glee filled, stupidly smiling face – thump, thump, thump – in rhythm with my feet on pavement.
It only took another couple of miles for me to spend myself – I reached the end of my driveway half expecting to see the white BMW coming roaring past me – half hoping that it would, and half thinking about getting into my own car and going to go look for them. They hadn’t only wronged me racially, they had wronged me by making me doubt my right of existence. And who argues that racism is dead in America? Complete ignorance.
My solace was found later that night in the warm enveloping understanding of Julia. My peace found in her condemnation, my rage drained by her gentle ablutions – and I thank her for it every day – she is always finding strength to calm my soul…thinking less of her own for mine.