I was actually in the area that night for a church meeting at the house of a friend. In my mind the house number was “923” Joliet Street. So, I went up to that address, and was attempting to open the gate, but to no avail. After several failed attempts amidst frustrated grumblings, I heard a man’s voice on the other side of the street inquire:
“Can I help you?” To which I replied, “No, I’m fine, just trying to go in for a meeting.”
Well, he continued to persist and I thought to myself: “It’s finally happening…the moment when I am being unjustly racially profiled as a black person in a neighborhood.”
You see, as a black woman who has lived a somewhat privileged, firmly middle class existence for the majority of her life, I grew up seeing things in the media regarding other people who look a little like me being marginalized in an unfair fashion, but rarely did I ever encounter it for myself, because of my dress, speech, and overall countenance. But now? Here it was. It was time for me to defend my honor. Not to mention the fact that it was nearly 8 p.m. and I’d been up and at it since 5 that morning. So, it would be appropriate to say that I was a bit tired and that my judgment was not in the most lucid of states.
“Oh?! I said with a tone of sharp arrogance, “Oh! Let me ask you this, SIR, what is your business in asking me? Is it because I am black?!” Disclaimer: I hardly ever pull the race card, so this was certainly intriguing.
I continued on, “Because I am simply trying to go into a meeting, but YOU seem to think that I am up to no good!”
“No, ma’am” he calmly replied, “my roommate is black, and he’s been mistreated a lot and tells me about it—-”
“Well, I should like to know why you are trifling with me over here and why you won’t leave me alone!!!”
I used even more words here. You see, I’ve got a mouth on me, so I cannot even begin to transcribe all that I said. Just know that my speech had become extraordinarily first class and proper, a state that I revert to when I am either (a) in academic or hoity-toity circles (b) discussing things with my Kenyan parents, or (c) talking to myself and God alone in nature, Anne of Green-Gabling it.
“Ma’am, we all look out for each other in this neighborhood, who are you looking for?”
With my nose up I replied, “I am here for a meeting!”
“Well,” he said, “the house that you’re at right now is an older couple” he then said their names, and I’m all: “No, this is where a young couple from my church resides,” you know, since I am the one who lives in that neighborhood and totally know who is what and where. He says “No, but over there is a young couple, I think they’re in ministry?”
Oh snap. He’s pointing to a different house. I’m still skeptical, but I walk over to sniff it out.
It’s “932” Joliet Street. And I recognize this place. This is where we met the last time. In my weak defense, it was dark and I think that the doors to both 923 and 932 were a bold red. But oh snap.
I turned slowly back over to him, and sheepishly ask, my cheeks blushing purple: “Sir, what is your name again?”
“Tom? I have to apologize to you, because I was mistaken and this is the house. You know, you hear about this stuff all the time, and I just thought…well, now I’m getting racially profiled. It was bound to happen eventually.” Funny thing, a softer, more lilting Southern touch was being added to my accent as I was speaking to him now.
“You’re fine, I can understand why you were getting upset, my roommate goes through that kinda stuff all the time,” he tells me as a spectator friend (who was also black) came over to him and started to talk animatedly.
I then walked up to 932 Joliet Street rather than 923, and was welcomed into a warm home full of women chattering with a fresh batch of cookies on the table. I sat down, took one, and joined the busy conversation half-heartedly as I considered what had just transpired. I suppose that being fed humble pie before a faith gathering is fitting.