Full disclosure. I write for first my own healing and reckoning and secondly for yours. After all, we must be first partakers (2 Timothy 2:6). Friday was my first day off in three months since we began sheltering in place. I opted to stay in the bed the entire day, minus bio and food breaks. The graduate candidate hung out with me, working on her thesis. Earlier during the morning, I recorded a podcast. The discussion centered on being a person of faith and the intersectionality and complexity of also holding the identity of a black woman. My soror, Verna Patryce Best did an amazing job “taking over” my show. As the day progressed lazily, I realized that this was the first time in over two weeks of civil unrest following the brutal murder of George Floyd that I felt sustained. After we watched an insurmountable amount of television, I elected to shower before bed. It was around 10pm. Shortly thereafter, I saw lights from a vehicle crossing our driveway. I peeked through the blinds to find a large truck with an open door on the passenger side. A white woman was standing on my driveway with her cell phone. First I thought she was delivering an instacart order that the graduate candidate may have placed. After all, Whole Foods (her preferred grocery store) delivers until 11pm with Amazon Prime. My second thought was that she was taking pictures of my flowerbed. But after a few more seconds, she hadn’t moved. I threw on a robe, dashed downstairs, turned off the alarm (which thinking back, I shouldn’t have), turned on the porch light and opened the door. I found the woman and a white man standing at the step which leads to our porch. I asked, “What do you want?” The woman said, “I was at the pool today and left my Apple watch. The app says it’s at this address. Is this (she stated the address)? I responded, “Yes it is. But your watch is not here.” She went on, “But the app says it’s at this address.” I responded, “I don’t care what the app says, your watch is not here. No one in this house, including my 87 year old mother, 26 year old daughter or myself have even stepped out of this house today.” They both stood there for a moment, and the man said, “thanks.” He then placed his hand in the small of her back, to nudge her into movement. I closed the door and fear began to scream in my body. For my own healing, I wrote about the ordeal on Nextdoor. Ironically enough, Nextdoor most recently crafted a statement for what I’m terming the apology tour. It was weak, and I only mention it because after I posted my ordeal, a grand discussion emerged around entitlement, self policing, race, sexism and privilege – all the varied concepts that Nextdoor has allowed to go forth for years. Most significantly, the male who showed up at my door “apologized while also stating that I was an unfriendly neighbor, overreacting, silly, that I shouldn’t open my door if it’s late and that they were just simply attempting to recover what costs a lot of money. Sidebar: There are five Apple products in our home. I’m fully aware of the costs. Yet, I wondered if he would have said that before he saw the color of my skin.
Perhaps I should not have opened my door. Often I don’t. People solicit throughout the neighborhood often and I don’t. Yet, this time, I wanted to know why they were there at such a late hour, particularly since the bell never rang. I imagined the woman wanted her property, and as my daughter’s grandmother would say, “It would have been too much like right for her to wait until the morning.” However, the decision for the woman to come to my home, and her husband accompany her was likely a decision rooted in safety, and yet the safety of me and my family was not a consideration. What stood out the most for me was their comfortability with entitlement. One doesn’t have to explicitly state, “You stole my watch,” but certainly driving over to our home in a large truck, at night, in the dark, paired up, insisting that the app traced their property to our address wrecks with self policing and assumption, which is, only if you’ve been living under a rock (and I don’t mean Jesus), a deadly combination – specifically for those who carry melanin in their skin, as I do.
The virus of racism has been thriving on the surfaces of humanity’s heart for centuries. However, the only mechanism it has for survival is a host. The utility of what we engage as host can be that of positivity or detrimental. Luke 24: 30-32 reads, “When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised Him, and He disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” In this passage, two disciples walked with Jesus on the road, however not knowing who He was. They invited him into their home, and yet didn’t recognize who He was until at the table. He went from being the guest, to being the host.
As a middle aged black woman, living in America, I still do not feel like the host – even in my own home. The scenario could have played out in very unfortunate ways, and likely not in my favor. Allow me to provide a few that went through my mind.: (1) They could have called the police, reported the “crime” and the police showed up at our home. (2) Perhaps the police would have rang my bell and entered into conversation or (3) The police could have busted in our home, attacked us, resulting in death. That is a hard and difficult truth, and yet one not shared be everyone. The woman had her husband with her – mine was working, but my number (4) is the further fear for what may have transpired had he been home. To be sure, we have lived in a society that correlates perception of behavior with the color of one’s skin. And the virus that started with my neighbors, was shared with a few in reference to the post I wrote- but they were in the minority. There were more people who named privilege, entitlement, civil unrest, whiteness and complicated relationships with law enforcement as the basis for my fear. And I must believe that the virus of dismantling can also be contagious, contagious as the burning that the disciples mentioned.
In the passage about the Good Samaritan, the man asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” This was in response to Jesus telling him to “love his neighbor as himself.” Sidebar to Jesus. This is not an easy task, especially when one’s neighbor does not always act neighborly. I wrote an essay about a week ago juxtaposing my home in Chicago, to the home I’ve encountered in the world. They are strikingly different. And yet, as a believer, I cannot use said encounter with my neighbor to dictate how I engage with other neighbors, those of different race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities, age and socioeconomic status. The virus moves in such a way that if we are not cognizant, we can miss it, until it attaches itself to someone else, and manifest in unconscious bias exhibited in our places of work, in our places of faith, in our places of community, and even in the place of the front porch of our homes.
I am a Jesus girl, to be sure. But I can present as the Jesus who fed more than 5,000 or the one who turned over the tables. I’ve learned, as I’ve aged to strike a balance. But being wounded while engaging is real. Having people who don’t know you, don’t know how you move in the earth challenge you is tough. On the post, I received responses like, “Follow the teaching of MLK,” “don’t watch the news,” “purchase a gun,” “get a ring camera,” “practice the Good Book,” “you’re race bating” “be concerned about their watch,” “your race wasn’t an issue,” “get some white friends,” “don’t be afraid of white people,” “color doesn’t matter,” and I could go on. I also received responses like, “I’m sorry this happened to you,” “you have every right to be upset,” “I don’t know much about people different from me,” “can we meet for coffee, I’d like to learn more about what I don’t know,” “can you recommend some readings,” “what if the police had come,” and “this was an example of white privilege,” and those comments went on as well. There were people of color who self identified, affirming my truth, and there were white folx standing in solidarity. And even though the sting of those who failed to affirm me existed, they were overwhelmingly fewer than those who shared space in my truth.
Earlier in the day while recording the podcast, I spoke about what God has purposed me to do regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. I should not have been surprised at how quickly a testing of confirmation emerged. In true transparency, it knocked the wind out of me, but that encounter cannot and will not stop me from engaging how God has purposed. Channelling my inner “Ella’s Song,” by Sweet Honey in the Rock, ” Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot I come to realize; That teaching others to stand up and fight is the only way my struggle survive.”
What fueled my disgust even more that I didn’t even process until later was that the two individuals who were at my porch were not wearing a mask amidst a spike in COVID-19 cases in our state. May we keep in mind that a virus cannot live outside of a living cell. What will you choose to transfer?
At 9:15am prior to posting, the community management company sent an email stating that the Apple watch was found and asking the owner to contact them. I wish my next steps carried so little effort and so little weight.