Ferguson, Missouri and I have something in common: We both have a curfew.
The St. Louis suburb got its curfew (and accompanying state of emergency following the police slaying of Michael Brown, who was unarmed) from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who, best I can tell, is a disappointment in governance. My curfew was self-imposed. Both curfews are designed to reduce the odds of violence. Mine has a better chance of succeeding.
After reading about the Ferguson protests all week, attending the #Memphis #NMOS14 vigil Thursday and absorbing the usual microaggressions at work (especially the psychological trauma of repeated exposure to racists in online comments), I couldn’t bring myself to go out Friday night. I needed to recharge.
But by mid afternoon Saturday, after cleaning the house and doing laundry and listening to Car Talk on NPR, I was ready to get out and get some vitamin D. I went to a much-hyped new local restaurant, expecting the food to be great and it was just mediocre. Endured an auditory assault from a bad a** little kid who was screaming at his parents at the table next to me. Even dessert was meh. (How can you eff up dulce le leche cheesecake?)
I walked around Overton Square, a redeveloped section of town that is really quite lovely, but it only reminded me that I’d meant to find out how many of these new businesses were owned by black people. So then that was a downer because while I want to know, I’m not sure I REALLY want to know. Because I’m guessing that YET AGAIN, the majority of Memphians are not profiting (as in building intergenerational wealth) from this progress.
Got in my car, drove a few blocks to the grocery store that opened this week in this new hip area and there was no parking spot. So I waited patiently for two sisters to get into their silver sedan and pull out. I had nowhere to be, so I waited. And waited. And waited. The women pull out, I take my foot off the brake and WHOOOSH!!!! an old white man in a Lexus SUV with Mississippi tags and an Ole Miss license plate swings past me and into the spot. Almost hit me AND the car moving out.
I was like WTF. I know this did not just happen. So I tap my horn politely like: Hey, dude? Um, I was here first. Then I was like: UM, EXCUSE ME, YOU JUST GANKED MY SPOT, BRO! NOT COOL AT ALL!
But he had the spot (and the white privilege) and I did not so I waited for some other folks to move. And a few minutes later, a spot opened up a car over from Southern Entitlement Elderly Jerk. At this point, I’m thinking: I should just go home. I should just take it to the crib because WTF. But I’m like – well, maybe it’s possible that he DIDN’T see you, that when you point out that he swerved in front of you, he’ll say something that sounds remotely apologetic and that will be that.
So SEEJ has both his windows down so I walk up on the passenger side and say: You saw me waiting for that spot, right? And he’s like – you moved too slow, yadda, yadda. And I’m like: But I was waiting and you sped right past me!
I notice that hanging over the back of his seat is a white coat, like a doctor’s coat. So I say: So you’re a doctor? And SEEJ says yes, and there’s a little flash of something in his eyes that’s like: Uh oh. Maybe I shouldn’t have done what I just did.
But he’s still being an ass and then says: Go away. Get a life. And waves his hand like he’s shooing away The Help.
I’m seeing red, but I’m like, let me walk away because that’s ALL I NEED is to be out here sparring in the parking lot with some old white man repping Colonel Reb in the parking lot of these good white people’s new grocery store. No way does this end well for me. (Plus, I’m remembering what happened to Henri Brooks and the same folks who cheered to see her fall would be doing back flips if I got caught up in a similar way.)
After taking a picture of the man in his car AND of his license plate (yes, I did that), I walked into the store but I was FURIOUS. I’m already heartsick over Ferguson, I’m pissed at the shiny reminder of economic inequality via gentrification and now I’m getting disrespected by some old coot in his Lexus SUV?
Right inside the front door of the store, there’s a sign on the wall talking about all the Fresh Market does for the community, the jobs it brings in, etc. And there are lots of black folks working – but not any of the managers I see scurrying around. So again, people of color are getting a check, but building wealth? Highly unlikely.
I was in such a sh*tty mood that I left my cart in the produce department and bounced. I went to my decidedly not new Kroger in my part of town and then I put myself in a time-out for the rest of the night. To be outside of my house was to risk that someone would do or say something offensive and I might want to cuss somebody the hell out – in fact, someone might deserve a cussing out, but because POC generally have no margin of error, I’d be the one in trouble.
So I am at home. Call it house arrest, a curfew, time-out, whatever. It is a preventive measure, design to minimize outbursts, even though the rage is righteous. I will swallow my emotions and think of those who are angry and have every right to be.