by Arturo Pineda
Dear random white stranger,
I meet you at least once a week, around 11:00PM. We are walking towards each other on the same side of the sidewalk. Sometimes you are a young white woman or an older white gentleman or a drunken college student. And every time, the scenario plays out in one of two ways:
I have a Yale hoodie on and you see it. I smile to let you know I am friendly. You reciprocate the friendliness and you smile back. We walk past each other and the night goes on.
I do not have a Yale hoodie on. I smile to let you know that I am friendly. You do not reciprocate the friendless and you do not smile back. Instead, you cross the street to the other sidewalk.
You don’t think I notice your behavior but I do.
I notice that you don’t cross the street when there was a young white college student in front of me. I notice that you cross back to the same side of the street when we are far enough apart.
I notice that you don’t even make eye contact with me.
What did you notice about me?
That my skin was an unsettling caramel color. That I had an obscure hoodie covering part of my face. That I was a potential threat to your too precious well-being.
Here is what you did not notice about me.
You did not notice I was a HUMAN BEING.
You bluntly reinforced the stereotype that colored skin is a threat to your well-being simply by changing the direction you walked in. Your path isn’t one track but your mind is.
I will continue on my lone journey down the sidewalk with my thoughts. I cannot approach you ask, “why did you cross the street when you saw me?”
I can only hope that one day you will smile back. I still have time here so we’ll see what happens.
See you next week.
A person of color