Dear Random White Stranger

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:

Scenario 1

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.

Scenario 2

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.
Sincerely,

A person of color