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  • Writer's pictureKaren L

Marching with a Mask; Learning a Lesson

Guilty as charged with the crime of grasping my purse to my body when passing a young black male on the street, especially when alone. White people on the defensive would remark I have good reason to be cautious. Once, I was mugged by a young, dark man while walking alone in an isolated area of San Francisco. Dumb move on my part? Yes. Regardless, one time should not cause a change in a lifetime of behavior. I grasp my bag because of the instituional racism that is branded on my brain. Fear of black people is embedded in our culture and reinforced by media, movies, and television programs. The message has been loud and clear--white women be cautious of young black men! I grew up in the ancient times of the mid 20th century when adults in my environment uttered racist statements unabashedly. But back to black men. It should be noted I have been on both sides. My son is brown, and I witnessed a woman grab her purse close to her body when she walked into an elevator. I stood beside my son, but the woman did not guess we were mother and son. 

Today, I walked briskly down the Rockville Pike, yelling chants, such as "No Justice No Peace". "No Racist Police", etc. with my black, brown, yellow, red, and white brothers and sisters. As I returned to my car, now dragging myself in the humid Maryland summer heat, several young black men passed me--some dressed in "urban" garb-- and nodded. I realized, we are friends, compatriots, fellow warriors in a fight for justice. They probably thought, what a nice white grandma. I thought what a nice young man!

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