*Warning Violent Triggers in this post*
Two days ago, Jade and I almost got run over by a car in the new Whole Foods Parking lot here in Lancaster, PA.
It was one of the scariest moments I have ever encountered in my entire life. You’re probably thinking, “oh my goodness, I’m so glad you’re ok!” assuming (and understandably so) that the car was the experience that traumatized me enough to write this post. But No, it’s not that. Not even close. What scared me half to death was the moment immediately following.
We were walking through the parking lot to go into the grocery store.. just holding hands, joking, and talking and laughing as usual. Out of nowhere, I noticed a car backing up as we were literally walking behind it. I panicked because the car was not backing up slowly (like most cars do when you are in a parking lot) but the car literally went from being completely still to moving in full pull-off-speed. I assumed the person would see us (as I was in clear view, smack dab in the middle of the car) but the car kept backing up and fast.
"Was it intentional? Was he blind? Is he stupid? What is he doing? Doesn’t he see me? Omg! He doesn’t see me. Olayinka, Run!
My motherly instincts kicked in. I grabbed Jade and jolted forward to get out of the way of this rapidly reversing jeep. As any mother would, I screamed to get the man’s attention, “Hey, Hey, Watch out!” in panic and anger. He had his windows up and still didn’t hear me. As we were running, his car proceeded to veer left in the same position we were running!
So I ran faster until finally I was a few steps away from his driver’s seat window, still yelling, “Hey, Hey!”. Suddenly we made eye contact AND. I. FROZE.
Looking at me straight in the eyes was a white man with a full red beard and eyebrows. I only remember his beard because of how it plunged forward as his jaw cringed and eyebrows turned sharply at me. His eyes were wide open and he had this intense look on his face. He started uttering something back at me through his window. I fixed my lips to yell back and tell him he almost ran us over. BUT THEN I STOPPED.
I wanted to tell him so bad that he almost seriously injured or killed me and my defenseless child. (Who already was barely able to walk from the drowsy medicine after leaving a doctor’s appointment). The protector in me wanted to stand up for my child and warn him to pay attention. But I froze. I turned away and walked as fast as I could away from him. I grabbed Jade and began speed walking, "come on"!
I thought about how 18-year-old Bianca Roberson a beautiful black queen was merging from two lanes to one, when 28-year-old white male David Desper who also merging in his red pick up truck pulled out a gun and shot Bianca in the head, killing her instantly after they jockeyed for the position. I thought about the night nine African Americans were ruthlessly murdered during a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal by 21-year-old white supremacist, murderer Dylann Roof. I thought about how Nia Wilson, 18, and her sister, 26-year-old Lahtifa, were simply changing trains at a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in Oakland, California, on Sunday when 27 year old white male John Lee Cowell, 27 suddenly approached them, stabbed and killed Nia, and wounded Lahtifa.
In that moment, I prayed, “God please don’t let this man pull out a gun and shoot me”. As each second passed of us rushing into whole foods, chills ran down my neck and spine having dodged a LITERAL bullet from piercing the back of my scull. Although the rage and fear of the car took me out of reality for a second, I quickly snapped back and remembered that I did not have the privilege to stand up for myself and child to a white man, without running the risk of losing my life. If I sound crazy to you then you probably aren't a black person living in America. This is the state of black America. This is our norm. No one is safe.
We must be strong, even when we are weak. We must be brave, even when we are afraid. We must be heard even though this nation attempts to silence us. We are in a current state of operating in survival mode while attempting to live "normal lives". We are in fight or flight mode, even though either option can lead to our demise.
After the countless murders of black men by police, my husband drives below the speed limit. Everyday now. Even if he’s running late because he knows as a black man he would rather disappoint his baby girl by being late to her first dance recital than disappoint her by not showing up at all for the rest of her life.
White women: How many of you walk around wondering if you will get murdered for having blond hair or blue eyes while you are grocery shopping with your children? White men: How many of you have lost a brother, son, or best friend or nephew due to being murdered by a cop for not having proper working headlights on their car? This isn't an attack so before your guard goes up please listen. This is a plea for you to join us in racial reconciliation by first understanding what your fellow neighbor citizen is going through.
From our young children having the cops being called on them for selling bottles of water while little white children in the suburbs can sell lemonade with no problem. Yes, I am an angry black women. I live in the United States. I live 15 minutes away from one of the latest Ku Klux Klan rallies that occurred right here in central PA. Sometimes I wish me and my husband and kids could just disappear so that we won’t have to endure the injustices of this country and world.
Make no mistake.
To my white brothers and sisters: We don’t need your sympathy. We need your solidarity. We just need you to stop turning a blind eye and acting awkward when you know what’s been happening to us. We want you to mourn with us.. as we mourn. We want you to fight with us.. as we fight. We want you to speak up when something isn’t right. And no it doesn’t have to be social media (although it is a powerful tool when done right). It can be correcting that friend who makes sly racists jokes. It can be asking your black friends are they ok and checking up on them. It can be serving or donating to a charity that funds development and enrichment for the lives of those affected by the racial injustice of this country.
To the man who almost ran us over. If you are reading this, I want to say (to this very moment as I type this here) I don’t even know if you did it on purpose. I am not trying to paint you in a bad light as I share my story. I don't know if you saw me. Or if you are even racist. I still can't even make out what you were uttering in your car at me. Maybe you were in a rush to get to a family emergency and genuinely apologizing because you didn't see? I don't know! I don't know anything about you. I couldn't tell if your face was shock or anger. But the constant paranoia, fear, despair, and agony that I live in as a black woman in America couldn’t risk my life to find out. I hope you know I love you too, regardless of what was in your heart.
To my black brothers and sisters. I know you are so tired that your throat can literally close up and lose breathe from the pain.... please, please don't give up. I know the shoes we wear are exhausting, old, and tired, no matter how many new pairs we buy. I am mourning with you too. I am praying for us..and our safety and strength everyday. I am with you. Although I love Jesus and know he’s my ultimate hope, I fight the urge to let bitterness sink in and live within me for our aggressors. But I remember that I don’t want to live like that. They are not worth my eternal joy and my soul. No matter what you believe or if you’re spiritual or not, please take time to process your emotions and mourn so that you can continue on. Take breaks from the world (and the internet.. and the news) to take care of yourself and revive your strength. Do things that bring you simple joys and refresh your heart. Remember your worth. Remember you are loved. I'm with you. I'm here for you.
I Love You.
Your sister. Your advocate. A fighter. Despite the fear, A warrior. Despite the wounds,