Two days ago, I was expecting something delivered to my home. I was asked to wait outside because my house has no visible address on it.
I stepped outside my front door, phone in my hand, to watch for the delivery.
At the same time, my next-door neighbor was reorganizing the contents of her car. It was parked on the street, in front of my house, with the doors and trunk open. She was talking on the phone while rearranging things from the back and front seats to the trunk of her car.
She is African-American.
I am white.
Are you starting to see where I am going with this?
Here is a woman, doing what many of us have done: parked our car, opened it all up, moved some stuff around and cleaned it out. All while chatting on the phone with a friend.
Here am I, waiting on a delivery to my home, keeping an eye out for the driver, holding my phone in my hand in case they called or texted that they were lost.
A perfectly normal scenario. Except, in 2020, it is not anymore.
I became suddenly and keenly aware of what a threat I might have seemed to be to this woman.
In other words: I could have been perceived as a “Karen.” As one of those “white women” who call the police for no particular reason other than “a black person is behaving like a human near me and that is scary for me.”
Except, I am not that person. I have never been that person.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a community where that kind of thing, a call like that, would be considered abhorrent.
That is how I feel when I see report after report , video after video of people calling the police about children selling water or creating chalk art or families shopping or men and women driving or parking or breathing or living their lives. Or cleaning out their cars.
I see those reports of the phone calls to 911 and I think, “What is wrong with that person? Why are they calling the police? Why are they doing that?”
And then, here I stood, potentially being perceived as “that.” As “one of those people”….
Someone used a phrase the other day that I had to google to understand: Virtue signaling. The definition from google is: “The action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue.”
And I realized that, in sharing this moment, in describing the horror I felt that I might be seen as someone who would do something I find abominable, I might also, then, be accused of THIS heinous act.
It stunned me.
Be perceived as a racist OR be perceived as a virtue signaler.
And, of course, all of that is wrapped up in the crisp white packaging of my life of privilege.
There will not be any grand answer found in this writing. No answer or resolution to the moment in time that we are all facing.
My package was delivered, I waved at my neighbor, I went back inside my house, she finished cleaning out her car. Life continued on.
She returned to her world of needing to be careful with every step, every word, every turn signal, every breath.
And I returned to my world of….wondering how I can be seen as safe.
All I know is this: There is a lot of important work that we all are being called to do now.
Perceptions don’t matter. Only the work in front of us is what is important.
Let’s get to it.