Forgive me, for I will be speaking from a place of anger. I say anger because I heard just about every horrendous story you can think of, from the brutal bloodshed whippings that killed our ancestors, to our grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts and uncles being sprayed down with frigid sewer water as if they were rats or abnormal beings. The discomfort and pain I felt after hearing, watching and observing this horrendous behavior against my ancestors is what fueled a power of passion.
The cold truth is melanin will offend anybody who see it as a threat. Well, I suppose that is what happened to me before I transferred to Shippensburg University. I attended Lincoln University, the first degree-granting HBCU (historically Black college and universities), located about an hour southwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Amish in the area adored the student body. However, I genuinely feel as though I got too comfortable in that setting which led to reality striking me sooner than expected.
Around the fall semester of my sophomore year at Lincoln, my friend, Asija and I decided to take a ride in her brand new 2016 Audi A3. The intent of cruising was to just show off her new wheels and everybody knows if you want people to be astonished by your ride, go to a crowded Sunoco, or your nearest gas station. As we were pulling into pump two, I felt the stare from the truckers at the gas station. As Asija was talking to me, I felt my ear canals clog up with anxiety and her sentences sounded as if she had a mouth full of food. The worry that something was not quite right is what contributed to my fear.
Asija said she was going into the store for some peach and strawberry “Little Trees” car scents. I decided to wait in the car. Two young white men in a raggedy scraped up 2004 Nissan Frontier pulled up to pump three. Both of the men with bleach-stained overalls and scraped up boots. I saw one of the men walk inside the gas station, and as I glance over, the friend is staring at me with a vindictive look. I instantly feel fear clutter up in my face.
The other friend had returned from inside the store and the man finally focused his attention elsewhere. Meanwhile, my forehead is drowning in panic because I was still waiting in the car at pump two. Asija was not answering any of my texts and I thought this man was about to come to the car to beat me like he saw his worst enemy. Suddenly, I hear, “Wrong area, wrong area,” followed by chuckles.
His friend taking after him as well, “Wrong area, dude.”
I glued my eyes to my phone to pretend as if everybody else, but me, heard. Now you can imagine concern leaking into my veins after watching films like “Ruby Bridges,” “Hidden Figures” and “Malcolm X.”
I remember sincerely asking myself, “Why would this be any different?”
I reached for Asija’s pepper gel spray while holding this tiny knife that my father gave me for protection while still sitting in the passenger seat. Both of them taunted me for entertainment. I could not help but to imagine the worst that can happen being in that “wrong area” as their lungs pumped out that phrase with pride. However, as I looked around, I was an odd number in a pool full of evens.
Asija came back from inside the store. I hear “ew” yelled from the young man in the passenger seat. You could see the steam blow from her ears like Popeye. I would classify Asija as a ticking time bomb — anything can make her explode. I told her to ignore not only out of fear, but out of intellect because we already are at a disadvantage with the aggressors in their area. We warmed up the car as they pulled off giggling and laughing like hyenas. I could not stop replaying the scenario that would have ended with me being jumped by these two men, or worse… killed.
Imagine having that much power to just abuse at your will anytime you want, and being able to pass it down to the next generation. It is despicable, inhuman and frightening to a whole demographic.
We should be viewed as the same because the Lord placed us here for the simple fact we were worthy of this glorious thing called life. If one is worthy, one is beautiful.