I don't write this to incite any feelings. This is a true account of life inside the skin of a black man.
On Saturday, March 7th, 2020, I went into Shoppers Food Market to pick somethings up for Sunday dinner. I was meeting up with some friends. I and two male friends decided to cook for the ladies in our lives.
I went into the vegetable aisle to get some peppers. I was going to stuff them with some salmon. I was standing there trying to pick out the perfect peppers. A white man walked up on my left attempting to get close enough to pick some peppers.
Now I have to admit, I was hogging the peppers. My shopping cart was blocking his way and I was standing right in front of all the peppers.
So I looked at the man and said, "My bad bro", and I moved my shopping cart back and stepped over to the right so that he could get in and pick his pepper.
He said nothing.
He looked at the peppers and then went around my cart and came up on my right side. So, I slid to my left to give him more access to the peppers. He then crossed in front of me to go back to the left side of me, brushing past me in the process.
I said, "Bro if you need to get in here, all you have to say is excuse me"
Again, He said nothing.
After a brief moment, he crosses back in front of me, this time bumping me out of his away. As he passed, I elbowed him as hard as I could in his back. I then said, "All you have to say is excuse me".
He turned to me, now with both of us staring each other straight in the eyes, with him maybe 3 inches taller than me. I stand at about 5'11 so he at about 6'2. He speaks for the first time..."Your momma didn't give you any home training".
This is not what I expected him to say. Honestly, I just expected him to swing and the fight would just be on.
But no fist was flying. I definitely expected a couple of expletives. But no, just "Your momma didn't give you any home training". I told him, he had better get out of my face before I F*cked him up.
At that point, if he said anything, I don't remember. Against my better judgment, and training from my father on these matters, I turned my back towards him and went back to picking my peppers.
After 15 seconds, I felt something bump me hard. The guy had crashed his cart into me and my cart! I took three (3) slow seconds to collect my thoughts. These were my thoughts:
1. Do I let this go
2. Do I call the police
3. Aww Hell No!
With #3 decided, I pushed him as hard as I could! I sent him flying into either some oranges or apples - I can't exactly remember. His cart turned over. He fell on top of it. The fruit fell all over the floor. The contents of his cart spilled out. He got up, quickly gathered himself, and charged at me. I got into my fighting stance ready to engage. He stopped just short of arms distance and he began spewing jarring insults.
Two workers came and broke up the commotion. He went his way and I went mine. I could see the man roaming about the store. I kept my distance. I was frazzled, however continued shopping.
Out the corner of my eye, I saw a police officer approach the man. I heard him ask, "Sir, were you just involved in an altercation".
The man replied, "Yes"
The officer asked, "Are you ok"
The man said, "Yes"
The officer asked, "Who was you involved in the altercation with?"
The man pointed and said, "That guy right there"
The officer looked, put his hand on his gun, and asked again very slowly, "Are you ok".
At that moment I thought.........This is how it all starts...I LITERALLY thought about the headlines of unarmed black people that's been killed by police officers.....Eric Garner, Freddy Gray, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice.
Today I think of George Floyd.
I thought about how their situations may have started just like this....on a day where they were happy minding there business, planning Sunday dinner, or planning to meet up with friends and ended up dead by the end of the day.
I was already tense from the altercation that took place just minutes ago. So I had to constantly and intentionally tell myself, "whatever happens next, you have to keep your emotions under control"
I already felt disrespected once and I knew that if this officer, another white man, approached me like I'm a suspect when I'm actually the victim, I knew that my internal fight (not flight) would rise up.
I had to force myself to CALM DOWN. THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENS....how many unarmed blacks died trying to defend their right to have a good day minding their business?
I heard the white guy tell the white officer something that pissed me off and also made me extremely grateful. He told the officer, "Yes I'm ok, we just had a misunderstanding. We both just felt a little disrespected".
I shed tears even now because depending on that man's response, its very possible I wouldn't be writing this. I could be in jail or dead.
That white man had the power to start and finish this - and yes, that reality pissed me off! On the other hand, it makes me extremely grateful that he took some ownership.
Was he aware of what could have happened if he said something different? I'm almost certain.
At check out, I stood at one register and the guy stood at the one directly next to me. We both looked in each other's direction but ultimately looked past each other.
Then the weight of the situation hit like a ton of bricks. The officer never even came to ask me my side of the story. He never came to ask me if I was ok. I had the right to press charges. I WAS ASSAULTED. Tears fell from my eyes as I checked out.
I honestly felt invisible. Did the guy intentionally begin his movement of retrieving his peppers in front of, beside, and again in front of me...like I was INVISIBLE? Did the officer see me as an equal? I'll tell you this, nobody saw ME, standing there, shedding tears that were filled with anger, despise, helplessness, inferiority, and inequality. I felt...INVISIBLE.
Stock image by Laura Williams