Does anyone else see a problem with this?
“Persuade me or prove to me that I am mistaken in thought or deed, and I will gladly change— for it is the truth I seek, and the truth never harmed anyone. Harm comes from persisting in error and clinging to ignorance.” - Marcus Aurelius
Tuesday morning, I took my first cross-state bus ride from New York City to Providence, Rhode Island to visit a very dear friend. Although, I’ve traveled up the East Coast a few times before, I never made it past New York, mainly because something about those places seemed inaccessible to me. I spent the bus ride back awed of what I saw (mostly Connecticut and Upstate New York) and felt a familiar tinge of longing to travel across this huge country and not have it feel so foreign to me.
I felt excited and then that excitement was stifled by anxiety, and sadness. What if I’m not welcomed? What if some parts aren’t safe? What if I make the wrong people uncomfortable? As a person of color, when I travel especially within the United States, I often feel: 1) anxious, 2) worried, and 3) scared because I am never sure if I will be met with kindness or contempt, curiosity or resentment, or worse violence. I grew up going on road trips with my family often. We drove from South Florida to Chicago on many occassions, along the east cost and throughout the near southern states and I’ve been very lucky, very blessed to make each and every return of those trips safely but there were always iffy moments.
Once, somewhere a ways into the Florida/Georgia border, we stopped in a small town for gas but ended up driving another 30 miles or so after being turned away. We got pulled over in Virginia, near Roanoke, for no real reason. My dad got ticketed, a warning perhaps. Ashley and I stopped traffic while walking to her apartment in Rhode Island a few days ago; I like to think it was my smashing scarf but I’m almost certain seeing two people of color walking the street at the same time is not a common occurrence in Kingston, RI.
It’s for this same reason I often don’t venture outside of Chicago’s city limits into neighboring suburbs because I don’t know. Trevyon Martin was murdered in a housing development in Sanford, Florida — or rather, I should say, a few blocks away from his home — much like the development my brother and I grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida. Granted, I am an anxious person and the slightest chance of anything going wrong or bad can ratchet up my fears but I thought about how my entire life I have always been scared of venturing too far out of my door, which is to say, too far out of a place I have come to know as tolerable of me.
If I had it my way, I would constantly be moving and exploring, but I feel — whether through experience, or myth (the news), or socialization over the years — stifled by my skin and how it is percieved in a country where I am told I am free, where this freedom can and often does work against me. I guess part of me understands I have traveled safely, despite ignorance and bigotry and my personal anxieties, but I am a few days away from my first road trip in many years and all I feel is scared and worried and frustrated.
Scared because lately, it seems, the media is reminding me and everyone else that I am still dangerous because I am darkly pigmented. I feel worried because I wonder how long I can keep out of harm’s way before someone’s misdirected fears target me. I feel frustrated because I want to be excited about this trip, and I am VERY excited, I just wish that excitement didn’t have to be shared with any negative emotion.
I wish that I could feel okay enough, safe enough, to pick up and go where ever I want to, when ever I want to without fear of consequence.
And I wish, most of all, that those who are able — who are so lucky — to move as they please in this world with little thought to consequence, limitation, or safety would recognize that it doesn’t work that way for everyone else —
Doesn’t anyone else see the problem with this?