Bubbles and Bees

A few weeks ago my husband and Buggy were outside playing bubbles. She LOVES playing bubbles, so I wanted to go take a few photos of her. Isn’t she just the cutest?

Anyway… I opened the back door at the same time that my husband swatted a bee. He inadvertently hit me in the stomach, and I yelled. I yelled because it hurt a little bit, but mostly because it was unexpected, and I was surprised to get hit while walking out the door. I had no idea he was about to swat a bee, and he didn’t know I was walking out the door at that moment. It was a total accident, and I wasn’t hurt at all, but that doesn’t mean that the neighbors who heard me yell knew the context of the situation. I was accidentally hit, but not hurt in the slightest.

My husband brought me inside and explained how it might look to someone who didn’t know us, and didn’t know he was swatting a bee and accidentally hit me on his follow through. How it might sound to someone who didn’t hear the part about how I wasn’t actually hurt. How it wasn’t on purpose. My husband explained to me that a white woman on her porch yelling that her black husband hit her doesn’t look good. He said it might be enough for someone to call the cops.

I started crying, because someone calling the cops on him for swatting a bee and accidentally lightly hitting me was something that I never in 1,000 years would have considered. I had so many thoughts and questions racing through my mind, but mostly I was nervous and scared. I was scared that my family would be ripped apart due to a simple misunderstanding, and that because of my husband’s skin color the police wouldn’t believe our story and he would be taken to jail (or worse) and it would be all my fault. I started getting mad at myself for yelling when I got hit. How could I not realize how it would sound or look to someone else? How could I not know that there is so much injustice within the criminal justice system, and that my husband could be hauled away just for swatting a bee. What would I do if the police came? I was over reacting to the situation, but I couldn’t stop the thoughts from coming. What was I going to do, and how could I make them understand that it was an accident. That we love each other, and that he would never hurt me.

While nobody overheard us that day, and the police did not come, my conversation with my husband has been troubling me for weeks. What I didn’t consider that day was the fact that we were outside, within earshot of our neighbors, and that I yelled that my husband just hit me. I didn’t think about the fact that as a white woman talking about being hit by a black man (no matter the context or intent) could get him into trouble. He is so much more aware of his surroundings and of situations that could be perceived by others as negative then I am. And it is because he is black.   It is because of his experiences, and those of others like Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by police while sitting in his car, that make him more cautious then me. I will never know what it is like to live in fear of the police, or how it feels to be treated poorly because of my coloring. I can never fully understand what my husband goes through, and what my children will go through as “people of color”. I will never be scared the way that they are.

I am scared that my kids are going to grow up in a world that systemically discriminates against them because of their skin color, and that they will never be given the same opportunities I have had simply because they do not appear white. I am afraid that even if I teach my son to respect police and to comply with their requests, he will still be in danger. I don’t know what to do about these problems, but I feel the need to do something. I don’t believe in fighting violence with violence, and disagree with the recent police shootings in Dallas. However, I cannot simply sit back and live in fear that something will happen to my family.

I am going to go play bubbles with Buggy now, and hope that no more bees fly by when I walk by my husband. And I’m going to try to be more aware of my surroundings and of situations in which my family may feel uncomfortable, even if I don’t.

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Stranger Danger

My husband and I were out with some friends the other night and he made an off hand comment that he fit the profile for several armed robbers in the area.  We all laughed, because it was kind of true.  He is an average height black male between 20-40 with a muscular build and a five o’clock shadow.  Later, he told me that when he goes into a gas station late at night he will get stares or employees will follow him.  If he asks “what?” because he didn’t hear what someone said they startle and act scared of him.  It’s like they are expecting him to do something violent or steal something.  Particularly if he is out at night and in the store without me.  The reality is that all kinds of people, male, female, white, black, brown, young, and old, commit crimes.  I used to volunteer for a youth court diversion program and we had plenty of young white girls who got caught shoplifting or trespassing.  But the media portrays young adult black males as criminals and so as a society we believe that someone who fits that stereotype must be dangerous and treat them as such even when the evidence in front of us suggests otherwise.

I, as a white woman, have never experienced these things.  If I go into the gas station late at night employees usually say hello and occasionally just ignore me all together.  I am always aware of my surroundings, but I am not fearful of strangers.  I say hello to homeless people and make eye contact and smile when I walk by someone on the street.  When I take Buggy out I make sure she sees me being kind to strangers, and as she grows older I will make sure she understands the difference between someone intending harm and someone just being friendly.  Certainly I will warn her not to get in a van with someone who offers her candy, and tell her not to go up to people with weapons, but I will also teach her to accept kindness from strangers and to be kind in return.  Just the other day a mom at the park offered my husband a piece of her son’s snack to give Buggy.  He accepted.  Sure, the snack could have contained some type of poison, she was a stranger after all.  But the chances of that were so slim that it never even crossed his mind until I just told him I was writing about it.

All too often I see parents with their kids at the park getting mad when their child speaks to a stranger.  They warn their child not to talk to anyone and fear that someone will kidnap their child.  The reality is that most kidnapping cases are actually committed by someone the child knows (like a non-custodial parent, grandparent or step-parent), not a stranger in the park.  Yet people still fear strangers.  Personally, I am always vigilant about checking my surroundings and if I do feel unsafe I make sure to get out of the situation.  I do not go walking alone in areas known for high crime, or head out at night down a dark alleyway by myself, but I also refuse to live my life in fear of strangers.

Yes, my husband may fit the profile of an armed robber, but he is a great guy and I am glad that I looked past his dark skin and decided to dance with him the night we met because I found out that under his dark skin and hard exterior there is a big soft teddy bear full of lots of love for me and Buggy.

BugAndDada

Buggy and her dad roasting marshmallows. Does this guy really look like he’s going to hurt anyone?