Tonight, I was a victim of of a microaggression. Now, I know it’s hard to fathom that being a young white male of good upbringing and brimming with “privilege” could be a victim of someone else, but it is all too true. Given our current “cry wolf” culture, I just had to tell the world.
As I was walking down the sidewalk in my sleeveless shirt and my muscles flexing, I was obviously looking for trouble in her eyes. She turned the corner and saw me less than 40 feet away. She instantly clutched her keys tighter and trying to figure out if she had time to get her mace ready or just use her keys to fend off my attack. A few steps later her eyes darted to the ground hoping that I just don’t see her and that she’ll make it to her car fine. “Wow, it’s dark out here, no one can see us so I think I’ll turn on my car lights.” She hits the lock button to turn her dome lights and headlights on. That seems to calm her nerves slightly. She still sees me walking towards her and I look much bigger than I did 40 feet ago. Should she run, should she try to fight? Is she going to be a rape statistic tonight? 5 feet away and she is holding her breath trying not to scream. She doesn’t even notice my dog Wagner at my side because she is in a blind panic. “Is he smiling at me because he want to try and take my guard down? No way, not me.” Is this white boy about to do something to this young black girl? She sees me turn the corner but her guard is still up. I could come back and get her in the blink of an eye.
As I was walking Wagner back from his evening poop, I saw a young woman coming from one of the side hallways. I had also just gotten back from working out, so I still had my sleeveless shirt on with a little bit of sweat on it. She might have been leaving for the evening or getting done checking her mail. She saw me and I tried to politely smile at her as I try to do everyone. We were walking on the same trajectory. She pushed a button on her car so the lights and dome lights would come on. She had to get something out of her car. I turned the corner to go up to my apartment, and she got in her car. That was it.
Our culture would tell you that it’s absurd for me to claim victimhood. This story is just an expression of my “white privilege” and that the girl had every right to be fearful because of all the stories of white male predators spurring on “rape culture”. We live in a society where our first thoughts are either something terrible is about to happen to me, or we are the victim of someone else’s thoughts.
As humans, we have innate fight or flight feelings that have allowed our species to survive. If we see someone we don’t know, or don’t feel comfortable in a situation we tense up to get ready for a fight. We also hear stories in the news every day of people being assaulted, robbed, abused and murdered and we start to form prejudices. We notice parts of town where this happens, people who perpetrate these crimes, and we start to notice patterns.
Prejudices, as accurately defined, are not necessarily bad but are merely opinions formed from our experiences. Our modern culture has turned it into a word with stigma instead of one similar to “preference”. A prejudice for some would be gelato over ice cream. For some it might be a favorite color of clothing because it looks better with their hair. Some may see that as “preference” rather than “prejudice” but we’re just arguing word choice at that point. All of that was to say that that prejudices are not always bad and are merely born of our opinions good or bad.
So the next time you see someone walking down the street that you don’t know, remember they may have life experiences that are different and have formed prejudices. If you don’t like the actions they are taking of clutching their bag, walking to the other side of the street, or turning the lights on their to their car, that doesn’t mean that they are microaggressing against you, they are only acting based on their prejudices. Don’t think you are the victim of their action, just look over, smile, go about your business, and respect their liberties.