I hesitate to post this because I’m bringing race into an experience I just had. It’s my experience as a typical average white woman so keep in mind this is my perspective.
I had to spend my lunch hour standing in line at the post office. There was an elderly man with a leather Marines jacket on in front of me and a tall heavy set woman had entered at the same time he did. Instead of getting in line she walks over to the self serve area so we move up.
She walks back over and gets in front of him and turns to tell him in a loud and spiteful tone “I told you we needed to be two feet apart and I was in front of you”. She never said a word to me or even looked at me. I’m the one she should have stood in front of.
He was the only black man in line and everyone turned to see what was happening. He politely took a few steps back as did I and he said “Hey that’s fine I’m not in a hurry”.
I’d like to think race had nothing to do with her anger. I tend instead to think she was just feeling hateful for whatever reason and she took it out on him. But who knows 🤷♀️. It felt very unsettling to witness and a bit unhinged on her part. Regardless she felt entitled and it was important enough to her to claim her right to that space.
I don’t experience racist behavior in person very often and maybe it’s my own unconscious racism that caused me to label this racism because it was specifically directed towards a black man. Something to think about.
Anyway, as I was trying to process the moment a young teenage boy walked over to him and said “Thank you for your service sir”
Once again the whole post office looked toward them. They talked for a moment about what being in the service meant and how the teenager had a mom in the Air Force. They wished one another Merry Christmas and the boy left.
And then the next woman finished and on her way out she said “I’m smiling under this mask” and he told her Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. As did the next person.
He turned to look at me. I had a few tears falling. And well of course I was crying because i just witnessed something beautiful and I am an emotional disaster. Sigh.
Anyway, I had a few tears falling and he asked if I was okay. I told him it isn’t often you see an unkind act balanced by several acts of kindness in the span of 5 minutes. He smiled and said it’s a cycle isn’t it. With bad there is good. We talked for a minute until he was called to the counter.
I needed to witness that.
A teenager reminded me how having the courage to say thank you to a stranger can change the energy in a room in a powerful way. And it left me to think about why I would automatically assume racism was a factor… I really feel it was. And finally… how his compassion and patience won the moment.