I was exiting the front door of my apartment building tonight, and there was a young man on the other side. As I went through he moved to go through the open door behind me, but without thinking about it I stopped him and said “um, is there someone you can call to get in?…”

He rolled his eyes and moved back towards the call box, and as I walked away I could hear him mutter “Yeah, alright, happens all the time, I know I’m black.”

And then I was like:

Fuck.

FUCK.

Yeah it’s official building policy never to let anyone piggyback when you go through that door (it’s Oakland, after all), but how often do I actually stop people? Really fucking rarely, that’s how often.

I always think I’m going to, but usually my insecurity about making other people upset with me leads me to just look busy, move really quickly, and hope it shuts before they can get through.

But this time I saw a young black guy who looked a tad scruffy and disheveled holding a crumpled Burger King bag, and some part of my mind went “hey, this time you should probably enforce that rule.”

Fucking christ Clare, seriously?

There was no conscious thought process before this happened, no moment of decision, I just found myself doing it and then walking away and then he said that and I realized “wow, what I just did was really fucking racist.”

I’m super angry with myself right now. Especially after I watched this awesome video today (found on Upworthy) encouraging white people to use their own racial privilege to combat racism.

 

 

I’d love to think that in a moment like this woman describes where I see discrimination happening I would realize it and step in and say something, but there was no “see it happening” or “realization” moment tonight, my mind was thinking about something totally unrelated and my automatic reaction was to stop this young black guy from getting through the door.

And I… I don’t know how to change that.

It feels like the only way to change my automatic reactions is to constantly be on guard about the racial implications of what I’m doing, but if that was all I devoted my mind to I’d never get anything done and it would take me forever to make decisions. I’m already hyper-vigilant about gender issues, so much so that it paralyzes my decision making sometimes and I wish I could just not care about it for a little while. I’ve never felt so lucky to be part of only one commonly oppressed group; if I had to deal with Intersectionality on a daily basis my head would explode.

Obviously for the next few days I’m going to be critiquing my reactions to people and looking for similar automatic responses I may have, but that will fade as the rest of my life overwhelms me and consumes my brain power, and next time I go to take the trash out maybe I’ll do it again.

What I am really glad about is that he made that snarky murmur and I heard it, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have given it any additional thought.

If you, dear reader, have any ideas on steps someone can take to change automatic racist patterns of behavior I would love to hear about them.