This week, I began a Doctor of Ministry program at a local seminary in Washington, D.C. The first class was on the politics of the church. Today, during a lunch break , I decided to leave campus to eat. I had packed a lunch with a few of my favorites to include a turkey sandwich and plain chips with French onion dip. It was warm enough so I found a place to park on a neighboring street and commenced to setting a table on my lap.
I was done with half of my sandwich and was enjoying the chips when I noticed an older woman leaving one of the houses. She had a large brown suitcase in one hand and was waving goodbye to the person at the door with the other. I had not noticed her car until now. I was sitting in my car, which was parked behind hers.
While I was admiring her beautiful short haircut, she turned and looked at me. Then, she quickly looked again surprised. She opened the trunk of her car and placed the suitcase inside. Then, she turned and looked at me again.
This time, she was annoyed. She was clearly not happy to see me. Her eyes said, “You don’t belong here” or maybe “Get out of here.” Either way, I would refuse to get the message.
I don’t know what came over me. But, I decided to keep on eating my chips and dip and to look right at her. I cocked my head to one side to suggest contemplation. I brought it back to its original position and without any facial expression, looked at her as if she were on stage or projected on a movie screen.
This is how racism is performed. It is a body language. She was waiting for the cars to pass so she couldn’t get into her car immediately. She kept looking at me.
I kept on looking at her and eating my chips with dip. Eating is normal. But, I was taught as a child that staring at someone is rude. But, it was more than that.
I was fully aware of what was happening and reminded myself that her eyes were no better than mine, that she was not the best judge of my character. It didn’t matter who she saw when she looked at me. I wanted her to know that I saw her and more importantly, that I would not allow her to supervise my body.
I belong where ever I am.
I would not look away or look down. I certainly was not going to move my car or move my teeth any faster to finish my lunch. I was going to enjoy every single bite and I did. After a couple of minutes, she got into her car and sped away. She had lost the staring competition and I may have ruined her lunch.