You don’t know me. Maybe I’ve completely disappeared from your mind, but for the time being you have not escaped mine.
I was a girl walking to my office. You were a guy in a black sedan. I was minding my own business at the corner of Stevens and Swift when you rolled down your window and yelled one word to me:
You sped off, so I doubt you saw my jaw drop to the ground. Who would have thought that in 2017 in the United States, that such language is acceptable? If you didn’t see the shock materialize across my face, you most certainly didn’t see what happened after that. I fumed on the inside and pondered a few things.
You are the reason why I can’t believe people when they say racism no longer exists.
You are the reason why I hold myself to a higher standard, so people don’t think I’m being treated with kid gloves because I’m a minority.
You are the reason why I get up and wonder if today will be the day that I’m thrown to the ground because I don’t look like you.
You are the reason why I wonder if my life would be better if I had a different skin color.
These things are not pretty. They’re not easy to live by. But I also know that they are not what define me.
You are also the reason why I get up in the morning and try to be a little bit better.
You are the reason why I treat people a little more kindly. There’s enough ugliness in the world.
And you are the reason why I am able to pick myself up and walk a little taller.
In that moment that was nothing to you, I remembered who I am. I remembered that I am not a single word that comes out of your mouth. I remembered that I am not defined by ignorance and I am not who you judge me to be.
As I got into my office and set my things down, I realized that I didn’t feel bad about myself. I felt sorry for YOU.
If I didn’t know who I am, if I didn’t know that I am so much more than my race, I would be asking you for an apology. But I’m not. It isn’t necessary. Instead, I say I’m sorry to you. I’m sorry you don’t know any better. I’m sorry our society is one that allows ignorance in order to protect free speech. I’m sorry that you have not had the privilege of experiencing a life that isn’t yours. I’m sorry that something has happened in your life that makes you think you have nothing better to do than roll down your window and hurl insults at people you don’t know.
Because when it comes down to it, guy in a black sedan, we probably aren’t that different. You have your flaws, and I certainly have mine. I have my strengths and I assume that you have yours. What matters is how we use those strengths and how we tend to our flaws. In a moment your flaws overcame your strengths, but I am hopeful that something will be moved in you so you see what I saw during our brief encounter: One encounter does not define you. You can always lift your chin up, stand a little bit taller, continue on and pledge to be better.