It was one of those joyous, sunny days at the end of winter where we had our car windows rolled down, music blaring, winter-pale faces turned toward the sun as we drove, happy to be out from the cold, rainy week just passed.
It was good to be alive and free.
As usual, traffic narrowed to one lane then ground to a halt for the inevitable road construction near the seminary at City Line and Lancaster Ave. I was going north, passing one of Route 1’s worst intersections. Traffic going south was stopped too. (I’ll rue the day when politicians finally get it together to fix our broken infrastructures as it will become impossible to drive anywhere.)
Heavy metal music blaring from a red pickup truck in the far southern lane was the soundtrack background for a white man in a red cap screaming with rage at a lovely middle-aged black woman wearing a picture hat whose driver’s door was close to mine. “You f***ing monkey!” he shouted; I was frightened by his curses and threats. Did he have a gun? What had the woman done to provoke such a violent, threatening outburst? I could feel his murderous intent spitting hatred across two car lanes, sending the vibration of rage to all in the vicinity. This was a man out of control. Dangerous.
The frightened woman turned toward me, her eyes filled with bafflement and fear as his hateful curses rained down on her. I felt extreme shame for the troubled man and deep sorrow for her. I raised my hands in an open gesture and said, “I’m so sorry, so so sorry!”
I thought of my friend of over thirty years, Yvonne, and how she once commented, after an unpleasant racially-charged interchange with a store clerk, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be white just for one day, to be able to go through a day without having to put up with this racist s**t!”
I wonder…what would it be like to be black or brown just for a day and have to put up with this s**t!