This afternoon I was out picking up groceries and as I approached my block I noticed a petite blonde casting fearful glances at me from over her shoulder. We both neared my corner and she kept turning to look at me...
Now for those of you who have never met me, I am six feet tall, around 240 pounds and tend to dress in black, and today I was decked out in my black leather trench coat, sun-goggles and a hideous raccoon hat (complete with the unfortunate scavenger's face just above my eyebrows), all quite fitting for the bitter cold and generally cruddy weather. In other words, I resembled a mulatto Frankenstein's monster on a four-week LSD bender.
The paranoid young woman rounded the corner and I was right behind her as we approached my building — where I have resided for eight years — she started to loudly shriek "STOP FOLLOWING ME!!!" She stepped up onto the stoop of my building and frantically fumbled with her keys in a desperate to gain entrance and escape the dusky pursuer who no doubt intended her complete and utter MANDINGO-style violation. Presently she crossed the threshhold and closed the lobby door with a look of relieved smugness. Said smugness changed to abject horror as I walked up, calmy opened the door and walked in.
She backed up the stairway to the second floor, wide-eyed, and again yelled "STOP FOLLOWING ME!!!" I said nothing, and as she warily advanced to the stairway to the third floor I turned to my own doorway, opened the door and said, "LIsten, lady. I live here. Deal with it." She spluttered for a bit, and said, "Oh, my God! I'm so sorry!" as she darted up the stairs like her naughty bits were on fire and she needed to sit in a tub full of water posthaste.
The saddest part of all this is that this has happened to me on several occasions over the years, and I have simply resigned myself to the fact that I am a scary black man to those who don't know me.
My favorite exmple of this is from some nineteen years ago during my college days at SUNY Purchase when a stereotypical Jewish princess from Long Island came up to me one day after class — for the record the class was "Rebels, Freaks and Prophets," taught by the legendary and truly excellent Esther Newton — and said, "you know, Steve, when I first saw you and that huge afro and leather and sunglasses and biker boots, I was terrified of you. Then you opened your mouth to speak in class and all fear flew away from me..." To my credit, I did not curse her out, but I ignored her from that point on.
So the moral of this is: unless some black guy is holding you down on the asphalt with a Ginsu pressed to your throat, please don't assume that we are out to get you. In fact, for all you know the brotha with the Ginsu may be attempting to remove a dangerous parasite, thereby saving your melanin-challenged ass.