Monday, January 11

The black Rapist next door!

So it's Monday evening 6pm, it's dark outside. I'm alone on a quiet dim lit street in a middle class neighbourhood. I'm walking my dog. I'm black. Female. Five feet two. I'm about ten feet away from my friend's home who I'm house sitting for and I notice footsteps behind me. They are getting closer. Rushing footsteps. I turn around. I notice a young black guy about six three, with a hoody on. Head down. Maybe he's trying to shield himself from the cold or maybe..... something more. Something more sinister. My heart begins to beat faster. Maybe he's trying to hide his face i wonder? My heart races. I quicken my step. He quicken his. step. I'm getting nervous no one is around. I'm now about five feet away from "home."
There's a young black guy with a hoody on, his face down. Steps behind me. I race to my door, keys out. I try to remember everything that i have learnt in self-defense class. Oh but it was so many years ago! Yet, I'm prepared to scream, kick, yell. I will gouge his eyes out with my keys. I will kick him in the nuts! He won't take me down without a fight. I'm ready! I race to the door. Running. Hands shaking. He starts running as well! I open the door slam it shut. I'm safe! I think~Yet he runs towards the house, I think he's going to try and smash through the door, yet he abruptly runs down the adjoining alleyway between my "home" and the neighbors. I know what he's going to do! He's going to smash the side window and break into the house. He's going to rape me! I'm in extreme panic. I don't know who to call! I grab my phone quickly my first instincts are to call my friends. No one answers. I glance out the window I don't see him, yet i know he's there. I sense him. I'm going to call 911! I need the police! As I'm about to call my phone rings, it's my friend who owns the house. She had just seen my number on her phone, is everything ok? I quickly explain. Describing my would be "attacker," should I call the police! She laughs. "Oh that's the neighbour's son he lives next door he uses the side door because he lives in the basement." My heart stops racing. My hands stop trembling. Shame overtakes me. My friend laughs. More shame. She responds. "Man you don't want to be the black girl who calls the cops on an innocent black guy!" Shame washes over me. An innocent young black guy just going home and yet he had become the "rapist."
Me, who should have known better, Miss, black feminist, social activist. The person who just produced a play called Secrets of a black boy which deals with the stereotypes of black men! I feel shame. I think of all the great black men in my life. The ones who have loved me and I have loved them fiercely back. Defending their honour viciously to anyone who wants to label them anything but good black men!
At the top of my "good black men list" is my brother whom I love dearly, probably the same age as the "rapist" next door. My brother wears a hoody when it's cold, wraps his scarf around his face. I wonder how many times women have mistaken him for a rapist when he's walking down Landsdowne, probably around midnight on the way to his night shift job. Maybe he's walking a bit faster because he's late for work or maybe he's just cold.....
I also think of the worst possibilities, what if i was a white woman who called the cops and described exactly the scenario of what happened, a black young guy, "following me", rushing down a dark alleyway, would they rush over, pin my "rapist" over the hood of a cop car, arrest him.... I don't know.
Yet as I sit with these thoughts, I also wonder, would I have reacted the same way if he was a young white man "following" me? What if he was a young white man in a business suit? Would I have felt just as threatened? Would I have felt threatened if he was a young white kid in baggy jeans and a hoody on? I want to believe that my reaction would have been the same....but I'm not so sure. I'm not certain. And this uncertainty bothers me. Doesn't sit well with me.
I can't help but think about the countless black men who sit behind bars, for being so called "suspects." How many innocent black men have been jailed. I recall the case of James Bain. A florida man who spent 35 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. James Bain, who is now 54 years-old, was convicted of kidnapping and raping a nine-year-old boy in 1974. The young boy recognised Mr Bain as his attacker, but there was no technical evidence.
Bain's alibi that he was watching television with his twin sister was dismissed. Through out the years Mr Bain always maintained that he was innocent. Recently a DNA test has proved his innocence! There are so many other cases like James Bain. How many of the wrongly convicted just happen to be black men?

And to make myself feel better I want to truly believe that I reacted from a place of fear and self-preservation as a young womyn trying to protect herself. I want to believe that race didn't factor into this at all. I want to believe that I wasn't influenced by the daily media diet, of black men's faces sprawled across newspaper headlines and t.v stations that label them "rapist", murderer, BAD ~someone to fear did not affect my reaction. I want to believe this I do! I want to believe that I know better! That I would never fear a black man! I have no need to fear black men!
Because I have a brother a black brother. A brother I love fiercely. A gentle giant. A good "kid." Six three, who sometimes wears a hoody. And sometimes covers his face when it's cold. I have a brother. A black brother......

* I welcome your feedback on this one....


Anonymous said...

What an interesting blog. I must say, as a white woman, I always cross the street if I see a white man walking my way on my side of the street at night, and yet feeling no ways walking through any hood at night time. My complex? Or do facts and stats play a part in my lack of confidence in white men? I honestly don't know. But, this I do know, the white race has produced way more (documented) diaibolical murders and serial killers. All men rape, those you don't know and those that you willingly let into your house to eat dinner. Black, white, spanish (this I know first hand), or whatever.... Regardless, we should always be prepared to defend ourselves, because if we don't, in most cases, noone else will. The police cannot protect you before someone makes their intentions known, and in alot of cases, after it's happened. Protect ya neck!

Anonymous said...

Trey I think if the guy had of been white, black or green with purple polka dots you would have had the same reaction. I know I would have. It was dark, you were alone for women that can be scary in itself. Then this guy ran when you did, seemed to be following you and human nature kicks in to protect us. I wouldn't read too much into it. Actually if you look at rape statistics, you are more likely to be raped by a white guy than a black guy. Give yourself a break, you were scared and fear does not always make us rational.
Thanks for sharing!

max.fabulous said...

What a great post. I can relate to that horrible feeling of realizing you've momentarily bought into stereotypes about your own people. It's not a good feeling at all.
But I agree with the other posters - a big part of your reaction was probably just the fact that it was a man, period. And he seemed to be following you. That's some scary sh*t for a woman walking alone in the dark.
And hey - it's not like you knew the neighbour had a son, right? Anyone else would have made the same mistake. That's the story I would be sticking to if I were you :-P

Anonymous said...

Hi Trey,

Thanks for sharing this complex and emotional experience. I'm a gay white man and I can tell you there have been a few times late at night when I'm nervous about who is behind me or approaching me in the street.

That being said, whereas your analysis focuses on race, after my own reflection, I think my fears would perhaps revolve more around a combination of class and age. You ask whether you'd feel the same if it were a white man in a suit? I admit that no I wouldn't -- but I wouldn't be nervous of anyone in a suit. I am, however, occasionally made nervous by young men, swaggering down the street in hoodies or similar baggy attire, regardless of their race or ethnicity. To me, the attire is somewhat threatening and the swagger conveys a hyper-masculinity that is often at odds with homosexuality.

Incidentally, when *I* am out walking after dark I take care when approaching women, especially from behind, so as not to frighten them. (Well, that's the intent, I hope it actually works.)

Regardless, while your post reminds us all to look past stereotypes, I think the most important thing at midnight on a dark street is one's personal safety.

Honey Bee said...

Not saying this just to agree with the majority or to stroke you, but I do believe you would have had the same reaction no matter what this guy's colour was.

You told the story so vividly that I pictured myself in that scenario, and hell yeah I would be scared if a big man (of any race) seemed to be following me when I'm alone, outside and in the dark!

It was brave of you to question yourself about this so publicly, that alone makes a big statement. No fear, we KNOW you love your people, trey! And that's why we love you so much!!

Lisa Michelle

Anonymous said...

don't feel guilt.

white guys scare me just as much, if not more. aren't they more like to be serial killers, abductors and rapists??

at night time, on a quiet street, any white guy could be the next paul bernardo in my eyes.

yes, i'm very paranoid (i've been assaulted before).

Anonymous said...

I would be afraid if the guy was white, black, brown or red...if my steps quicken and his also . . .i would worry.

Anonymous said...

As a black woman, I would have the same reaction even if he was green. I was robbed at gunpoint by three young black men. I even said hello(they were young enough to be my baby brother and they resembled my baby I wasn't afraid) to them because I thought they were coming to pick up their mother from the salon..however, when I saw the guns and they told me to get down on the floor now that's another story:(

Anonymous said...

In the night, I would have had the same reaction, no matter what colour. However, in the light, a man in a suit or 'well dressed', of any colour would not have illicited that response and these days a man in a suit in the day can still be a "menance"

Cut yourself some slack, we live in a world now that requires a woman to be 'aware' of her surroundings!

Anonymous said...

I think I generally force myself to talk to the person to check their vibe. Sometimes they have their headphones on. But I still gesticulate and say "Wow, are you ever a fast walker. I can hardly keep up." Goofy laugh? Not a rapist. Psycho silence. Scream bloody murder.

Not joking. That's how I gauge.

Anonymous said...

Hi Trey,

Things happen for a reason.I know from your blogs that you are constantly working on self. Perhaps it was just human instinct to want to protect ourselves from perceived danger. Maybe this is also a good opportunity to reevaluate your perception of the black man despite the fact that you just produced a play that addressed profiling. I loved the play by the way.

Was there a past experince that triggered this reaction? What is your core belief?

I think that subconsciously we take in what we see in the media the negative image of black men. Even though we would never act it out consciously subconsciouly we do. But do not be do hard on yourself. Learn from this experince and forgive yourself.
Maybe this could be an idea for a next play.

Genevieve said...

I don't think that this is a race issue for you per se. You might have a lot of unresolved issues that have manifested itself in a specific fear. Think about how you reacted and connect that with an incident that happened previously in your past. You might have an answer... you might not. Lots of things that are seemingly about race turn out to come from a different root. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I have been there. Walking alone at night, I work the night shift so I get home pretty late. I can honestly say that as a woman walking alone at night, something animalistic and self-preserving comes over me at those times and I'm leery of everyone I see. I believe that you yourself was just tapping into the same emotions and would have reacted the same way to any man perceived to be following you.