Race Relations

Do Not Move Off The Sidewalk Challenge: Holding Your Space in A White World

Last year, I was in the airport on the rolling walkway with clear directions posted before stepping on the sidewalk to ‘stand on the right or walk on the left.’ There was a White man in front of me that disregarded the sign and stood in the middle of the rolling walkway preventing anyone from passing him. Behind me, I could hear someone approaching, and I turned around and saw a middle age Black woman walking briskly with her rolling suitcase flying behind her. I pressed myself and my luggage against the side rail to move out of her way and allow her easy access to pass me. She whizzed by me and in front of her was the White man, oblivious that she was behind him and in an apparent rush. He never turned around, never moved and never once thought that others behind him might need to pass. While I would like to say the Black woman, leaped over him, luggage in tow in a single bound, she stopped dead in her tracks. She never said a word. She never politely tapped the man on the shoulder to say, “Excuse me, may I get by you?” She just accepted that he was not going to move and for some reason even though she was in an apparent rush, she made a choice not to ask for him to cede the space for her to pass. She waited for the rolling walkway to come to an end, waited for him to saunter off the walkway then immediately took off in a sprint heading towards her gate. That small interaction stayed with me my entire flight.

As I made my connecting flight, I was looking forward to having pizza at the airport. I cannot recall the name of the restaurant, but it has the best pizza with prosciutto, arugula and cooked eggs on top surrounded by hot, creamy goat cheese. After I got my pizza, I sat down at an empty counter and put my earphones in, anxiously ready to take a huge bite. Before I could get my first bite, a White man walked up to the opposite side of the counter, facing me, with his food. I looked up at him then looked down at the completely empty counter space (besides me sitting at it) wondering why he chose to stand directly in front of me as he added salt to his food? Typically, I would move down, but after witnessing the Black woman on the rolling walkway, I made a decision, “I am NOT moving! I do not care if he wants to stand there until I have finished every bite of this pizza, I refuse to move to accommodate him!” After he enjoyed a few bites of his food and noticed that I was not going to move, he packed up his belongings and moved to the end of the counter.

Victory!

It was just that easy. I made a conscious decision as a Black woman to hold my space. I was not going to cede my space to a White person because that is what was expected of me.  Now, before you read any further, this is not a blog about being rude, impolite, etc. I believe as an “average” human being we understand that there are sometimes you must and should cede your space. If you are in the way of someone that has some physical challenges or someone is elderly and as a result, has some physical issues that is different.  I am not talking about ordinary, everyday courtesy we extend to others for often apparent reasons. That is NOT what I am talking about so please do not message me about that or make this blog about that. If you do, you are taking the easy way out of this blog and not looking at the totality of what I am discussing.

I am talking about Black people, particularly Black women and People of Color being cognizant of how they navigate throughout spaces making accommodations for White people and White people having an expectation that Black people or People of Color must navigate their bodies to allow White people access in spaces. This is more than someone being rude; this is about White people feeling as if Black bodies should accommodate them in spaces and if we do not, it is seen as the Black person being rude, unpleasant and intimidating.

An example of this is a recent incident documented by Frederick T. Joseph, who took a photo of a White woman placing her feet on his dining tray on an airplane. The airline staff did not address the woman and when Joseph asked the woman to move her feet, she accused him of disrupting her flight. According to the article, when the flight staff asked the woman to remove her feet she stated, “If I put one foot down, I want to be accommodated for accommodating him.”  In this space, the White woman felt she was well within her right to infringe on Joseph’s space and when told she could not, she wanted to be accommodated as if respecting his space was doing him a favor.

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Photo by Frederick T. Joseph/Twitter

Black people and People of Color accommodate spaces for White people  so often that we may not even realize that we are doing it or how ingrained it is in Black culture to cede your space.  I hadn’t given thought to the incident in the airport in a while; however, yesterday I read a Twitter thread by, Tatiana Mac and the memory of that day instantly came to my mind.  (Please read the complete thread on Twitter.)

While thousands of people shared, understood and could relate to Tatiana’s story, there was an exchange by a White woman named Liberty Warrior that brought the thread full circle. (I  am providing screenshots below because I knew it would only be a matter of time before Liberty Warrior blocked me and true to form, when I went to the thread today, she had blocked me. Because I deal with women like Liberty Warrior often, I had already taken screen shots of the conversation because I knew she would do that. That is often the modus operandi of people like her. When they do not want to face the truth, they block the truth.)

Even in the virtual arena,  Black people and People of Color are expected to cede their space.  If you look at the thread, Liberty Warrior  was repeatedly asked to remove herself from Tatiana’s thread, and she refused. Instead of starting her own thread in her own virtual space, she felt it was necessary to list all the times that People of Color have made her feel inferior in spaces on Tatiana’s thread. She could not understand that she was doing the very thing that  Tatiana was talking about just in a virtual space. When I mentioned this to her, she called me sweetheart, and when I told her that was not my name, she proceeded to tell me that SHE can call me whatever she wants. Why does she feel that she has that authority? Because in many spaces, even virtual spaces, many White people think that Black people and People of Color must step back, bow down, and  relinquish their virtual space to accommodate their racism.

For centuries, White America has dictated how Black people can navigate our own bodies in spaces.  It is not just the physical space itself being regulated by White people but the actual way Black people can use their bodies in these spaces. For instance, there was a time in this country that Black people were required to step off the sidewalk if a White person was approaching them and allow the White person to pass, before stepping on the sidewalk again.  According to Dr. Ronald L. F. Davis of
California State University,  Jim Crow laws provided “racial etiquette” for Black people. Black people were required to be “agreeable and non-challenging, even when the White person was mistaken about something.”

Black people are often told how much space we are allowed to take up, and our space is often infringed upon to accommodate White people. If we are tall, our height is used as a way to demonize us. This was evident when 12-year-old Tamir Rice was murdered within minutes by the police in Cleveland, Ohio. Tamir was described by now ousted police union president, Steve Loomis as, “Menacing. He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body.” Tamir could not help his height. Yet his physical appearance was used to justify his murder. If we take up too much space, it is a problem. Black people and People of Color are acutely aware of our bodies in spaces. I have been in meetings, and everyone has been acknowledged, but me or I am acknowledged last. I have sat in spaces, and after a quick introduction, people cease directing any comments to me. It is almost as if I am The Invisible Black Person by the door just taking up space. I am learning after the airport incident, to hold my space. I am here, and I will not apologize if me holding my space disrupts your day.

My challenge for Black people and People of Color, particularly Black women and Women of Color, is to hold your space. I challenge you for the next 24-48 hours to be aware of your body in spaces and do not move for a White person or make any apologies for physically occupying any space. Be mindful of how you navigate sidewalks, who moves to accommodate you and who doesn’t. If someone infringes on your space, do you speak up or remain silent?  Make a mental note of any time you feel you were “expected” to move and the reaction of the other person when you didn’t. Take note of how people accommodate others in spaces. Was it frightening or empowering to hold your space? Do you think people felt you were intimidating? How did you feel at the end of the day? 

For White people, I challenge you for the next 24-48 hours to be aware of how to treat Black people and People of Color in spaces. Do you have an expectation that Black people and People of Color should move out of your way? How many times do you insert yourself and your comments into virtual spaces because you feel it is your right without reading and listening to People of Color that have stated their truth on a particular issue? Do you speak around the Black person as if they are not in the room? Do you interrupt People of Color when they are speaking? Are you cutting a Black person or a Person of Color in line because you feel that is your right? Also be aware of how it feels to be cognizant of how your body navigates spaces and imagine how that would feel to do that at the very least for 8 hours out of each day.

When I held my space at the airport, I felt empowered. I was angry that someone stood right in front of me and started eating as if I was not right there. I am here. I have every right to be here. I have the right to be in spaces. I will no longer apologize for taking up space nor will I cede my space to a White person simply because that is some unwritten but expected rule. Over the next two days, walk in your authority.  Walk as if you want the world to know, “I am here!” Because you are. And you deserve to be. 

Please come back after you do the challenge and share some of your thoughts!

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Enjoy the Sidewalk!  Photo Credit: Nappy.co Artist: @photosbyphab

313 replies »

  1. This was such an interesting read. It made me think of other ways POC cede or accommodate WP, not using our first name at restaurants or coffee shops. I was getting my lunch one day and I used my last name per usual because it’s a common last name Miller, vs my unique and sometimes hard to pronounce if you’re not aware of the unique flower or color. And there was another WOC in the sandwich shop and they called the name Nicki and no one was responding the WOC stood up after 3 calls and came by me and said I almost forgot i used my white name. And she assumed another WOC would understand…I told her I do the same thing but use my last name. This post makes me not want to do that anymore. #foodforthought.

    • This is all a bunch of race baiting bullshit! This author wants everything to be about race. Is it possible that all of her named situations where WOC had to cede their space had nothing to do with race. Just people interacting or not interacting with other people. If you see everything through a racial lens then everything will appear to have racial connotations. The real truth……… nearly all the time, people are just being people and are trying to make it through the day and can care less about you or who you are. Nobody is walking around purposefully and passive aggressively trying to invonvieniebce black people. And when you see a black person or WOC ceding space, they are likely just being polite to another human being.
      Do yourself a favor. Put down your race goggles and just be a human being for a while. Stop getting sucked in to the over sensationalized racism culture and you’ll notice that most everyday people just don’t care enough to actively put down an entire race and don’t have the time or energy to be racist. We are all just people living our lives!

      • Have you seen anything in the media about White people calling the police on Black people simply for being in spaces some for just being on the sidewalk? If you haven’t noticed this it’s because you do not have to notice and you don’t want to notice. Black people and People of Color are trying to live their lives and many White people feel they need to dictate how that is done in spaces. I suggest getting out of your bubble and try to notice what is going on. Just last week a White woman lashed out against a Black woman for LITERALLY being on the sidewalk. Open your eyes!

      • Speak for yourself, but saying this doesn’t exist is simply not true. The world REEKS of ppl like this article mentioned and we are sick of it. I honestly am not the person who sees everything through a racial lens, but this article is 100% my truth and my experiences. I have had countless interactions with white people in grocery stores, and noticed after giving a polite smile and saying excuse me while moving to the side to let someone by (white older ppl of course), just for them to look at me and cut there eyes and walk by without saying anything at all, feels as if they truly believe that I’m suppose to do that FOR THEM. That is disgusting behavior, and I challenged myself to protect my space and only be courteous to those who say excuse me or at least smile and show that they are acknowledging that I am there and we are in EACH OTHER’S way. Only then will I be courteous and say excuse me. Other than that, I walk with my head high and look forward and I do. not. budge. Hmmph!

      • Damon, you are exemplifying exactly what this article is talking about. Who are you to say how she should view the interactions that she has encountered? Were you present at any of these experiences? You can’t tell anyone how they should feel, view things, or think. Again, the problem is, you feel you have the authority to do so. People of color dont have to be agreeable to your shortcomings as a human being and what’s being made clear is that we are not going to. You have no idea what it is to exist in this world as a person of color nor could you last 1 day in these shoes. You are the person standing in the middle of the walkway with no regard to what is going on around you.

      • I hear this a lot and it always makes me laugh, when I think of how ludicrous it is. White folks came up with the idea of race, practice racism and call people out who decry it as “racebaiters.” Talk about the fridge calling the stove white!

      • I had the biggest struggle with this about 10 years ago, whether walking around downtown, walking to or from work from mass transit, or in a mall, wherever. I am now 62 years old, and in my natural state I always accommodate others and yield, until I started paying close attention. It was always expected that I would yield and I never got a yield nor an excuse me, etc. I had to consciously force myself to not yield all the time. However, when we do, then we are labeled “angry Black women”. When I wasn’t conscious and automatically yielded without an acknowledgment, I would get upset with myself. However, there are some exceptions. The elderly, people with little ones, the handicapped, etc., but if we are on equal footing, I expect the same respect that you take for granted. I am claiming my space. Just so you know. I am too big for you to not see me. I am not invisible.

      • If you don’t have brown skin you don’t know our experience. You again demonstrated her point go make yourself feel better on your own thread, or take it to the alter no one is concerned or responsible for your feelings.

      • Whoever you are, I doubt you have any grounds for feeling comfortable acting like you are done more enlightened e left here. Whoever you are and whatever body you are in, stop needing to make more space in the center for white fuckery. You need to read ijeoma oluo’s book, “So you want to talk about race.” The best authority on whether an instance, event experience Etc. is about race is if the POV involved days it is, period.

    • OMG — I do the same thing. My last name is Taylor. I use it instead of my plain first name — Veronica. I get Victoria, Vanessa, Valerie, etc.

      • Veronica, whenever they miscall my name, I always ask what their name is and then I proceed to mirror what they do or are doing. They then get it and change the behavior. I also make constant eye contact. I do not lower my head or nervously shift my body. I am not interested in making them feel comfortable.

    • Well, that was a very long piece. I had to copy it to somewhere else to read it all. I feel your pain. An associate of mine and I noticed this very phenomenon in Seattle, WA back in the late 70’s and stopped ceding our space. We felt that when there are 2 people walking down the street that we were not obligated to get off the sidewalk or “split the pole,” in other words, move apart to let someone go unhindered between us, so we stopped moving to see what would happen. A lot of White people started getting knocked down in crosswalks and on sidewalks, because so many of them refused to move to one side themselves. The epitome of this behavior happened on a Sunday in downtown Seattle when all the stores were closed. The sidewalk around the Bon Marche was wider than most streets on the side we were walking on. The only people on the sidewalk were us and a White couple coming toward us. In spite of the fact that they could have moved over, as easily as we could have, they decided not to. Oh, well! They got knocked down. That’s when we really knew we were on to something and that it was not just our imagination. More recently, I saw Mos Def in the movie Partners of the Heart. Him and a friend were walking down a sidewalk, in one scene, and got off the sidewalk so some White folks could pass, without ceding one inch of space. They were in the South, Nashville, TN during the 1930’s. When I saw how this scene was depicted I knew for sure, we had not imagined what had happened in Seattle 30 years prior. That same mentality was still in play, 30 years ago and I venture to say it’s in play today. So, for me I stopped ceding space in 1978. For me, the challenge never ended. I’m doing the lifetime challenge.

      • I’m white & live in a big city. I come across different races every time I walk down the street. On many occasions I have felt anger from those who refuse to move to the side. Sometimes tourists are trying to stay together, sometimes people are walking & texting & on a few rare occasions I’ve had people stop in front of me as if daring me to argue. What worked for me is in any situation is to say excuse me & move to the side. I don’t care what race you are – or the reason you’re blocking my way…. I am polite & it’s such a tiny thing. I am white & have never expected anyone to get out of my way. In this world rather than focus on negative – I send everyone love & move on.

      • Sorry for being so wordy in my piece. I fully comprehend what you’re saying. I’m the same way when I’m walking by myself, but have noted that when I’m walking side by side with someone in a conversation that others coming towards me do not always have the courtesy to “not break the pole.” In otherwords, they do not even take the time to think about walking around two people walking together, instead of just walking right through them, like they’re not even there. This piece on sidewalk encounters is one example of the daily insults, barbs and incidents where White privilege is infringes on the rights of others. It’s part of a Weltanschauung or world view that says all others must kowtow to those of “higher rank” or status. Those who feel it, know it.

    • I’m really curious to know how you think this practice can play out with another person of color. I consider myself an active learner within the social justice world and had done some searches on any new challenges (as you’ve posted) or practices amongt the Black community. I’m Asian, I have encountered several similar situations with Black folks that had really taken me aback and caught me off guard. What I’m talking about is that I’m walking and accidentally bumped into a Black woman and we kept on turning in the same direction to move and I stepped aside for her and she was like “BITCH YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF THE WAY”. And the most recent one today when I was at the grocery store, I was exiting with my cart and a Black man stopped in front of my cart and I said “oh, excuse me” and he just stood there staring me down and I literally had to maneuver my cart all the way around him because there was a wall blocking on the other side. I definitely encourage this practice, as it will offer ways to make space for Black/Brown folks. When it comes to interacting with other people of color though, I just don’t see it. It’s honestly sad that people will do things like the situations I had shared and justify it as a movement. It just creates a bad image for what this movement is really about. Is it wrong for me to speak up as a woman of color? How can I properly react to situations like these.

    • I’m not that interested in what other people think or feel as it’s become a world where that’s all anyone seems to focus on. My father being full Native American often makes me feel until people pay more attention to my race I don’t care that other races cry over stupid small things. That said, I do care how others are treated right up until the accuser suggest it’s race related. Whether you’re black, white, or whatever. People are assholes and every one of us has our moments. If someone doesn’t treat you as you want to be treated either kick their ass or move on. But please don’t pretend to think it’s all POC, WOC, or anyone else as a hole is somehow different in the big picture. We as people all suck!!! Just some suck more than others and I don’t care what color their skin is. If there’s an injustice address it and handle it. But if someone white, black, or other chooses to be an asshole let them. Who cares. There’s more effort out into this kind of BS than any one event of this nature deserves. Spend half the effort doing something nice for someone and that will make the world a better place.

      • I don’t believe we change the world by waiting to care about something until it impacts us although I will say I understand your thinking on that. However I try to care about things totally because even if it is not happening to me it is only a matter of time before it does.

  2. I remember when I first starting shopping in my local suburban supermarket and white people would come from behind me and expect me to move without ever saying excuse me. My mom was frequently with me and would tell me as she would see them. I knew they were behind me as I could sense them but I would not cede my space because they needed to know how to be courteous. I even went with my husband Once and he did the same as he was behind me. When I explained to him that they never said excuse me – he started to watch and realized what I said was right. And we refused to cede our space. My bestie and I always talked about how this infuriated us.

    After reading a reply about Duke – I have to say that a friend of mine once said to me how people of Caribbean descent do not lower their heads to white people and it is African Americans who do this because of their history from
    Slavery and Jim Crow. I am surprised that college students at duke would continue the cycle.

    • You seem to be saying that your behavior in the supermarket is just like the behavior of the “white man” in the airprot in the OP – that you aren’t going to move out of the way unless someone politely asks to pass you by.

      By Hannah Drake’s standard, you are actually ruder than the “white man” in the airport, because you are aware that people are behind you, and that you are blocking them, and are making a deliberate choice to continue to do so. His rudeness is of the unthinking type – he is not aware that other people are stuck behind him – while yours is deliberate.

  3. I’ve been trying to do this in Sweden, a country with THE RUDEST sidewalk etiquette. I’m an American who is carrying her own history regarding sidewalks/public spaces to a country who seems completely tone deaf about space. You’ve inspired me to write about this!

    • Thank you, Charish and please come back and share your link when you write about it. I am curious how this manifest in other countries. Is it the same expectation as here in America? I would love to read about your experiences. Maybe your writing can inspire some of the people there to be more aware of how they are treating others in spaces.

    • You complain that people in Sweden are much more likely to bump inmto each other ont he sidewalk without apologizing or otherwise making a big deal of it – then you say “I continue walking with the knowledge that this is not normal behavior.”. Actually, in Sweden, IT IS NORMAL BEHAVIOR. This is something you actually admit elsewhere in your post – yet throw aside in a twisted attempt to try to validate your “victimhood”.

  4. Peace Be Unto You
    Great read. It is the same old song. Like the Last Poets said, the white man has a god complex. We are expected to kowtow/bow to them, but I refuse!! They have maxed out the Caucrazian image of Jesus by using it to subjugate the whole world. These people are delusional psychopaths, and they prove it every day as they continue to slaughter brown folks all over the planet. Time to rebuild some Tulsas as in Tulsa Oklahoma and keep the resources in the family. Integration just made us better slaves.

  5. So a person is thoughtlessly blocking the passing lane of an airport slidewalk, and is thus “racist” because the person behind them doesn’t bother to politely ask if they can pass?

    I have been behind people blocking the “passing lane” of escalators many times, and they generally move if asked politely. In fact, those least likely to move (for me or others) – and even to try to escalate it into a confrontation (often using racially charged, “hate speech” terms) – are “POC”. Can I use those situations to now condemn a whole group of people? Or, should I continue to judge people as individuals, rather than trying to lump them into easily prejudged “races”?

    You are sitting at a counter in an eatery, and someone else comes up to the other side of the counter to get salt for their food – and you attribute that to racism? Isn’t it more likely that they are in that spot because that’s where the salt dispenser is? Maybe they are standing close to you to see if they get an encouraging “vibe” before opening up a conmversation and trying to make friends with you? PLease note that a real racist wouldn’t bring their food anywhere near you, and would not try to eat right next to you.

    You call out “LibertyWarrior” for doing exactly what you claim you are trying to do – to not be pushed around – but at least she isn’t being a racist or a hypcorite about it.

    And I will point out, here and now, that if you try to use my perceived “race” or gender in any attempt to deflect or counter my arguments, you are proving yourself to be a rude, thoughtless, insensitive, racist – and not to have any valid points.

    • I’m not going to argue with you about anything. I am glad that you read the article and everyone will take something different away from it.

      I will note I didn’t call anyone racist that is you projecting that. So you came to the article with that and were prepared to say that when in fact I never called anyone racist in this article. For me it says more about your way of thinking and why your comments are what they are.

      • Hannah is talking about an expected reaction .. not a racist act .. for centuries now there has been a place and a way for POC to act to make it comfortable for white people to be around them .. there was literally a civil war to try and change this .. in a lot of cases white people do not know they are doing what they are doing because it has been going on for centuries and has become just another part of their lives .. a part they don’t think about .. like drinking water when you are thirsty .. hence the request that you stop and observe your own reactions .. i had a conversation with a white guy about privilege where he assured me he had never ever used or acted privileged .. i asked him if he had ever been in a store where a POC was already waiting to be served and the server overlooked the POC and went straight to him .. he looked at me .. i said .. when it happened did you stop and say .. hang on this person was here first .. he got it .. no one is calling you racist .. except maybe yourself in your unwillingness to recognize that maybe you exhibit some of these behaviors .. all you are being asked to do is conscientiously observe any habits that you may have picked up without being conscious of doing it ……….. so instead of jumping maybe you should just go through your day and observe how white and non white interact … maybe you will learn something from it and maybe you wont .. but just because you don’t conscientiously observe something does not make it non existent ..

    • Racism and proximity have nothing to do with each other… you have to get pretty close to people to enslave them and rape them. You can be white/black/asian, male/female, it doesnt matter… it’s clear you haven’t had any real experience with discrimination.

    • In the case of the airport the point wasn’t about the white man not following directions, which is entirely different from being in a narrow aisle in the supermarket by the way, it was about the social drive to avoid confrontation with white people in general. The fact is the person above is EXPECTED to feel people behind her in the supermarket, she’s EXPECTED to be hyper-vigilant about that and white men aren’t. The article is about that expectation and how we respond as minorities. The news is full of stories and people like yourself dismiss them while black people and other people of color experience no surprise whatsoever. I’m glad you feel comfortable saying excuse me, you should be, but so should everyone else. Being oblivious or cutting in line because you know nobody is going to argue with your whiteness might make you a generally rude person but in order for you to get away with it you have to know who you can get away with it with. This article is about POC and women no longer being that pushover.

  6. Ever since I read this post I have been watching the flow of people on the sidewalks and in the aisles of stores. The dynamic really is there. Everyone gets disregarded sometimes in public spaces, but it is definitely skewed towards POC. I wonder how many times I, as a white woman, have subconsciously expected a POC to yield to me. I will do better and make sure my young kids learn to do the same.

    • Once you see it, you can’t help but notice it everywhere. And it takes being aware to ask yourself, “Have I contributed to this?” I am glad you are challenging yourself to do better and teach your young kids about this. That is how we start to impact the world in a positive way.

  7. Wow, this article was interesting. I have just recently read an article titled White Flight 2, referring to the move of whites to the suburbs in the 70s to avoid having to share a space with blacks. It made reference to the Bar B Beckys and the Pool Pauls. White people don’t want to share what they perceive as “their space” with blacks so they call 911. Now I was born and raised in the PNW. Portland, Seattle. I have been around Whites all of my life. I live in Georgia now and I don’t see as many white people here but this subject has made me hypersensitive to the issue. But for me it’s with Asians and East Indians. I’m wondering if Social Media has influenced me because it never really used to bother me this much. Like I said, I’ve been around white people all if my life. Yes, I have had numerous racist encounters but for me it came with the territory living in the PNW vs. The South. My belief is that Trump had normalized the ideology for many that whites are superior and we don’t belong here.

    • Reading is fundamental. What I said was, “My challenge for Black people and People of Color, particularly Black women and Women of Color, is to hold your space.” Don’t cherry pick through the sentence quote the entire thing. So Black people would include Black men, correct? Now to go further with this we don’t need to begin to discuss how Black women are treated in this world. I’m sure you have heard the Malcolm X quote about who is the most disrespected person in the world. Women are often overlooked in spaces and it’s double that when you are a Black woman. No one left out Black men but that is the drama you wanted to start this morning by not quoting the entire sentence. The term Black people covers Black men, Cedric. Thank you.

    • I’ve noticed that non POC tens to move or cross the street when they see black men coming because of “the fear”.

  8. I am an actress and the core of our training involved taking up space, and living in our space-reveling in it. What most of us realized is even when we were GIVEN space we were scared of it or quickly ceded it back. This was especially difficult for me as a black woman who was not used to so much power
    In a classroom where growing up in the South, despite my very strong Jamaican upbringing(I am first generation American), the power was never given to me. After my training chiiiiiiiild. I hold my space E ver ree thing! And there’s a DIFFERENCE between being rude and knowing you are entitled to a certain amount of humanely space. The men (almost ALWAYS white) who sprawl out on the subway while the woman of color contort themselves in ways to make themselves smaller so there is more space for others to sit down, the white woman who texts and looks down at their phone while walking on the sidewalk and then looks angry when they’ve been bumped into. Once you see it then you recognize it but since white people are used to taking up space they truly don’t even know they do it most of the time. Women of color, people of color? We see it because we know about it.
    I’ll clode with thos last anecdote.
    There was one day in my self-scripting class where we circled up to discuss our work for the day. A student was talking(she is Japanese and Chinese) and then she was abruptly cut off by another white female student. With a quickness a black male student said, “and this is what always happens, a white body decides that they can just take space away from whoever they want this is what my writing is about white people think they are just entitled to cut off the voice of people of color just because they know they can and Im sick of it!”. The shock of the accusations towards the white student was on her face right before the tears started to flow and the class continued with a toxic air afterwards. I decided to stay after class and comfort her white guilt even though I knew he was right. She was used to taking up X amount of space in a classroom not matter the casualties and she was also not accustomed to ceding the space to others. But she knows now.

  9. I’ve noticed this for a very long time. When walking down a city side walk you are expected to play dodge ball. I’m a big guy so I take pleasure in playing wrecking ball.

  10. Holy f*cking sh*t. This has ZERO to do with skin color, and EVERYTHING to do with common courtesy and asshole-ery. I see people of EVERY color pull this on the airport walkways. I see ghetto-ass white AND black people do stupid things all day long. Way to perpetuate racial issues where race isn’t the defining metric.

  11. not to try and discredit any of your guys’ experience as I couldn’t possibly know as a white man, but these rude assholes are the same ones who get in my way and invade my personal space despite me being bigger than most of them and a “fellow white man” so I honestly don’t think most of these situations are racially motivated. I will say that the demographic of these space invaders is forsure entitled late 30 something year old white dudes so I can kind of understand how the conclusion that its an act of racism came about but I promise y’all that they could give a fuck who or what you are. those types don’t discriminate, discrimination would require acknowledging the person they’re inconveniencing even exists lol. I wish we didn’t live in the world we do where it isn’t far fetched to assume these people are undercover klansmen but in this one particular instance, it’s definitely a product of overthinking and dealing with actual prejudices throughout your lives so I partially understand. just know even my grizzly bear ass has to deal with Todd and Bradley being entitled to my space and holding me up with their leisurely pace just the same. Feel free to smack em though, nobody would mind

      • He said he’s not trying to discredit your experience. Ie. Your truth. That doesn’t mean he can’t share his view and ideas about how he sees it. If you don’t want a dialogue about this, just shut down the comments instead of being rude to every single person who possibly sees it differently from you.

  12. What an insightful article….and to those who do NOT understand, try what she is requesting for 48 hours. With an open mind, and then reply. Continue to share your insights, and hold your space with dignity and power. Peace.

    • Thank you, Mark. Once you see it, you cannot “unsee” it. While some people are getting upset, this happens all the time especially to Black people and People of Color. If people would remove from the center and challenge themselves to get over the initial feeling of “not me, I don’t do that, that doesn’t happen,” and just observe they would be surprised. Many people though won’t ever go beyond the, “My feelings are hurt because of this article,” stage.

  13. This is an epidemic. I am a biracial woman and find that so often white men refuse to yield their space on sidewalks. Maybe it’s not something they’re consciously doing. But if we don’t challenge these small acts that establish power in line with the white patriarchy, we will be complicit in allowing white men to carry out microaggressions in other ways and be giving up small rights of comfort that white people expect and demand. So I started this practice years ago. When I started refusing to yield sidewalks for men who so often expect me to step into the street to allow them to pass instead of making space for me, I was actually rubbing shoulders with and bumping INTO white men. It made me realize that they either KNOW what they are doing and still refuse to make space for POC, or we are so invisible to them that they are literally not seeing us. Public spaces are shared spaces. Make room for POC and especially women of color. It is our right.

    To those of you who don’t see this as a race related issue: don’t forget that we are able to witness how white men interact with each other on sidewalks and public spaces as well. We would not bring this issue to light if there were not a distinct difference in how we are treated and how white men treat each other. The issue is so invisible because you might be that person barreling down the sidewalk without issue instead of the one who is used to stepping down for others. You may not have realized it’s a right you award yourself because you’ve always given it to yourself, unlike women of color who have been taught to sit down, be quiet, and be gracious. Of course white men and others are capable of the same graciousness, but it’s not engrained in your upbringing and depiction of men in the media, literature, and other cultural pillars.

  14. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 i just wanna day that reading this was so justifying. for the last few years i’ve done this in my life. as a resident of new york city it became a common occurance. starting from my first pregnancy, i’d walk around and people would freely touch my ever expanding belly or afro. and while some did ask, they’d often not wait for the response before reaching into action. on the train i began observing how we (ny’ers in general) always slide to the end of the seats when people get off the train but why? so i started staying put, even if i was in the middle of the empty row or seats, i’d stay where i was. i found that people don’t know what to do or where to sit when you don’t move how they expect you to live. sometimes there will be a empty seat on either side of me and two white people will actually stand over me for the entire ride expecting me to automatically slide down instead of just asking me to slide down. i’ve seen white folks stare at black people that have their bag on the seat, too scared to simply say excuse me, so they could sit down. and i’ll say excuse me to the person sitting and have to deal with their sad face because they didn’t have the logic to just acknowledge the humanity of a black persons. it’s possible it’s just a human thing but i never see white people unwilling to ask other white people to make space for them by saying excuse me or pardon me.
    it’s a common micro aggression that is always reduced as if it’s not a piece of our inherently racist country that must be unlearned on both sides. i totally used to be that woman at the airport. ever since i changed my mind about being worthy of the space i occupy, i find it less of a headache everyday.

  15. I am of Native and White heritage. I happen to look very white. I see the world from both perspectives or at least I try to. One thing I have learned as a white person is that, I have to be aware of how my behavior looks in a system where racism is ingrained in the fabric of our country. However, I had not really thought about this view point. Possibly because I have not been faced with it, and possibly because I am too caught up in my own world to notice. I will take your challenge and spend the next few days noticing how I react and respond to these situations. I know I try to be welcoming in spaces and smile or acknowledge others in shared space, but I think this will be a good educational moment. Thank you for your point of view.

  16. Great article

    Just curious, are you mixed with Black and non-Black?

    If so, then it makes complete sense went your advice is directed to both Black Women and People of Color.

    If not, then maybe you reconsider including the ambiguous “People of Color” term, and instead specify that this is what you have experienced as a Black woman.

    As a 40 year old Black man, I can relate, as I first noticed this same phenomena in my early teens, over a quarter century ago. While this may be a common experience for Black people, I have my doubts whether non-Black people of color experience micro-aggressions and the other subtleties from White people in the same ways that we experience them.

    It may often be politically correct to include “and People of Color” in certain contexts, but to start from the assumption that all of their experiences mirrors ours is not only factually untrue, but it also minimizes the significance of those uniquely Black experiences that burden us disproportionately and many times exclusively.

    Even worse, including “and People of Color” in a struggle that is uniquely our own, may even justify the belief systems of those who’s preference is to maintain the status quo, because as they see it, none of the non-Black people of color are running to our support, so they chalk it up to Black people trying to find racism where they believe, or at least claim that none exists.

    We’re over here talking about the “systemic” racism that we experience, and they repeatedly try to reduce it to the individual level – arguments like, “Well maybe the guy was just rude?”, totally discrediting our entire lifetime of experience under this system.

    But my primary point is this: if something is a uniquely Black experience then there is power in calling it what it is. Let’s not fall into the trap of diluting the message and our experiences, simply for the sake of convenience.

  17. I’ll first start out by saying that I thought I was the only one who felt this way. I know, I know that seems absurd but I did. I live in Boston and constantly have to hold my ground and defend my space against White and Asian who do not respect my existence. I’m always in situations where it seems as if I’m shouting “I’m here, I exist! You can’t just walk over me!” Thank you my dear sister for this well written and deeply moving article.

  18. Thank you for this. I realize it’s several months after your original post. As a white woman, I honestly thought that I was doing what I could to understand and use my privilege for good. After completing this experiment, I am surprised at how ingrained this behavior is. As a woman, I know what it’s like to be in a man’s world, and be dismissed. But, I cannot possibly understand your experience. Thank you for educating and sharing it with me. I can’t unsee what I’ve seen. I am changed.

  19. Last year (for the first time) I attended AfroPunk in Brooklyn. I am short (only 5’2) and had been standing in the same space outside for 2+ hours enjoying 1 of the performances. I had a great view of the stage. All of a sudden this white couple comes and stands in front of me and both of them are tall so now I can’t see anything.

    The audience is too crowded for me to move because I am literally surrounded, shoulder to shoulder, by THOUSANDS of people. I was pissed. I politely tapped on the man’s arm & when he turned around I said to him “I have been standing here for the last 2 hours & you all came and stood in front of me so now I can’t see shit. You need to move.” He apologized and him & Becky scooted on about their way.

    I stood up for myself, my space, and my rights. Even at one of OUR events (AfroPunk) they felt a racist & rude sense of entitlement.

    I will NOT yield my space to an able-bodied non-elderly white person. Period. I am here and I matter.

  20. I LOVE this piece! I have noticed this for about 5 years now and I DO NOT move for anyone! I have been in countless grocery stores and side walks were I’ve bumped into WW because I refused to move. I politely tell them excuse me is the word to use and keep it moving! I also work in corporate America and deal with this very issue everyday being a boss of majority WW who hate to take orders from a POC. I do feel empowered by demanding respect from anyone no matter the race!

  21. Wow this is everything! I actually did a social experiment where I would walk down a busy sidewalk (mind you this was a pretty diverse area) and observe who is more likely to move out my way and the results were what you’d expect; white males were more likely to bump into me because they expected me to move. I did this for 30 minutes. Guess who was the least likely to bump into me and move out of my way? Womxn of color.

  22. Thank you! I have seen and experienced this type of behavior starting from years ago and once I saw it, I claimed my space! I’ve been shoulder checked and I’ve checked others on the sidewalk. I’ve voiced, sometimes loudly, my objection to white men standing too closely on the subway, when they KNOW they have room, to back away and give me space. I have checked a white woman at the US Open for the constant uncaring hair swing. Told her to pin it up, bun it up, doing something with it. It just becomes rude and distracting. I will continue to claim my space while staying conscientious and considerate of others.

  23. Hi! This fascinating article gives yet another perspective of some of the things POC have to deal with. One of the more interesting things to me is that by reading the article, I’m now aware of why I’ve been oblivious to this as well as why some white people may not understand this and/or assume this has nothing to do with race.
    I’m a white male who is a fast walker and fairly non confrontational. Because of this I tend to cede my space to everybody because I don’t mind the extra footwork. My walking and confrontation style makes me less likely to deal with space issues, while the fact that I’m white means I don’t have to deal with (and am often oblivious to) all the micro aggressions that Poc have to deal with.
    I think the confusing thing is that even with those factors I still have to deal with people feeling entitled to more space than others. When I deal with it, it’s more because people are assholes and not as much to do with race. I think you did a good job stating that this is not what you’re referring to, but it looks like a number of white people still assume that their experience is no different than Poc.
    I have to admit that it does seem like it could be difficult at times to tell whether someone is being racist or just an asshole. However I’ve seen enough to understand that there is a shocking amount of predjudice and bullshit that Poc have to deal with that is usually hidden from me. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot and meet a lot of people. Even in progressive areas, it’s disturbing the little windows I get through drunken comments or things said under the breath that is the tip of the iceberg of how much predjudice is around us.
    Id like to ask any other white people reading this to consider that there is more going on that is visible to you. It makes sense you don’t completely understand how there is racism involved here. You’re not treated the same as Poc so it’s hidden. See if now that you know it’s a possibility, if you can be more aware of it.

    • Thank you for your comments and for being open to reading about the experiences of others. Now what I would ask you to do since this isn’t an issue for you is to stand back just in your day to day living and observe and see if you see it. Once you see it, you can’t “unsee” it and you will see it everywhere particularly in the airport and the grocery store but it happens everywhere. I would be curious, if you take a few days to do this, and come back and tell us if you noticed it at all. A person commented they would sit and watch this happen from their window on a university campus. If you do it, please come back and tell us your observations.

      • Thank you! I had trouble signing in to like your comment, so I wanted to reply. Yeah many of the comments here are eye opening and sad. I’m super curious to pay more attention. Always something new to learn.

  24. I’ve been doing this challenge for several months now, ever since I read it. Even my husband is doing it. It’s often painful to watch, as a white woman, some of my own biases and inclinations in this regard. Recently, I was in an airport situation, that presented a “one way only” walking traffic and a black woman was walking toward me, so I stepped out of that path and walked around in order to accommodate her and allow her the “right of way”, vs what usually happens. Then I became aware that I was thinking “did she think I moved out of her way because I was afraid of her?”. This challenge has lots of layers and is a tangible method to work on my ingrained attitudes of white supremacy.

  25. I appreciate this very real article and I recognize some of these experiences in my life. Thats why… and it’s been several years now… I rarely say excuse me to people… who know they are in the way. For example… if two people are blocking the hallway talking… and I’m coming down the hall… I walk right through them… they know they saw me coming down the hall… and they know they in the way…

  26. I studied in Denmark for about 6 months and one afternoon I took the bus to the city centre to meet up with a few friends. There were four seats together two of them front facing. I prefer to sit in the seats that face the direction of travel because I get motion sick easily.
    A white woman entered the bus and approached me immediately, she asked to sit in my seat. It seemed like an off request, she didn’t exactly say please, just she led with “I need to sit there … ” I actually considered giving her my seat, but I took a quick glance at my surroundings there were plenty of empty seats around me. Plenty of people who she could ask to accommodate her needs, whatever they were but somehow she felt entitled to ask me the only black woman to give her my seat. I responded saying no, there are plenty of seats available for you to take. She become agitated and proceeded to yell and scream at me. At one point, she grabbed my backpack attempting to throw it, so that I would have to leave my seat. She continued to yell and glare at me attempting to intimidate me. I sat there firmly unbothered until I got off at the final stop.

  27. I live in NYC. I’m white. I was taught to keep to the right on the sidewalk. I have had all kinds of people seemingly keeping their space directly in front of me. Some seem to deliberately toward me or stop expecting me to go around them. Some are on cell phones, not paying attention. Getting mad or snide comments didn’t work for me. No point in being a ‘right fighter’. You know what worked for me. Deciding to be kind. I CAN move out of the way, smile, say, ‘excuse me’ to no matter what color person might be in my way. I feel lucky that I can walk all over because I’m a senior. Whoever wrote this article is right. There are some who don’t move & yes, tho’ I’m White, I see mostly my kind with attitude. So I totally agree. But for myself… this works!

  28. This was a great piece. I have had many encounters of this very thing and early on my defiance and unwillingness to be made small made me stand my ground many moons ago. I can recall one instance of going to Target with my mom. I was strolling with the cart and she had disappeared in another section, I was literally walking along side some clothing my the main walk area where there was absolutely no one walking there. I seen this older white man walking toward my cart, so naturally I looked over to see maybe if there was someone blocking him from walking in the middle where there was mounds of space and nope not a soul. It was as empty as it was when I first started down the aisle, so instinctively I proceeded in the direction I was going until we both couldn’t go any further. At this point we were now behind a display of shirt and he had no choice but to squeeze by me. As he walked by me he said only in America. This is the part I would love to say my maturity sealed my lips and I kept walking but nope I missed class that day. I said excuse me what did you say and he never looked back or said anything else to me. At this time cashiers started looking and my mother came from out of nowhere saying what’s wrong what’s the problem, now pissed and alittle shaken because of what he said I explained the exchange with my mom who gave me a little bit of wisdom that I needed. As I told my mom and my husband later on cause my fire was sit alittle lit, my grandfathers both served this country and fought wars for this country, my uncles, aunts and brother also served this country also fighting in many wars. I can remember my uncles talking about Vietnam and remembering how they were treated when they got back or remembering when my mom watched the news of the gulf war and war in Afghanistan when my brother served. The care packages the sleepness nights. I worked on a military base helping soldiers with their finances as the rest of my family has worked in various government agencies for years, and yet only in America. My elders taught us early about struggle and racism, our parents taught us we matter and we have a right to live our best lives and this society taught me that when no one is watching people will try you but they can only do what you allow them to do. So yes I like your challenge, and I hope many do it and really take stock into what you said. I’m not the maid, the nanny or the wench and I refuse to allow someone else’s insecurities or false privilege to treat me other than the strong black woman I am.

  29. Very enlightening. Aw man! I was about to say all this other ish but the womans comment reply to Damon really shook my point about white people cutlure being generally ruder than everybody else but when she mentioned the increase in these behaviors from white people as a whole is conclusive. Trump is the usurper getting em all riled. Smdh. This is their spirit about many of them a need to feel over somebody or #challenge….Its stupidity and false ego (lower Self behaviors). I find it prevalent amongst white women drivers personally. I could be merging onto the freeway and just wont let me in till I flash then its persona non grata. 😗 because if I had white skin then I know this exchange wouldnt have occurred it would have went all the way different. Same with the white man salting his food if it was a white man he would have met eyes and sought approval for setting his food down… BUT heres what I take from this in my search for Self. #SELF – FUK what they doing thats they issue Im not going to simply stand my ground because of my reaction to them that has no bearing #REMEMBERWHY fuk them! Stand your ground fpr you dont make it a protest or a staring contest per so make it #childplease Its because you – WE have carried these behaviors from our ancestors intrinsic to our culture #learnedbehaviors as they stand their ground so shall WE stand ours but not because of them but because WE ARE WHO WE ARE. No longer cede your space for someone because of them nor should u, hold that space because of them. Do it because of You take whats yours. Break the cycle by ceasing these behaviors but not as a a challenge but as non chalent as the b with foot. Its my space too and I shall NOT be moved #ok☝💓

    • Hi Michele. The comments are delayed because I was called the n-word so much in this space I set up where they have to be approved or it was just n-word, n-word, n-word and I didn’t want that for this space that I could control. I don’t censor comments. If people aren’t saying n-word or whatever I post them all.

      • OMG!! I am very sorry to read this!! Hateful comments solve nothing!!! Whoever hides behide comments like that is pathetic!

  30. I am smaller than average, so typically I easily weave my way through crowded spaces which creates some issues for those that are with me, lol. I read this article, and I realize that my movement without forcing people to acknowledge my presence really isn’t solving anything. We should force people to see us, and that doesn’t mean that we have to be rude. Claiming our space is the best way to be seen.

  31. I always have hold your space contests with white males, and I refuse to give up my space. I just Stand up straight, look them straight on the eye with a dead pan look , and they start to act all fidgety, avert their gaze, and move the F**k outta my way!! I will never back down!

  32. LOVED this!! There is a lot of expectation for POC to move or accommodate white folks. Thank you for writing this.

    Can I just point out one error? In the part where you talked about the Frederick Joseph and the tray table, you said that the woman put her feet on his tray table when the article you cited says she put them on her tray table. I check a couple other articles and they say the same, including his original post and the picture you have featured.

    Still a very valid point, she was not concerned for his space (cause damn those seats are too bloody close) and putting your feet on the tray next to someone, eating or not, is super gross and rude af.

  33. As a white woman, I’ve experienced that white men particularly take up space on the sidewalk, or in line, which is really a representation of life in general. Maybe it’s because I think of myself as a good person, or because I don’t like conflict, but I usually move out of my way to accommodate the other person. Because of my white privelege, I’ve not been faced with seeing this same ‘sidewalk problem’ happen to POC, but this writing has inspired me. As a woman, I’ll keep working on standing my ground, and as a white person, I’ll keep working on stepping aside.

  34. You encountered rude people. But you make it all about them being white. I can guarantee you there are rude people of all skin colors. What ever will you do if you encounter a rude black person? Will you say they really aren’t black; they are white? Will you ignore the rudeness, because they happen to be black? Listen to yourself, stop judging people based on their skin color. When you do this, your attitude makes you have a hell of a lot in common with a white racist.

  35. Hi, I enjoyed reading your article. I’m not sure how I feel about everything you’ve written. I have a couple of questions though…

    Many POC didn’t have many options for work outside of service or manual labor jobs do you feel like “servent culture” that’s been imparted to younger generations is to blame?

    Do you think internalized racism is a factor contributing to the problem?

  36. As an African-American male, reading this article, I feel the author tries to place her own insecurities, lack of self-confidence/self-esteem, and lack of research to make this a universal issue for black people or POC. I say lack of research because there are many different viewpoints and as stated in this thread, this issue is inter-sectional, dealing with gender, geography, size of person, perceived economic status, ethnicity, etc. My viewpoints don’t make her experience less valid, but in New York City and Chicago, in the subways and on the streets, it’s often black men who don’t give space and when asked politely if they can make space for others, they yell, simply say no, and make aggressive gestures at men and women of all ethnicities and racial types. This viewpoint is mine and not universal and is not backed by research. The author needs to also say that it’s her viewpoint and is not universal either. Rather than try to make herself feel better by saying this is a pervasive issue, it might be helpful that she receive therapeutic help in regards to her own self-esteem issues and feelings of being less than rather than debating people in these threads.

  37. Maybe that guy was coming from his mother’s funeral. Maybe he was headed to his child’s cancer treatment. He might have just been laid off.

    Then again, he might have been an arogant as-hat who doesn’t get out of the way for anyone, regardless of race. He also could be the type to move for whites but not POC.

    Who knows? The author does not. I do not. You do not.

    There are many many daily agressions that are real. There are just as many extenuating circumstances.

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