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.
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.
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.)
White friends: If you care about me, please read this.
Alone, these events take up only a few minutes each. I'm writing them out in detail in hopes that you might be able to see a modicum of what I (and other WOC) go through daily.
— Tatiana Mac (@tatianatmac) July 9, 2018
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!
Categories: Race Relations, Thoughts, Musings and Reflections
Just the other day a Black gentleman and I reached a door at the same time, we both slowed and he motioned for me to go first. I thought he was just being nice and maybe it was because I was a woman.
After reading this, I think it may have been because he thought(consciously or subconsciously) he was expected to let me go first because I am white. I only say ‘may have’ because I don’t want to presume to know what was going through his mind.
I don’t want anyone to accommodate me because I’m white.The color of someone’s skin doesn’t determine their worth. It’s what’s inside their heart. And I wish all white people held this view. I’ve never understood judging and treating some one poorly according to their appearance, especially a feature they can not control and I will never understand it.
Every single human being has worth and deserves to be treated with respect and kindness(unless they prove they don’t deserve it- murderers, rapists, racists, child molestors, animal abusers, etc).
He was probably just being a gentleman. Not because you are white. I expect men of all racist to let me go first as a woman. It does not always happen but it is my expectation.
Was this a spoken audio message (racist)?
I’m a French German American man who opens doors to restaurants, etc., for all people to step through ahead of me. Male or female. No matter the color of your skin. I grew up on the east coast and now live in LA and I’ve never witnessed any white person expecting a black person to move aside or to cede space to them. Bad behavior is bad behavior. No matter what your skin color. To say that all white people act badly the way the writer of this article presupposes — is actually also racist. It’s not true. Just like saying that anyone of any color is exactly the same. It’s unfair. So people who are rude or demeaning of any skin color should be either called out or ignored, forgiven, and passed by. They aren’t worth ruining our day over. And if the writer has been ceding power to anyone of any skin color who has treated her badly, bravo for finally standing in Grace and Strength.
You’ve never witnessed it or have you never stopped and intentionally paid attention to see if it happens? If it is the latter, just stop and pay attention and just see.
This piece is everything! The same ‘hold your space’ applies to waiting in line too. I was in a department store. There was only one sales lady available. She was assisting a white lady, however she politely said she would be with me soon. I understood and waited at the counter patiently. Soon an older white woman came up and stood closer to the register. When the sales lady came over, she said May I help the next person? The older white woman stepped up. I quickly said, you knew I was next and proceeded to put my items on the counter. No the saleswoman was helping the other customer for about five minutes. She looked at me several times and knew I was waiting. Instead of her coming over and greeting me, she played that who ever is next game. Not today!
That has happened to me before and they know good and well they were NOT there first. Hold your space!
Yes, I’ve definitely seen this happen from the other side. I’ve walked up to store counters where a person of color was already waiting, and when the clerk is finished with their customer, they’ll look to me and wave me up to be helped, even though I hadn’t been waiting the longest. Not cool. (I’ll let the clerk know that other people were there before me, and make sure they are served ahead of me). It’s insidious, since it’s easy to write it off as the clerk just not paying enough attention, and making an “honest” mistake . . . but chances are it’s not accidental at all most of the time.
I recently took a flight to Minnesota on Thanksgiving me and my mother to see my sister and her children. While sitting waiting for take off I was assisting a elder white lady next to me on how to operate the tv located on the seat. She also did not know how to plug her usb in to socket for her phone so I politely assisted her. The plane was now taking off by that time and I proceeded to place my beats head phones on my ears. I felt a small tap on the shoulder it was the elderly white lady next to me. She asked if I could ask the next flight attendant that walks pass for a spare of ear plug’s. I agreed to do so. A flight attendants which so happen to be a white woman walkes pass I stated excuse me the lady next to me would like a set of ear plug’s. while reaching inside of her pouch to pull out a pair I extended my arms out to reached my hands out to grab them and give them to the elderly white lady. The flight attendant snatched away from me multiple times reached over my head and gave them to the elderly lady. I decided to speak out loudly and not Belligerent how rude of you to see my hands out reaching for the ear plugs and u insisted on making sure I didn’t touch them. The elderly white lady agreed with me as well. Throughout the flight this same flight attendant kept bumping against my seat and urging me to hurry up and drink my wine to toss it out. Remind you the elderly white lady had the same preference of wine and the flight attendant told her no worries you can finish. I felt so hurt and discriminated against I just set there until the flight ended. I later than took a survey on my flight experience and was contacted by the corporate office with apologies and more. I still do not feel any justification for her actions at all. Racism is real!
When I was a younger person, I was walking with my older brother down a busy street in our Black neighborhood. I was busy jumping out of the way of mostly older, bigger people coming towards us. He stopped and gave me the best advice I ever had. He said, “hold your ground. Don’t move out of the way for anyone coming towards. You have as much right to walk in place as they do. I have held my ground ever since. He even told me how to claim my space. “Look straight ahead, not at the people coming towards you. Don’t make eye contact. They will move out of your way. ” It works every time with white or black people.
Fast forward to the present day. I was walking to my extreme right when a string of younger Black women came towards me. However, the one nearest me had no intention of moving to accomodate my presence. We ended up face to face. Without looking at her I held my ground until she moved. Sometimes, on rare occasions it’s not about Black and white. It’s about bullying and intimidation. Either way. Stand Your Ground!
Interesting. We had this happen a lot in Seattle and had to learn how to “stand our ground.” Typically, it was White vs. Black and White never wanted to budge. There was a lot of tripping and falling that went on when we came shoulder to shoulder. It didn’t even matter how wide the sidewalk was or how many people were not on it. There was an unspoken understanding that we would be the ones to give way. This is an old practice in Europe. I refer you to any movie about Robin Hood. There’s always a scene where he first encounters Little John on a log bridge. Neither wants to let the other pass by stepping in the water, so they battle with their staves until both of them are in the water.
For sidewalks, it sounds like a lot of people do not know about the “simple pass”. Basically, if you are in a group on a sidewalk, all of the group needs to line up behind each other while passing an individual on the opposite side and then spread out again when they are done passing.
So if she had held her space you would have just run I to each other? In some situations it’s fine to concede.
I travel often and this shit has happens time and time again! I am glad to see this article empowering us to remember we don’t have to be the one to accommodate others especially when we are in our own rightful space that we nine times out of ten paid to be in! I had a lady complain bc I reclined my seat on the flight I’m traveling with a infant a five yr old and my spouse! I kept feeling my seat adjusting this heffa was touching my button to make my seat go back up! Once I realized I was furious and my spouse knew it but I always try not to let my reactions put my family in any uneasy situations so in my head I was thinking Bitch I’m tired and I paid to have my seat recline! She began mumbling to her husband and told the attendant about my seat being reclined I was now bout to flip especially since the attendee asked me to sit my seat up during dinner time! I sat my seat up fixed my kids trays to eat and I went right back into my reclined position I could hear the lady upset again so I turned around looked at her and her husband so they understood just from my face that I’m not standing down you could have purchased first class seats if you needed more space since you didn’t sit back shut up and eat your food! My attitude be lit so I try to deff take each situation case by case give them benefit of the doubt but I will not tolerate anyone thinking they are about to tread on me! No ma’am!
You have more patience than I. I think with me she would have lost a hand! What nerve to actually move someone’s seat like that!
My previous comment was a general comment, not Intended to be a response to the situation you had on the plane. You were definitely in the right. I had this happen to me at the library the other day. I’m making some buttons, have a limited amount of time to do it and this woman walks up to me asking if I can do it somewhere else or do it more quietly. I abruptly told her that wasn’t going to happen. It made no sense there were other people using equipment that was much louder, but she chose to approach me. Of course I was the only Black person in the library’s maker lab, at the time. Wonder why she only approached me.
Why recline your seat when you are aware people are having their meals? The lady reaching around to get your seat up is out of line but understandable. Economy class is cattle-in-crates anyway, so having your meal shoved even nearer to you that it already was, is most annoying. I’ve had it done to me, and I certainly spoke up. You recline after the bin trolley has collected all the trays.
Your example does not gel with the Original Post.
Quick fact-check: nobody put their feet on Mr. Joseph’s tray table. The individual sitting next to him put her feet on her own tray table (which is still gross, rude, and uncalled for, just like her apparent attitude of entitlement).
Thank you for sharing. I’m a white woman and I’d like to think I have never expected a person of color to make space for me, but I appreciate your challenge to pay more attention for the next 24-48 hours. I was not raised to be disrespectful of anyone, but I recognize that bias can be ingrained in culture and if I have ever in some way made a person of color feel they need to make space for me I want to be aware so I can change my behavior.
Just for the sake of correction, the tray table was hers, he was sitting next to her and asked the staff to tell her to put her feet down. The two of them never spoke first. The subject of white privilege was brought up because she was offered $1k to remove her feet because it’s clearly gross af which is something he doesn’t believe a person of color would have been offered. I’m not saying he’s wrong at all but that particular info given in this article is incorrect.
This whole stupid article conveniently gets things incorrect to further it’s race baiting agenda…
Just give me one example.
I would love for you to point out the racist parts. You were so bold to come here and say that. Then just show us what was racist?
“do not move for a White person“
There , racist AF, if a white person said that about a black person it would be racist as fuck too… don’t be an idiot
Bless your heart. That’s not racist and in 2020 I’m not explaining what racism is but go educate yourself.
Right… how convenient, you are not racist because of your race it is ok for you to encourage others to treat another race differently… what an ignorant asshole!
You really need to educate yourself. That’s the best thing I can say to you. Calling me racist or any other names isn’t going to get you anywhere. It simply reflects your true nature.
Please do not “bless” me with your racist ass heart… keep telling yourself your not racist… and keep doing your thing, just know that good people won’t fall for your disgusting challenge… next your gonna start promoting the knock out game I bet… stupid fuck
The core of who you are as a person, you have shown. I am not here to debate you because I meet people like you daily. You have nothing to offer but names because you believe that strengthens you but it fact it reflects your fear and weakness. You have shown your face cards. And no one is impressed.
Wow this is some racist ass shit… only idiots believe this crap , fucking race war instigating assholes… just be polite to everyone who gives a shit their race!
Where was the racist part?
where wasn’t it? The whole article is about singling out a race and treating them differently , gimme a break
Of course there isn’t any racist part to this challenge.
JD here is just trolling because he’s raging that his hero is being impeached.
“do not move for a White person“
is just as fucked up and racist as saying
“ do not move for a Black person”
tell me why it’s not?!?!?
That’s the point of the article. You tell me why many White people don’t move for Black people.
same reason many black people don’t move for white people, there are assholes of ALL races! Stop trying to pin it on one race and encourage people to be racist. That’s fucked up racist ass logic smh
It’s 2020 people, I understand that there are racist people out there, but if you start targeting specific races like this moron author tells you to , you are only spreading racism further! Be bigger than this ignorant person, you can clearly see that the foot in the picture is someone jammed against a window seat and has their foot on their own table, this author just lies to foment hate of another race! Don’t fall for the tricks! People are generally good and just want to get along, I see people of all races living together everyday in harmony, but, there will always be assholes out there too! Don’t let racism turn you into an asshole whether it be real or perceived…
I could not finish reading this. The first two examples showed the tremendous prejudice of hannahdrake, not the inconsiderate man at the airport who blocked everyone or the guy who shared the same counter to eat (if he was racist, would he sit near you?)
Get that poor-me chip off your shoulder and see people as people, not colors. I can see why this is called write some shit, cuz that’s all it is.
Thanks for stopping by, Jonas. Also where did I say the man at the counter was racist?
Haha!! I know right! Poor me the white man salted his food too close to me so he obviously needed me to move! What a dope , this dumb ass bitch is so privileged she thinks having food salted near your is racism? I’m glad I’m not the only one that realizes what a moron she is. Also she is trying to rip off the “dear white people” title for her shitty new book… I’ll make sure Netflix lawyers pay her a visit at her book signing in Kentucky lol
This article has truly impacted you. It shows and that is the part you need to examine. You can attempt to make it about me but that’s the easy route. Nothing you say here bothers me. There is nothing new under the sun. You are like many people. Until you are ready this is what you resort to. Any more conversation would be pointless. Have a good evening.
I’m a 5’2” White woman. I’ve had White men presume my space was theirs…on buses, trains, other mass transit. They sit down and throw open their legs and I feel I need to retreat into a smaller space. But it isn’t daily and it isn’t pervasive for me as you described. And no one has ever moved into my personal space while I was eating and assumed I would move. Thank you for this blog post. I had no idea. I will be more aware.
Hannah, I don’t know how you and other POC can tolerate these idiots and their knee-jerk, unconsidered opinions on your blog, day after day. Thank you for reminding us all. Thank you for holding your ground as a Black woman.
I, for myself, will do better.
It’s amazing (yet not really) that tell Black people to hold their space causes some White people to be upset. When they react that way for me, it proves my point. It proves they have a serious issue with Black people holding their space and what they should do is go deeper and ask themselves why? But that takes hard work and that takes looking at the ugly parts and the messiness that comes with it. So I am used to it. It really says more about them their fear of relinquishing power, their fear of what would happen if they admitted racism exists, if they had to admit they are racist/ have racist in their family, on and on. They never want to face that and it’s easier to call me names, lash out than look in a mirror.
Thank you for reading ❤️
I was in a TJ Max looking at shoes. Bent over checking them out. We all know the aisles are small. Didn’t realize anyone was behind me until I heard this white man say. “Babe just say excuse me!” He got it. I stood up ,turned to look .. she mumbled an excuse me…. But he said excuse us please! I often feel that some , not all feel like we are “in the way”. I always stand my ground. When my children were young . In a store .. instead of saying excuse me to get by my kids . Who are playing in the aisles , when I told them not to😤.. often times they would stab with their baskets until I “notice” them.😏. Instead of just being courteous and saying excuse me. I say it. I teach my children to say it. This behavior is taught…
Divisive; adjective; tending to cause disagreement or hostility between people.
Fallacy; noun; a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument.
Generalization; noun; a general statement or concept obtained by inference from specific cases.
Manipulation; noun; 1.The action of manipulating something in a skillful manner. 2. The action of manipulating someone in a clever or unscrupulous way.
Conspiracy Theory; noun; an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy by sinister and powerful actors, often political in motivation
All of these words can describe the author’s objective. She implores the reader to abandon manners convincing them that it makes them complicit in white privilege. Thus making more rude people, and making everyone become self-centered. That’s already a problem we need to correct, based on her article. Her like many other manipulative authors and influencers have no real resolve. Disrupt everyone else’s lives, because she personally feels victimized, based on an assumption. There’s no evidence that any of this had anything to do with race, but she conjured a conclusion, because that’s what she’s been lead to believe. She was able to articulate an article based on her conspiracy theories, but like many other conspiracies, she has little evidence to back it up. Asserting that white people are doing this to make black people uncomfortable and out of place. Not at all considering anyone else’s point of view or even having a conversation with the people she felt wronged her. She only has capacity to see the world through a person of colors eyes, neglecting the fact that people of all races do this. The honest reasoning behind it, doesn’t fit the narrative that she wants. The answer is, everyone in our society these days are self-centered and rude. Oblivious to everyone else around them. That doesn’t fuel her victimhood that society has taught her to believe. She needs racism to exist, because once it doesn’t she has nothing else to be upset about. She can’t use that as anchor to solidify her infallible logic. She makes it easy for herself to have no reasoning for her statements and if you disagree you need to be indoctrinated, excuse me, educated. She and many other people who think like she does are greatly delusional. What she fails to realize is this creates another type of phenomenon. This becomes a case of “The boy who cried wolf” when she and her peers make everything about race, people who were on her side at one point, start to think she doesn’t know what racism is and the day that it happens, no one is going to believe her.
There was an actual law that Black people had to step aside on the sidewalk when White people were passing. Is that not evidence? We didn’t invent this. White people did and it continues to this day.
You’re comparing yourself to people who actually went through a horrible atrocity in American history. Don’t you think that’s the slightest bit disrespectful to their legacy. To be honest, you don’t have the slightest clue as to what they went through and this comparison is kind of gross. It’s like all these people comparing current year to Nazi Germany. You’re trying to use history to your advantage.
In all spaces I am learning to use my energy how I need to, to bear serve me. Thank you for reading and your comments. I hope they help add to a healthy conversation.
Bravo. Well stated.
This is a whole lot of “Why won’t people pay attention to me?”
I love this piece so much! As a brown woman, this is something I started noticing much more since beginning fieldwork in India. Who concedes space to whom in public spaces is based heavily on class and gender here, with upper class men being the most likely to hold their place wherever they are standing or walking. It’s sad (though not surprising) that similar dynamics exist in America on racial terms.
This challenge has been done in parts of Australia and London and it’s the exact same thing. I wasn’t surprised.
The sin of the United States will not heal with time. Especially if you have people that would like you to just get over it. That is offensive. Just like you would not dare ask a holocaust survivor or family member just get over. From slavery , to Jim Crow, police brutality past and present. My having to have conversations with my teen in 2020. That you my dear will never have to have…Don’t be so insensitive.. The attitudes are, if it does happen to “me” it doesn’t exist. We will not forget. However relations can grow if you listen to hear us .. And not listen to respond.
I have been actively doing this for the past three month or so. In the beginning, I was sad and astonished at how many times I felt myself adjusting my body to make space for white people and clearly noticed they were definitely not doing the same. One instance, I was heading towards my apartment building, which was on my left, and a white woman was walking directly in front of me. I continued to walk and so did she. We were inches away before she stopped abruptly, threw her hands up in shock and moved out of my way. That experience has been telling. She EXPECTED me to move out of her way and was alarmed when it did not happen. After that experience, I’ve been proudly holding my space without feeling bad.
I am so glad that you held your space. I always tell people once you see it, you will always see it and be so aware of how you move to adjust yourself for White people and often we do it without even thinking about it. It’s like second nature until you pause and ask yourself why am I doing that? Why am I expected to move first? Continue to hold your space! You are here and you belong here!
Ok, so 2 things:
1. The author is speaking from the lens and perspective of a black female. Your lens may be different. However, to tell the author that her unique, personal perspective is wrong is crazy when you haven’t lived in her shoes. We get it. You experience rudeness. We all do, but that is not the goal of this particular lens sharing and challenge. The FIRST goal is to try on her lens, not negate it. Ask yourself what authority you have that gives you the right to piss on her perspective with your own? Freedom of speech does NOT mean you should beat the freedom out of someone else’s speech. She did not write from a WP’s lens, so why would you challenge this black woman’s lens? What makes you a champion of all/everyone’s experience? What makes your lens more important than hers? The same people saying that the author is causing division is doing MORE damage than an author saying this is my, personal, singular experience. Take your tattered cape off and read. Drink in her experience before you dismissively move back to your own.
2. If you paid attention to the article, you will notice the author is not saying go occupy other people’s space or do to them what has been done to you. She is saying to stay in the space you ALREADY occupy. That is NOT rude. If I’m standing still or sitting down where I previously stood or sat, I am not challenging anyone, am I? How is that being rude? Rude would be challenging someone’s already occupied space which is what she is describing has happened to her. The words are simple. Breathe deeply and say them with me. Ready? Excuse me. That’s it. You should say it. No one should ram, walk, or ignore the presence of someone else. The author is saying to simply continue what you are doing. If you are standing still, continue. If you are sitting continue. If you are walking straight, continue. She is not saying ram someone off the sidewalk. She is not saying to push people out of her space. She is simply saying that it is OK to continue occupying the space you currently occupy.
I would like to sincerely thank those who truly considered the perspective of the writer whether they are POC, white, and whichever gender they identify. It is amazing to me that in 2020 people of a different background or perspective than the author still cannot find a way to say “I hear you and respect your perspective because it is valid to you”. I also find it painful that people feel who feel like they are being painted as villains feel the ONLY rebuttal is to villainize those who made them feel bad. AKA the argument that POCs have done the same thing. What a wretched game of “I know you are but what am I”.
Spot on. I am posting a follow up to this blog shortly. Thank you for your comments.
@HannahDrake628 I very much appreciated this article and then reading the entire Twitter thread. I must admit both make me very emotional. I travel, work and live in many places across the globe. I travel simply and live close to the ground as I call it. I am painfully aware of the arbitrary privilege I have simply because of the color of my skin and hair. I am given grace by the POC who see me, who make way for me as I automatically try to make way for them. I learn every day. I have found that my guilt over being so recognized does not help the greater purpose. Rather it is the million ways that I learn and then use my space and my voice to fiercely respect and visibly elevate in importance those I encounter. I privately measure how I am elevating the respect of others around me.
So I say, I hear you. I see you. And I thank you for your voice. I choose to use what I have to support your and other POC’s visibility as well as not speaking on behalf of you but stepping back to add my metaphoric mic to your independent voice. Beyond our agreement with the problem of not recognizing, respecting and valuing the bodies and space of POC, particularly WOC here, our daily actions matter most. In those daily actions, it is not only recognizing when erasure and disrespect is happening and trying to alleviate it or compensate for it by seeing someone who is being erased. I believe we have to say out loud what is being done so that WP who are doing it are not only made aware (if they are ignorant), or are called out openly so that the playing field must shift. It is essential to give that *voice* we have directly to the POC with absolute recognition and respect.
How do we interrupt this erasing with our own bodies and voices without taking over the space of the POC in the first place? This is the question that requires our answering on a daily basis.
It is not enough to stand up for someone in this situation. That is only a disruptive step. To me, the incident is handled when the POC has their own voice matter. Not because I have disrupted the situation, but because they have the right in the first place. Because they are right there, in their space. It is the lack of voice and visibility that must be remedied most. That person with the voice whether they use it or not is still *heard* and recognized.
We know the difference in intention between being a protector or an ally. Allies work in alliance for the cause. In this case, for a society of spaces in which black bodies and POC are positively visible, recognized, respected and *heard*.
Sure do that, but literally no one will know why you’re doing it. Whenever I see people standing in the way of where I’m going, I move, because I assume they’re not intelligent enough to do so. But live your life.
I am loving and living it loudly! Thanks, Clay.
Yes yes yes to all of this!!! Being on the other side of this (as a white woman), I’ve witnessed all these dynamics in the past. For the longest time, I assumed that most of the issues around taking up more physical space in the world were gender-related – men taking up space, and forcing women to take up less space. But as you suggested, just paying attention for even a little while reveals the obvious racial dynamic as well.
I do have a little trick for people who want to hold their space, but it’s unnerving to just stare someone down and “play chicken.” When someone is approaching who clearly expects you to move out of the way, just stop walking. I’ll do this with men, and also with hordes of high school students who expect people to step off the pavement rather than them being willing to make any space. I’ll usually make some pretext of looking at my phone, but once I’m no longer walking, the game of “chicken” is at an end, and they will be forced to go around to avoid crashing into me. It works great.
I just got home from a short walk around the neighborhood with my 83 yo mom. We actually had a situation where a white woman and her male companion were walking a dog on the same sidewalk. As I got into earshot of them, I realized she was commenting on why we weren’t moving because she had a dog. Now, whenever I walk my dog and I see people approach, I move to the side of the street to allow people to pass. Especially if they are older. But this woman felt she was entitled to stay on the sidewalk because she had a dog? Because we’re asian and she’s white? She even walked within a foot of us then she made a snide comment to the man who stepped off to let us pass. I seriously am tired of this white privilege nonsense.
Thank you so much for this article. I am myself a brown Asian woman, and I noticed this thing happening to me in Germany. White women expected me to move out of their way, and they would get extremely angry if I did not. I don’t want to get hurt, so I always use my elbow to cover my body (I put my right elbow to my left shoulder), so that when white women stumble upon me, they would get hurt with my elbow, and I would not. I know, that is super rude, and it feels like I am at war or something. But I can’t let myself be hurt by people who are too entitled to move a bit to accommodate my presence.
Also I heard somewhere that white people are not generally good at understanding space in general (like they will hit the desk when they want to move away from the desks), so I try not to get bitter with the racial stuff. And I just think they are less intelligent than me when it comes to navigating . But I make sure I never move for them.