If we’re friends here online, you know that my name is Barb and you may know a few other details about me.
Tonight, I was a black woman stranded in a parking lot who was ignored when she needed help.
It wasn’t a good experience.
My good ‘ole Pilot didn’t start when I came out of Michael’s Craft Store this evening. (Ironically, I was on the phone with a dealership a few hours before saying, “I’m not quite ready to buy a new car. Give me a few more weeks.” 🙃)
Anywhoo, I tried a few times to start my car. Nothing. I didn’t want to call AAA until I had to. Then, I remembered that I had jumper cables.
I popped my hood. I gave thanks that I parked under a parking lot lamp so that I could see and that others could see me.
There was a car parked directly across from me and I figured that I would wait to see if someone could help. I hated the thought of asking a stranger, but I couldn’t exactly jump the car without someone’s help.
With my hood popped, I waited. Mask on, of course.
A woman came out. I said “Hi” from behind my mask. She looked at me and got in her car and drove off.
Okay, that happens. Whatever.
I decided to call my friend Aimee Fortney, who lived around the corner and she dispatched her hubby, Andy and their daughter Emma to my rescue.
While I waited, I wondered if anyone would at least stop to ask if I was okay, even if they couldn’t help.
Another woman came out a few minutes afterward. She was parked a few spaces over. I’m 5’10” and hard to miss. She got in and drove off.
Same thing happened again just a few minutes later. Another woman saw me standing there obviously stranded. She got in her car and drove off.
As I stood in front of my Honda Pilot in that parking lot, three more cars drove right past me.
Finally, a white SUV parked next to me and an older African-American man got out and asked if I was okay. I told him that a friend was coming.
When Andy arrived, another gentleman stopped to ask if I was okay as well as another woman of color.
Andy and Emma worked to get my car started but my old girl is 305,000 miles old so we needed to call AAA.
They left and Aimee drove over to wait with me so that she could give me a ride home. I told her the story and lamely guessed that maybe the women didn’t stop because afterall, we were in a parking lot in the city. It was dark and I did have a mask on.
All weak excuses to try to explain to myself why all of those women wouldn’t at least stop to ask if a woman with her car hood up was okay.
All I can say to you is this was my lived experience tonight. While those Caucasian women do not represent all the majority, tonight they did not represent the majority well.
Which is why Aimee and Andy’s kindness meant so much.
Living in a world where I have to deal with prejudice is a burden that feels too heavy at times. It’s part of the weight woven into the color of my skin.
Perhaps you’ve never had to ask yourself the question, “Are they afraid of me or ignoring me because they are afraid of my skin color?”
I have. I asked myself that question tonight. It doesn’t matter that I am an author, a speaker, literary agent, college-educated, tax paying citizen.
EVERY SINGLE African American person that you know has asked themselves that question at various and at many, many times in life.
It is a horrible feeling to wonder if someone is afraid of you just because of the color of your skin. It’s a horrible feeling to need help and watch people walk by and ignore you – and then deal with that whisper that asks, “Is it because you’re black?”
If you are offended by my story and believe that I’m calling all Caucasians prejudiced or racist, please scoll through my photos and notice that I am the mother of three half-Caucasian kids. Also, note Andy and Emma in the photo.
Why write this? This isn’t a rant.
I am sharing my lived experience.
I am sharing for those who want to know about those who look and live differently.
I am sharing for those who assume that my career or influence may insulate me from prejudice or racism, that is not true.
Most of all, I’m sharing for my brothers and sisters of color whose stories haven’t been shared or believed.
I know that many of you would be more than happy to help if I called you – so thank you! I hope that you’d do the same for a stranger, man or woman that looked like me. Please.
A giant, loving thank you to Andy and Aimee, who’ve been friends of mine for over a decade. Thank you for being there for me tonight. You’re the real MVP.
And a special thanks to the nice AAA guy for getting my car started. Bless you, dude.
The (G)race Project is a specially curated collection of what I’ve written about race, grace and the gospel, as well as interiews, videos and book recommendations.