Sometimes, I walk off the curb. Other times, I make sure I am not breathing too hard. I try and smile more. I slow my pace, especially in PM hours. I speak slow and deliberately. I mind my hands. I make sure my shadow doesn’t lurk too close behind you. I don’t ever want to be too loud. I let you pass me coming up and down the stairs. I don’t stare at your children or babies for too long. I laugh when it’s not funny. I make excuses for black jokes. I let you talk over me. I cross the street. I sit three rows behind you, no matter where I’m at.
They called me a nigger in Florida once. Of course it was Florida. I had that recording session with David in Brooklyn Heights, and that lady asked me who I was going to see, because she wanted to be sure I knew where I was going, she said. Heh. Funny. I would dance when they wanted me to. I would freestyle rap when they asked me to. Kenneth laughed at me and asked me what that white girl was doing on my lap, and oh, so now I was fooling with white girls. That white girl was just my friend, but it didn’t matter then. It never does. That time I went to Do or Dine and “Soul Sista” came on and I looked around to make sure the black women weren’t watching, shaking their heads at us, at me. I used to feel weird holding Jen’s hand in public walking through crowds, through throngs of people.
1. I see when you walk faster.
2. I see you look to see where I am headed, so you cannot go.
3. I feel what you feel when the elevator keeps going, and we get off on the same floor. Every. Time.
4. I would hold my keys out sometimes, when we lived in the Upper East Side, the entire stretch of block I walked, so you would know that I PAID RENT AND LIVED THERE. Did you say hello out of fear or kindness? Does my black intrigue you?
5. I take my hoodie off my head in certain places, all to make my blackness more comfortable for you. Is there a way to separate my blackness from my humanness?
Carry on as you have.
You already do.
You already will.
Follow Joel on Twitter.