Ed Note: In case you missed it, xoJane published a deeply misguided story by a white writer regarding her discomfort after seeing a “heavy” black woman in her yoga class.
The subway can be pretty crowded at night, especially coming into Brooklyn from Manhattan. We’re usually packed in like sardines before spilling out onto the platform in little clusters as we head deeper into the bowels of the borough. The scene was no different last Saturday night. After my evening of listening to raucous hip hop at a club, drinking my weight in malt liquor and tagging a few local businesses, I decided to head home. I was on the Brooklyn bound 3 train, ready to tuck into bed after a night of the blackest of black activities, when I saw her step onto the train at the Franklin Ave stop.
Her blonde hair was gathered in a messy bun, her skinny jeans were tucked into knee high rain boots, and she wore a colorful poncho that she either bought at a Bushwick thrift shop or for $200 on Etsy. She was elegantly disheveled, she was a hipster wet dream…she was a white girl.
I tried not to stare as she stepped on the train. White folks are allowed on the subway these days. I just don’t see them in my part of Brooklyn very often, especially going further east into Brooklyn. If I were her, I’d be terrified. There were all manner of black folks and Latinos on this train. She fought off a seat and sandwiched herself between a young black man, who had lust etched in his milk chocolate facade, and an old Latina who was speaking in Spanish to what appeared to be her grandson. But who knows? Maybe he was stolen.
Her sky blue eyes darted around the train compartment, I assume, desperately searching for someone who looked like her. They finally rested on an Orthodox Jewish man who was reading the paper and, somehow he didn’t seem to care about her poor, white girl existence.
A group of black girls cackled in the corner. She bit her thin bottom lip when the man sitting next to her reached in his pocket (was he reaching for a gun or drugs?). The conductor announced that the train was being held momentarily for train traffic ahead of us and I waited for a look of pure terror to cross her beautiful, alabaster face.
That’s when her cerulean orbs fell on my ugly, unremarkable, dirt colored ones. I knew that they were full of fear. What should I do? Should I reach out and say: “I know plenty of white girls! Don’t be scared!” I wracked my brain to think of some Seinfeld quips or my favorite Tina Fey moments, but I came up empty.
The train finally rolled up to the Kingston Avenue station and she dashed out as quickly as her quirky little rain boots would allow. She was gone, in a sea of black and brown bodies, but I could still see—feel—the difference she had made to my train ride. And yet, I had done nothing. NOTHING. To help her. And I had the nerve to call myself a feminist?
I went back to my apartment and collapsed on my bed, my Angela Davis and Waka Flocka posters staring down at me as if they understood the pain that was coursing through my veins. That poor white woman on the train! I can’t believe I went through my whole life without understanding how terrifying us black and brown folks are. How could we be so blind to her plight?
From that moment on I knew that I was going to make a concentrated effort to make white women feel safe in our presence at all times. They don’t deserve this culture of constant fear. Now, whenever I’m around a white woman who’s alone in this big, dark world of ours, I make sure she feels at home. I strike up conversation about things she can relate to, like Carrie Bradshaw quotes and how deceivingly spicy mild salsa can be sometimes. Every little bit helps.
This experience also single handedly stopped my addiction to crack cocaine and out of wedlock pregnancies. #Blessed.