So I was driving yesterday through a nice “upper-middle class” neighborhood, and my eyes locked on the eyes of a very scary dude talking on his cell phone. Why was he scary? Because he was over six feet tall and heavy set? Because he was black in a predominantly white neighborhood? No, he was scary because he looked like my ex boyfriend. You know, the one who used to push me around in front of the kids? Who told my mom that he cheated on me, and made my friends think I was crazy? The one who grabbed the wheel and steered my car into a canyon, and then threatened to cut himself and blame me if I reported it?
Our eyes locked and I could feel the adrenaline race through my body as I searched for a hint of recognition. Same broad, thick forehead, same wild eyes with the epicampic folds. A little heavy–but he could have gained weight. A little darker–but then he darkened in the sun. I’m almost past him when I decide that, no, it can’t be him. He didn’t recognize me.
Whoever it was, with that moment of terror filled eye contact I have reinforced every stereotype this guy has probably ever heard about white people. I wanted to stop and jump out of the car and apologize, or at least explain. In thirty seconds I went from happy to terrified because I thought I saw someone I haven’t seen in five years, and this guy, he got the fall out. I’m sure he’ll chalk it all up to white fear.