Tuesday, November 7, 2017

You Need to Hear This, But Not From Me

This Post Written by 

David Duminuco

Think of yourself as a house.

Whatever type you wish. Imagine the walls, painted or papered, decorated with framed cherished memories or blank with nothing but a bulb hanging from the ceiling. Attempt to recognize if your house is built of stone or wood, or maybe even straw. Try and feel the firmness of the floor or perhaps you are standing on a soft, moist dirt or shaky ground.

Now imagine the ceiling above you, keeping you safe from whatever may fall from the sky today. Ask yourself, are there windows in your house? Are there several or few? Are they large and gaping or small with a narrow scope? Are they clean and transparent or caked in dirt and opaque? Before we step outside, take a moment to recognize your central support beam or core of stability. Is it rigid and properly supporting the extent of your structure or is it rusty and corroded waiting to expire? Now that you have a delineated image in your head, take a moment to find the door and step outside.

Look around and notice what is there. Have you planted a garden for yourself? If so, is it fruitful or barren? Are there other creatures harmonizing with the landscape you've created? Or is there dissonance and frustration lining the horizon? As you move forward towards the edge of your lawn or porch or stoop, imagine a gate. Is your gate firm and unwavering? Do you keep is locked to protect you and what you may have cultivated in the time you've spent in your garden? Or is your gate made of lace, with a delicacy and inviting presentation for any passerby to feel welcome and comfortable approaching? Now, of course there are countless types and variations that make up these homes.

And it is those slight or grand differences that make all the difference in the ability to appear welcoming or reproachful. I admit that I was only recently made aware of this fact when I found myself unable to or rather, lacking the tools to connect with another who seemed desperate for a connection. 

I was riding the D train, around eight o'clock at night, on my way home when an ambiguous black female sat down near me. Upon sitting down next to me, I immediately became aware of her for no other than why everyone else on the train became aware of her. With headphones in, she (presumably) was listening to a negatively charged rap song (that she would later exclaim she had recorded herself) and quite was loudly reciting the lyrics for all to hear. At first this disturbance was just annoying and interrupting my feeble attempts to learn new words from the GRE application on my phone. 

As the train progressed, receiving and delivering people to their destinations, this young woman became aggressively agitated. She began screaming, louder than before, that "white people don't need to worry 'bout the Quran, because [she's] going to follow [them] home...and that [she] is going to get [them]".

She went on to invite a fight from anyone who wanted to engage with her. At this point I became uneasy. Honestly feeling afraid that my presence alone may be enough to provoke her. When I glanced to my left, opposite of her direction, I made eye contact with a tall black man who (I assume) noticed the distress in my eyes. A moment later he called out to her invitation to "brawl" by loudly reflecting the same intensity in her direction. Almost immediately this woman's rage had been extinguished and reduced to a splinter. "Big homie why the fuck you actin' like a flex? You actin' like a fein big homie""Because....what? Anybody got somethin' to say?! I ain't doin' nothin' but rollin' in the    streets""Because you actin' like fein big homie"

Just about that time my stop had arrived. As I stood up and hurriedly exited the train the man that had just intervened also stepped out. When I turned to thank him, I was cut off by his fist colliding with the wall of the subway station in anger.


Startled I broke into tears and meekly thanked him for his intervention. He screamed back at me - 


I stopped walking and looked him with slight confusion and a lack for words. I replied that I don't think I could have the same effect as he did in that moment. I don't come from a place that lends me the opportunity or authority to speak to someone so outraged and from a community I have no experience in. That's when I became curious. What does this mean?

For me, I realized that the magnitude of effect is partially due to the specific projection that directs it. I did not choose to engage with this woman because I felt that because of who I am I would not be able to reach her. More so, that she would not be receptive to me. Her aggressive language directed at specifically white people made a channel of communication between the two of us seem impossible. It seemed that my intervention would only exacerbate the situation. 

Am I overlooking something slighter? A subtle key in allowing for our discourse? Could I have had an effect on this woman, as a white man? 

I don't think so, but remain open to ideas of possibility. 

What I felt could be learned from this circumstance was that the way we present ourselves matters. Both as an expeller of energy and as a receiver of energy. Our reactions matter just as much as the initial projection, whether it be positive or negative, comfortable or frustrating, exciting or depressing. I still think about that dynamic of power and am curious what thoughts others may have on this finding or their own.

So, once again, think of yourself as a house. 

Now, a storm is coming in and you need to brace for the impact. There isn't much time and you have some choices to make. Do you lock the windows and bolt the doors, slam the gate shut and plug your ears? Only responding that "no one is home"! Or do you remain calm, assess the magnitude of the situation, and act responsibly with your own effect in me.

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