Some time ago, I found myself suffering from fight déjà vu; the events 20 years apart. Hurrying to my fitness client in Manhattan, I jetted down to the Utica Avenue stop in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. My duffel bag in hand, anticipating the train I navigate down the stairwell. Before I can approach the turnstile, I slip pass a black man and proceed to pull out my MetroCard. I felt the man’s eyes upon me heating me up. As I turn and look I could feel his scowl directed at me. I had to ask, “Is there something wrong?” “Yeah. You brushed me.” Déjà vu began right there, or moments right before I brushed him. I remember a man claiming I bumped him two decades ago.
I often take my safety for granted in a borough I was born and raised in. As an adult, I am calm and strong here. I feel secure everywhere I walk in all of NYC. I was taught to look people in the eye, say “excuse me”, nod, show a budding smile, defuse tension with comic relief and build allies. However, I lost all my manners. Beyond brave, I’m totally offended. Few people have ever challenged me outside of cages and rings, and they were all trained. I responded, “You were standing right in the way.”
My brain is gazing at the safe and respectable script and I am clearly adlibbing. So this fellow continues, “Yeah? And I’m here. And what!?” See how we’re just feeding each other snippy comebacks and dontgiveafucks?
I wasn’t done either, “Are you mad?”
“Yeah, I’m mad.”
“Well, you’re going to stay mad.” That happens to be one of my favorite lines. I use it from time to time.
He upgrades the entire situation from disrespect to danger, “I’m not with all the talking. Let’s go outside.” Whoa! I remember a man telling me let’s go outside many years ago.
My brain attempts to force its way back in the driver’s seat. And I stop following him. Bells go off. Lights start flashing all in my head. I’m in self-defense mode. We never follow the unsafe path of our enemies. He has determined the best territory for himself. Stay where he’s unsafe. I did the exact same thing twenty years earlier. Don’t follow him outside.
Now, I’m thinking to myself about how old I am and how bizarre I’m behaving, “You don’t fight in the fucking streets!” I’m trying to compose myself as we walk down to the platform.
He says, “I don’t fight fair.” It told me everything I needed to know about him. We don’t share the same sky or deltoids…he’s a little smaller and he didn’t strike me as a trained fighter so why should I engage? He didn’t want to fight or commit a crime and neither did I.
Why was he so charged with the battery in his back? It’s obvious. He’s carrying something. Two minutes later after we separated ourselves I could hear him speaking loudly on his cellphone, “I almost killed someone today.” Little did he know, I almost threw him onto the tracks twice. Every situation, we end in prison and late for our appointment or job.
I had been here before; I had been threatened with guns and I’ve been shot at. His remarks made me angry but I was 20 years smarter. We each found the hate we were looking for in ourselves and calmed him.
The anger we have in our gentrified or dilapidated Black neighborhoods we grow up in come from the struggle to live mentally healthy surviving underemployment or unemployment, unaffordable or no housing, lack of knowledge of self, and everything awful the State system can throw at us. Yeah, we saw each other in the train station and we saw some of that hate in us. People brush us every day and the boss talks shit to us like we’re shit every day but we never confront that power. Police push us down the block or beat our heads in but we don’t threaten them. We wait to cap folks in our area or make it home to take it out on our children or spouse.
It took a little time not to want to slap that damn man for confronting me. But ask me what he did to me and I can’t tell you anything that makes sense to harm one hair on his whole body. He may have a kid he’s raising or finishing up his school year. And I almost messed up his picture day something serious. But President Donald Trump, now I’d **** the shit out of that mofo for millions of reasons and much of the world would throw me a party.Yo, protect your hood, don’t destroy the most valuable resources –the People. Happy Black History Month.