One of my friends impressed me so much yesterday that I had to share it with you today, as a happy story for you to take into your weekend. To protect her privacy, this picture isn’t her, but it will set the stage for you.
It started out rather horribly. A person who had honked at my friend as she parked came by as she was exiting her car with her young child, and started yelling racist trash directly at her.
My friend turned and sarcastically responded with “LOVE THAT RACISM. HAVE A GREAT DAY.” As she tells me, she had to watch her language around her kid, otherwise…
Regardless, once challenged like that, that person stopped yelling and went on to their own shopping.
I’m proud of my friend for standing up for herself, and for being able to later turn it into a teachable moment for her child. But I’m even more proud that she didn’t just respond blindly in a way that could have put her in unacceptable danger.
See, as soon as the yelling started, she moved to put her car between her and her child, and that person. No staying out in the open for my friend! She showed that she was constantly aware of her surroundings and thinking subconsciously about how her environment could affect her safety. Putting any kind of physical barrier between yourself and a potential attacker delays their ability to harm you. It doesn’t require paranoia to glance around and note where things are, just a moment of attention to see what’s there. You don’t even need to go through the exercise of deciding how to use every movable object to defend yourself, where every potential exit leads, or whether any particular object is or isn’t useful to hide behind. I mean, maybe if you’re bored one day or have some extra time on your hands. But just seeing and knowing is enough to do what my friend did.
My friend also quickly sized up the yeller as physically unimposing. The yeller also wasn’t stopping to deliver their insults, but rather letting their invective loose as they walked by. Between that and the audience, my friend assessed the risk of responding as low, and felt that it was reasonable given the opportunity to not let racism pass by unchallenged, especially in front of her child. Like I talked about yesterday, sometimes you have to do the math and weigh your options and the potential for things to go wrong. There is certainly an argument for quietly letting racist or otherwise insulting statements wash over you, ignored to avoid provoking a confrontation. Sometimes, it just ain’t right though, and that’s okay as long as you assess the risk and prepare yourself for the potential, realistic consequences like my friend did here.
She didn’t stop thinking about her safety after the yeller had moved on either. My friend waited and watched to see where the yeller went because she had already decided that wherever that was, she wasn’t going to be. Extending a negative interaction or giving it an opportunity to restart is never a good idea, because you don’t know if something that started as harsh words can end as much worse. It’s one thing when an interaction goes sour at first contact, but it’s another thing entirely when you got away from it without serious harm once, but not the second time. My friend let it end after she got her two cents in, and then made certain it stayed over by going to a different store.
Then she went home and had a little heart-to-heart with her child about yeah, there are people who will be mean because of how someone looks, but they’re wrong. It’s not how people look but rather, what they say or do that matters. She got to have that conversation with her child, having kept both of them safe while modeling what it looks like to stand up to a racist bully.
And how beautiful is that? Have a good weekend.