Yes racism is everywhere. Do not let yourself blindly believe otherwise. I understand, it is oh so easy to hide under optimism and ignorance. If you recognize a problem you must fix it, otherwise it can remain rotting in the back of the fridge with sweet bliss as you pick up the milk from the front of the fridge and sit back down on the comfy couch.
This past summer I moved onto a historically black street in Clemson, South Carolina. It is very close to the predominantly white Clemson University. I loved the house and the location. I loved the sweet woman who sold the house to me after her mother passed away. The house had always been in her family, built by her father in the 1950s. Wow that is history, but that is also culture, roots and hardwork that when you really think about it is hard to imagine. Her father had provided for her family, built a house and put down roots in a neighborhood when his family would not have been allowed to enroll at the University down the street.
I live next door to the old "black school" otherwise none as the elementary school for colored children. A building that represented both segregation and hope for an education and something better, prominently placed at the top of the hill and the street. I now work at the building next store, which has been converted into a shared space for Clemson Arts Center, the Clemson African American History museum and the Clemson Child Development center. Somehow, years later, the building still seems to represent the same two things.
A couple nights ago, Sunday night to be exact (three nights after the Charleston shooting), I was woken up by loud, hard knocks on my front door. I was terrified because of the unknown. I rolled over looked at my clock and saw the 2:30 am. Who the heck could be at my door at that ridiculous hour? Why? My first thought was that maybe one of my elderly neighbors needed help. Then my mass media fed fear thought about that I was alone with no means to defend myself from a drunk frat boy on the loose. I grabbed my phone to call 911 just in case, as I went to answer the front door.
Flashlights in and out of my windows. Heads. Bodies.
"This is the Clemson Police Department" screamed one of the heads.
I answered the door.
My heart was racing.
I was told that there had been reports of a gunshot noise in the area (the night before I had heard fireworks). They had seen my screen door open (it always is) and decided to check my house. The policeman, noticeably loosening up and becoming more friendly, asked why I was out of breath. I told them they had scared me. The policeman apologized.
At the same time I saw someone who had been checking my bushes come back to the door after they saw it was just me, a little white female.
They left, pulling out of my driveway and unblocking the road, realizing it was an unnecessary blockade.
As I lay in my bed, willing myself to fall back asleep, I could not help thinking about how the police on a report of a noise decided to go door to door on my street waking people up, inconsiderately making a rucus. There are kids on my street! They sell Girl Scout cookies! Back at home, in my white suburban, upper class neighborhood, this would not have happened. My front door with its pretty wreath and monogrammed knocker would not have been pounded down in the middle of the night because the screen door was open.
I guess the police did not get the memo that a white girl lived here now. But you know what?! that should not have mattered. The police were keeping us safe but they were also less respectful because of the history of my street.
That was not the first time I witnessed subtle yet existent racism concerning my new address.