So there I am, standing in the lock and key isle at Home Depot debating what color the deadbolt for my newly painted front door should be; satin nickel or brushed bronze. Interrupting my Saturday morning dilemma and internal thought process, a voice from behind said, “Looking good, little mama.” I whipped my head around and without hesitation responded, “Excuse me? I’m not your little mama, don’t think you can speak to me that way. Move along.” He was obviously shocked that I called him out and probably embarrassed, because everyone else in the isle turned around and starred. At him.
I am not new to street harassment, and like most women, I experience it all too frequently. His comments weren’t even the most vulgar thing that’s ever been said to me, but it was the first time I have been harassed in which I have responded in the moment, confidently and while my harasser was still directly in front of me. It felt amazing.
Living in the suburbs and driving practically everywhere, I experience fewer incidents of harassment than when I’m in Baltimore or DC. However, the one thing that I have noticed, regardless of where I am, is that the harassment I face is always by way of black men. Ok, maybe always is overreaching because I do not collect quantitative data every time I am street harassed, but I am comfortable saying that 95 percent of harassment I have experienced throughout my life is from black men. And I’m not alone. My friends and I have talked about this phenomenon. Some are almost embarrassed to talk about it because they don’t want to seem like racists. They’re not. I am a black woman and I am calling out my black, male harassers.
Now pay attention. I did not say that ALL black men harass women on the street, because they don’t. However, what I did say is that the majority of harassment I have faced has been out of the mouths of black men. What’s up with that, ‘brothas’?
So consider this, my open letter to my overwhelmingly black harassers. I’ll do it in list format so that it’s easier for your brain to digest.
1) I do not need you to comment on my clothes, how my body looks in them, or anything else about my appearance; I did not get dressed this morning with you in mind.
2) Do not yell crude, inappropriate comments to me; I will not tolerate your shit.
3) What gives you the right to think you can say anything you want to me and I will consider it a compliment? I don’t consider tasteless comments from complete strangers as validation of my self-esteem, thank you.
4) When I roll my eyes after you spew ignorance my way, do not get an attitude, call me an “uppity bitch” or a “lesbian” because I rejected your pathetic advances.
5) Don’t take my silence as an invitation to keep talking. I don’t always verbally respond to harassers but that doesn’t mean once you’ve uttered one ‘compliment’ you should say another. Move along.
6) DO NOT touch me. I understand that your impressive vernacular must leave you without much action but DO NOT think you can touch me and get away with it. You do not want to see my roundhouse- I take kickboxing three days a week and lift weights the other four. Seriously, don’t mess.
7) Have some respect for the women in your life like your mother/daughter/sister/aunt/friend and ask yourself if you would appreciate them being treated in the manner you just treated me. I didn’t think so. If you don’t have ANY females in your life, you need to look in the mirror and figure out why.
8) Respect women. It’s really a simple concept, so I’ll repeat it again.
It’s not that hard to wake up one day and say, “Today is a new day, I’m not going to open my mouth and comment on/grope a woman’s breasts, ass, or any body part at all. I am going to keep my comments and hands to myself.” It’s sort of like those basic social cues and golden rules you were taught in kindergarten. They’re timeless. So incase you have a short attention span and read only the first and last paragraph of an article, in short, STOP FUCKING HARASSING ME, JERKS!
P.S. A note to potential commenters: My personal experience is not your personal experience, therefore, you have no say in what I have experienced and cannot call my claims illegitimate. My life, my experience. Your life, your experience. Write about your own.
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