Flashback to 1991 or so...
I had this job as a waitress at the Rogers Park Leona's, and one night I got off around midnight and started the four block walk home. As I was walking, this guy in a car turned down the street I was on, slowed down and started following me. It's late, right? I'm alone and there's a dude in a car creeping along behind me. There weren't cell phones back then. I was truly on my own. So, heart racing, I started to weigh my options - should I stay on the street where it was well lit but closer to the car or should I go to the sidewalk where it's dark and there are alleys and shrubs to be pushed in? Should I run? Should I scream? I pulled my pepper spray from my purse.
After some time of this (it felt like forever but it was probably only a minute or two) he pulled up alongside me and I whirled around, pointed my pepper spray at him and said something like, "What the fuck do you want?!?!" I may have even sounded tough but I was shaking and I was so so so scared.
Turns out the dude was wondering if I was walking to a car because he was looking for parking spot and it is possible I scared him near as much as he scared me.
My guess is there's not a woman reading this who can't call up exactly the feelings I felt then. Women are trained to be scared. Rape is around every corner. And, the kicker of it is, if the guy had been a rapist and hadn't been a guy just trying to get out of his car and get home, I would have been asked why I was walking home. Just what the hell did I expect to happen?
Which brings me to the maddening, senseless, depressing, enraging and exhausting reactions to the Trayvon Martin murder (yeah, I said murder); with the most senseless, fatuous and willfully ignorant being why didn't this 17 year old kid, stalked and scared, just surrender himself to an unknown, armed stranger.
This reaction comes, I am convinced, from people completely unfucking unfamiliar with how scary it is to be followed like that.
Look, I don't mean to conflate my experience as a young white women with what black men have to put up with. I would not change places - mostly because I do not know you walk around with those things - so awkwardly placed and cumbersome (just lightening it up a little, folks). I try very hard to be aware of my privilege and do not mean to say that what happened to Trayvon Martin would have happened to me. It would in no way have.
Still, it is abundantly clear that there are some people free to move about as they see fit, accosted neither by suspicion or fear, and that freedom is not afforded to the rest of us.