I remember getting on the bus on my way to school and thinking, "I don't want to sit next to that lady" because she will likely clutch her purse and make me feel like I did something to deserve feeling like I was a criminal. I was seasoned by the purse clutching reaction, because it happened so often, that my 13 year-old self didn't realized the impact of that circumstance on my psyche until many years later when I was finally able to process the layers at play. The simultaneous subtlety and complexity of that experience is all I have come to know.
As an adult I now can appreciate and maneuver the dynamics of what should be inconsequential interactions. As with many very common situations, that should be entirely uneventful, they are loaded with subversive social psychology with complex nuance that I'm confident many folks are completely oblivious and unaware of. I was trained early, long before those bus rides in fact. My 'training' didn't end with public transport.
Post adolescence, I recognized that dating, job hunting, education, shopping, and walking down the street afforded me a myriad of unique challenges. As I entered my current career path I quickly realized there were very few people like me in Executive roles. One day I worked up the nerve to walk into my boss' boss' boss' office and ask why he thought that I couldn't find an example of a career path of someone who looked like me that I could emulate in the entire organization. That Executive told me unflinchingly that, "You all just don't seem to be interested in 'those' kind of jobs.'"
Those' jobs being the ones with elevated responsibility with a related income. I was interested in 'those' kinds of jobs and that moment was cemented in my brain with the resolve that I had to build my own road.
Truthfully, I can site an endless list of situations that I am confident many folks would not have to consider. Believe me this seeps into your being and blurs the deepest crevices of ones psyche unravelling at a sloths pace with unwavering consistency, instead of a particular traumatic stressful event.
Regardless, I've now found myself in a unique circumstance and with a life that has exceeded many of my own dreams or what I sadly believed were ever achievable realities. I can attribute my "luck" to work ethic, sacrifice, unusual stubbornness, or a combination of them all. I have since concluded a certain amount of gratefulness for all of the conditioning because it has forced me to think tangentially when faced with obstacles.
The very same birthright that has conditioned me to exceed my dreams can now have me killed. I'm a father of four daughters and a husband, among many other personal and professional responsibilities. I am now earnestly afraid for my life in a way that I have never been in my life previously.
Sadly, my fears are corroborated and proven with frighteningly usual frequency which reminds me, with even more frighteningly great regularity, how pleasantly disposable my life is to many. My "purse training" has taken on a new level of social maneuvering that now, as a grown ass man, leaves me even more baffled than the pre pubescent kid I once was on those bus.
Now, as I travel to remote parts of a place that seem to embrace and revile me simultaneously, I am afraid for my life. Genuinely, whole heartedly afraid for my life to the point that I go to work then return to my hotel immediately afterwards to avoid any situation (like driving a car for any longer than absolutely necessary) that may force my wife, children, siblings, parents, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends and colleagues from hosting my funeral.
Although I can't possibly represent everyone who shares my circumstance, I know I'm not the only one who shares my fear. This I am certain of.
Bless us all because we are all relatives. I have to go to work now with an even heavier head that this morning I find myself wishing that had eyeballs in the back of.