This post was also trending among my friends on Facebook, too. I’d held off reading it until now. My DF (Dear Fiance! Yay! He proposed a few weeks ago, now I just have to get the nerve (and the unique idea) with which to propose to him, as was our deal) was determined to go sightseeing in NYC on Sept. 11, and, thankfully, things went very smoothly. He is from India, and usually very, very aware of being “the brown person.” That said, he was born and raised in India, and came to the USA as an adult for graduate school. Often, he doesn’t have the awareness of potentially racially charged situations, because some behavioral cues, buzzwords, and associations, he has few or no connotations for. Many of those ideas, such as the post author’s allusions to “beer bellies,” “country music,” and “flat tops” are *not* universal. (As a funny sidenote, my DF had always *wanted* a beer belly, just like some of his wealthier uncles had! In his early 20s, he finally achieved his long-suffering (or just large-eating) goal. Shortly after, though, he came to the USA, where his beer-belly was, sadly, not in vogue. Now he’s trying to lose it, and he hopes that it doesn’t take as long to lose the beer belly as it did to get it!).
DF is (rightfully) aware of race, color, and (mis)perception, and all things being equal, he avoids tense and/or uncomfortable situations where race is a factor. Also, he does sometimes appreciate it when he doesn’t have to think about and rehash racism – sometimes he, like all human beings, just isn’t in a place where he wants to engage such negative energies. Since the visit thus far had been pretty stressful for him (we were visiting my best friend, who has breast cancer at 27 – not exactly a happy go lucky vacay-type trip), I didn’t discuss the issue of 9/11’s upcoming 10-year date with him. At first, without telling him, I just asked our host if she would consider just chilling w/ us at her home, instead of trying to take the ferry and see the Statue of Liberty, etc.I don’t know that this was the right thing to do, but I knew I didn’t want to stress him more than he was already stressed, and usually he appreciates the gesture. As the date drew closer, though, he was getting more and more excited about sightseeing around NYC.
The days had been blurring together, so, I asked him if he was sure if the possibility of racism on 9/11/11 was something he was willing to face (actually, I think the conversation went something more like, “Uh babe, isn’t Sunday 9/11? I know it’s a cosmopolitan city and everything, but ya know there might be some a$$hole out then). In fact, he had forgotten the date, and it took him a while to think about it. He was quiet at first, but later, he casually mentioned that he really did want to go sightseeing. That was it, just, “You know, I really want to go around NYC this weekend.” So we went. We took the subway all the way down from Bronx, visited Battery Park and the waterfront, took the ferry across to Governor’s Island, walked all around lower Manhattan, had dinner with friends in a little cobble-stoned restaurant district (Adrianne’s, pizza, too expensive but tasty).
In all, I know he had weighed his company and the social “safety” it would bring to be holding hands with me — one light-skinned Italiatina, one black West Indian doctor, and one Indian, with half a dozen fluent languages between the three of us — and sized up what he knew of the possibilities. I am pretty sure he wouldn’t have anticipated over 50 incidents such as the author described, and it hurts that he (and me, and our host, and my family, who, being from a rural White area, was very worried for all of us being in an urban area ON 9/11 AND being brown – especially because a family friend, though not in a racially-charged situation, was jumped and badly beaten for no apparent reason a few weeks ago) had to weigh any of these things. He felt the events of 2001 very deeply, even being from another country, and he did want and need the opportunity to commemorate, and to mourn the loss of human life, and the loss of humanity, that took place ten years ago.
I’m very thankful that he is so strong, and that he maintained his determination to brave the possibilities (and in light of incidents such as the author’s post, the word “brave” can certainly be used), and that he remained so understanding, sweet, and focused on my (his DF’s) enjoyment and safety during that time. I am also thankful that the people WE happened to encounter on 9/11 were, if anything, nonplussed and while not quite polite (they’re New Yorkers, remember?! How’s that for a stereotype?! I’m just joking, though, many people were quite polite), unflustered.
Endnote: As it turned out, the President had even flown in a few hours prior to our being out and about downtown. That may have been a good thing, because downtown and the sightseeing spots were quite sparsely populated at the time we went.