Douglas and I had received the Pfizer vaccinations on yesterday, and after sitting for 15 minutes afterwards to ensure we had no severe reactions, we were allowed to leave. I didn’t even feel the inoculation, having a wonderful young nurse who knew her craft.
Feeling happy to have the process started and with the day so beautiful, we decided to go for a long wak, although it was a little cold. There were very few people out walking, as we saw less than ten people over the one hour we walked.
Douglas and I still wore our masks and kept our distance, as we will not take the second dose until February 15 (appointment already confirmed!) and will not have 95% effectiveness until after the total five weeks. No one else had on masks, and every one we passed were whites (yes, this is important!).
Douglas and I have taken walks together for so long that we don’t need to talk the whole time, as we did when we were newly bride and groom. I love the feeling of contentment at just being near each other. I can get lost in my own reveries, and if something sparks our interest, we discuss it, like a cache of birdhouses situated in a glen hidden from view.
Walking along, I heard the people behind me in conversation, so I placed my mask over my face. As the couple passed us, the white male noticed we were wearing masks. He turned, looked at me, and completely ignoring Douglas, who is a white male also, he said, “I’m not hating or anything, but do you really need that on out here?”
I stopped in my tracks, and we stared at each other for a few seconds. I was surprised that someone thought he had permission to ask me about wearing a mask in the midst of a world-wide pandemic, in which the majority of people who have died in America are black and brown, including one of my cousins.
Douglas stepped in and told the guy that we only wear the masks around other people. He could see that I was angry at the insolence of this guy. I wanted to tell the guy that I have half of a left lung and a defibrillator, so I couldn’t afford to contract the virus from people like him who refuse to wear masks, as though they are invincible by their skin color or social class or political leanings.
But, I didn’t “go off on him!” I don’t want to perpetuate the angry black woman stereotype. I also try not to forget that I represent Jesus Christ and that answering in an equally nasty way is simply not acceptable.
I wanted let him know that what he did was, indeed, an act of hating. Instead, I very calmly told him and his female partner that we had taken the virus that day, as a means of trying to get the virus under control. He answered that he was leaving that to “people who think they need it!”
His partner was embarrassed by his behavior, and she asked me if it were only people over age 65 allowed to take the vaccine at this time, and I told her that was my understanding. They then turned and walked away, laughing about something.
As I watched them headed for the same parking lot as us, I decided that maybe I needed to let him know that what he did wasn’t okay, so I sped up. But, by the time we reached the parking lot, they were pulling out, and in my spirit, I felt I shouldn’t flag them down to “show my backside,” as my mother would call it, substituting a word for backside that isn’t appropriate in a family-friendly blog.
How did we as a nation get to the place where we find disrespect acceptable? How did we come to a time when people feel comfortable questioning another’s actions because they think differently? What type of privilege did this guy have to ask me, the only black person in the park, that question and not my husband? We need to find a way to back to common decency, put our divisions away, and work together to leave a world of respect and decency for the next generations.