About a week ago, my husband and I purchased a new bed for our guest bedroom. We set up an appointment for delivery, and this morning I watched the truck pull up, almost to the minute.
Pleased, I went to open the door. Standing at the bottom of the steps were two young black men. I smiled, asked them if they were here to deliver a bed, and welcomed them in.
They both hesitated.
Perplexed, I waited, letting them introduce themselves to our overly-enthusiastic beagle-corgi mix (who didn’t pee on the floor this time, thank the good lord).
They seemed genuinely interested in the pup, and as one reached down to pet her, I offered, “she’s very friendly.”
Before crossing the threshold into my home, he looked me in the eyes and said, “so am I.”
Again, I was perplexed. Not many people introduce themselves that way.
And then it hit me. These nice young men were afraid of scaring me. They seemed keenly aware that their presence at my door — especially when I was alone with my 3-month-old baby — may make me uncomfortable.
- We had an appointment.
- They were both in uniform.
- They were in a clearly marked truck, which was used to haul the mattress I ordered. And
- They were here to do the job I hired them for.
Now, one could argue they were just being gentlemen, aware that having any strange man in my home, especially when I was alone, could make me nervous (which is true. Now is a good time to read about male privilege).
But I don’t think so. Over the course of four years in our century-old bungalow, we have had countless contractors come and go, and rarely have any seemed so hesitant to come in — or so eager to make it clear they were friendly. Hell, some of them won’t even talk to me about the project they came to work on, choosing to call my husband instead (which is another issue. Seriously, look up male privilege right now).
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? It’s definitely possible, since I spend so much time in my own head.
Either way, it was a near-perfect moment to examine my own privilege:
As a white person, I can perform the functions of my job without worrying that my race will scare others, or prejudice them against me.
As a white person, I can cordially approach strangers and they do not assume I will harm or steal from them.
And that’s huge.