Baggage Claim, Carousel 4

Ironically, I expected the best in him as he seemed to assume the worst in me.

My bag came earlier than expected, as it was one of the first to appear. Rarely do I ever have such luck. When it came my way, I picked it up off the belt and started heading for the parking shuttle. Before I left, I caught a glimpse of a woman standing nearby, staring at me intently.

“If looks could kill,” I thought.

I wondered what her deal was, mentally shrugged her off, and went about my business.

I was almost to the door when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man (whom I believe was also a passenger from the same flight, and possibly traveling with the woman) jogging toward me. He was smiling, so I turned around and smiled back, thinking I had maybe dropped something and he was being a Good Samaritan.

Instead, he asked me if I was “sure it is [my] bag.” In that moment, I saw red.

Some folks may not understand. For those of you keeping score at home, this is the second time in 2018 when I have been assumed to be up to no good, as I was minding my own business. The first was earlier in the spring when I was going for my usual Pokerun (a mashup I created where I play Pokemon Go while doing the C25K, C210K, Half Marathon, or Marathon training app workout on my phone).

The phone was running out of juice, so I went back to my car to get my external battery. However, I needed to find a cable to plug my phone in, which required some digging. After about 30 seconds, I finally found one. I also found a woman, standing across the street, holding her cell phone up in my direction.

Within seconds, I realized she was recording me…without my consent. She thought I was breaking into my own car.

I locked my car with my remote deliberately. Get that on video.

Maybe some folks still don’t get it. Why did this shake me up so much? Maybe they honestly thought I made a mistake.

Flash back to the situation. I simultaneously expected the best of him as he was assuming I was, at best, negligent, and at worst, a thief.

Keep it real…we all know it was option b. How do I know? Because if they really thought I had “made a mistake,” the couple would have likely said something on the spot.

(I’m surprised that, as intently as I was being inspected, they neglected to see me check the tag. Maybe next time I should make a more dramatic production of doing so, so that those people can be 100% sure that I have not “made a mistake.” #sarcasm)

Instead, this man came running towards me, late at night, in a more isolated section of the airport. First of all, a) this was doing the most, and b) if anyone felt the need to chase me, why was it the man and not the woman? I could reasonably argue that this was a threat to my physical safety. I’d like to assume good intentions, but why should I when I’m not being extended the same courtesy?

Every time something like this happens, I fight myself. I usually try to give people the benefit of the doubt. This is difficult to do when the same type of things keep happening over and over. I try to explain this behavior away, just so that the frustration and anger will subside, but this only makes it worse because I know I’m lying to myself. Then I get mad about being so brainwashed that I’m making excuses for these people, who see me as a criminal. To them, that’s who I am. They hide their micro- and macro-aggressions behind smiles and politically correct pseudo-politeness, and we’re expected to sit there and take it. Every. Single. Time.

I want to scream.

Instead, I clam up and say nothing. I said nothing to the woman invading my privacy earlier this year. I said nothing to the man tonight. I just showed him my name tag on the bag (great, now he knows my name…), and he said something I don’t remember because I was pissed this was happening again, and that’s all I could think about. I think it was some kind of apology, but I don’t care.

As I replay the scene in my mind for the 50,000th time, I think of all the things I could have done.

  1. I could have just said, “no, it’s mine,” and not shown him my tag…I owed him nothing.
  2. I could have kept walking, and not stopped at all.
  3. I could have gotten airport security involved, since I had a man chasing me late at night, after all.

The list goes on and on, but it was late, I was tired, I really wanted to go home, and let’s face it, clamming up tends to be my default behavior. Maybe this time it was ok, but I really wish I would have at least said something.

Next time, I hope I can find my voice. I’d love to say, “hopefully there will be no ‘next time,’” but I’m still a Black woman living in America.