I won’t pretend I know how it feels to be a woman in prison. I won’t pretend I know how it feels to be policed day and night. I won’t pretend I didn’t feel uneasy.. afraid to imagine myself in a prison.. I won’t pretend I’ve “shared a room with seven other women”, outside of a classroom or job.. And it doesn’t feel easy to say better you than me to the voices of Public Secrets..
If i dig deep enough with the peeling fingers of emotion, there is darkness and danger that lurks. And it is this darkness I will blame, yes my own, that contributes to the existence of prison.
I bought a cup of coffee this morning. A white man.. bald, with a limp in his left knee walked out before me. Unless I was invisible, or am to him, he saw me. I closely followed as he walked out. The door closed enough to force me to open it for myself if I wanted to exit. Yesterday, a black man.. unless I was or am invisible to him, saw me approaching the doors of the store we were both entering. The door closed, forcing me to open it if I wanted to enter.
They both knew better right? Their mothers should have taught them better.. their fathers. But the fact is, I’ve never told my son to hold the door open for a woman or a man.. in my presence, I hold the door for women and men.. I hold the door for him and my daughter. Maybe they’ll learn by example. Ladies first? I iron my Daughter’s clothes before my son’s. But I’ve never said Son, Ladies first.
If they assume my actions as customary, as expected, what will the effect be when the action is not returned. “Each of us is always affecting each other in every relationship.. in every situation.”
The white man I thought. He must be a nazi. He must not like black people. He went to the passenger side of a red truck. Me, the driver’s side of my car. Already an empty coffee cup in the cup holder, I took it out and walked to the trash can, which was closer to the door than usual. What does he think? Does she have a gun? Will she shoot me because I didn’t hold the door? Will she hit me? What will she do.. Maybe that’ll teach him right. You don’t know what people will do. Police yourself.
The hour was not many minutes after 6 am, and of course, it is dark this time of year, that time of morning. Cars were parked, no people. I was alone. I was over the white line. If the park to the right of me were the only one left in the lot, it’d be useless a vehicle that could have otherwise made use. If I’d only left just a little more space. If I’d only paid attention to being in the line, I can help someone be less annoyed. I can help someone in their attempt to stop using the word asshole, or bitch. Or jerk. (”They get on the microphone and call us bitches and sluts.” Well, “they” rap it too. We buy, download, listen, and that’s not an invitation). I can help someone get to class on time. I can help someone believe God heard their prayer. “Lord, please let there be a park. You know how ridiculous parking is. And the 168 parking spaces available in lights on the parking garage signs is lies.” As I walked in darkness, I thought that white man may have felt I disrespected him and will kill me. Afterall, I should stay in line. If I’d provoked him with my response, although unverbal, but perceivable, if he’d been thinking like me, I would have participated in my own death. And the keys that shook to the left of me as I passed Westcott jingled friendly, so I wouldn’t perceive a threat. After all, I was a woman, alone, in the dark. And the Budget truck that circled said no one will hurt you. I’m here. The gentleman that projected “Ok, you have a good day now” wanted me to know he was there, to not startle me if I heard him approaching. If at any of these moments I’d not assessed these happenings, or assessed them as threats, what would my benefit of the doubt contribution to society have been for today. Oh but you shouldn’t be so naïve you say. Well you shouldn’t be so provoked, I say.
Panopticism: To induce a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures automatic functioning of power, by one assuming responsibility for himself, by spontaneously enforcing upon himself the constraints of power, in which one simultaneously plays both roles. The more this self-inflicted power approaches its limit, the more profound and permanent are its effects.