I was stopped at a light in the far right hand lane on a busy Houston street and had the thought that it would be a good idea to lock my car doors. When I reached for the door lock button, I accidentally rolled down the window so I was looking down at my left hand, fumbling with the buttons. Finally, the doors locked, just as I looked up and just as a young African-American man was passing me on foot, going the other way.
He looked at me pointedly just as I looked at him, our eyes locked, him shaking his head almost imperceptibly, me not yet comprehending what had just happened. Then the moment was over. He passed me, I realized what he had just experienced--a middle-aged white woman locking her car door just as he walked by--and then it was over.
I'm not going to pretend that I know what that feeling is like. A black friend of mine from high school and college told me once, "You have no idea what it feels like to know every time you walk into a room full of white people that someone hates you, someone is afraid of you, someone doesn't think you belong there and you don't know who." He was right--I have no idea.
I think that what happened tonight was an unfortunate coincidence, a painful misunderstanding. Most of all, I regret not having any way to make it right. I prayed for that young man and his heart because it was all I could do. I hope he can turn his brief experience with me into irritation and not anger, frustration but not cynicism. And I pray for the day that the hurts aren't so close to the surface, when it is not so easy to wound each other by accident.