Main Content
Black Women Worry More
Black Women Worry More
Reflection

He phoned more than an hour ago to say he was on his way home. But I have yet to hear the scrape of the iron gate, the rattling keys, so I worry.

Most married women fret about a tardy husband: black women like myself worry more. I fear white men in police uniforms; white teenagers driving by; thin, panicky, middle-aged white men on the subway. Most of all, I fear that their path and my husband’s path will cross one night as he makes his way home.

Bob is tall, dark, with thick hair and wire-rimmed glasses. He carries a knapsack stuffed with work from the office, old crossword puzzles, Philip Glass [music], Ebony Man and People magazines. He cracks his knuckles a lot and wears a peculiar grimace when his mind is elsewhere. He looks dear and gentle to me — but then, I have looked into those eyes for a long time.

I worry that some white person will see that grim, focused look of concentration and see the intent to victimize. I fear that some white person will look at him and see only [their] nightmare — another black man in sneakers. In fact, my husband is another black man in sneakers. He’s also a writer, an amateur cyclist, a lousy basketball player, his parents’ son, my life companion. When I peek out the window, the visions in my head are those of blind white panic at my husband’s black presence. I see myself a sudden, horrified widow.

Once upon a time, I was vaguely ashamed of my paranoia about his safety in the world outside our home. After all, he is a grown man. But he is a grown black man on the streets alone, a menace to white [people] — even the nice, sympathetic, liberal ones who smile at us when we’re together. And I am reminded, over and over, how dangerous white people still can be, how their fears are a hazard to our health. When white people are ruled by their fears of everything black, every black woman is an addict, a whore; every black man is a rapist — even a murderer.

So when it’s ten o’clock and he’s not home yet, my thoughts can’t help but wander to other black men — husbands, fathers, sons, brothers — who never make it home. Even after I hear the scrape of our iron gate, the key in the lock, even after I hear that old knapsack hit the floor of the downstairs hallway and Bob’s voice calling to me, my thoughts return to them.
 

About the Author

  • The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt is president of Starr King School for the Ministry and a contributing editor of UU World. She is the author of Unafraid of the Dark: A Memoir (Random House, 1998).

Like, Share, Print, or Explore

For more information contact worshipweb@uua.org.