“Shut the fuck up! Shut the fuck up!”
I heard it shouted as I approach the corner after dropping my daughter off at her new school. One mile we have to walk and she cried the entire way. I made her rush because we were running late. She hates to be rushed. And so she cried. Not the kind of cry accompanied by tears but the kind that means she’s miserable and it’s absolutely my fault. As we approached her school parents hurriedly snuck their kids in the back door. I did the same and then walked down the street to my school. That’s when I heard a man hollering, “shut the fuck up!”
All I could see as I walked was the crossing guard hesitating as she entered the street to allow kids to cross so they could enter school. It was a busy street. One where parents would stop to drop-off or pick-up their children. There were always cars that were double-parked. The school is right in the middle of an urban neighborhood and has many children trying to beat the 7:45 bell.
But there was another man too. This one was inside his pick-up truck. He hollered something too, “you’re blocking the fucking intersection!” as he threw his flanneled white arm in the air. His window down.
A man was in the street and looked at him, “shut the fuck up!” Then looked toward the school, “go inside son. Go on.”
The white man again, “You’re blocking the intersection….”
“I’m going to wait here until my son goes inside the school. Go on son, go inside.” This man was a well-dressed handsome black man. He was driving a shiny black Lexus SUV and he was dropping his son off at school. I imagine he and his son probably had a morning similar to Hannah and I and they were just running a few minutes late. I also imagine when they pulled up to the intersection the light was red and the man hopped out to let his son out so he could go to school. I’ve done the same thing for my daughter many times. I’ve never had to endure yelling while I did it though.
Looking at the sidewalk to the main door I saw a young boy, maybe about Hannah’s age. He was clearly scared and had tears in his eyes. It was heart-breaking. My momma heart wanted to run and comfort him — to hold his hand and tell him it would be okay, his dadda just wanted to make sure he was safe inside the school. I wanted to hold his hand and walk him into the school myself. But I just stood there. I stood there to witness. I was the white woman. The white woman standing witness.
The father’s son finally made it into the school while the white man continued to yell. A black woman, a mother of another student at the school, went into the street and talked with the father and completely ignored the white man. I wanted to applaud her. She asked about his son. He’s in third grade.
Is he in Hannah’s class? Does Hannah know him? Will I meet them again? Will I even know it’s them if I do?
Another black man walked up to the corner. This man was older, someone’s grandfather maybe, and he stood witness too. The crossing guard, an older short black woman continued to do her job and allow the students to cross the street to enter school. They were late. Everyone was late.
The father began to get back in his car with the white man still hollering. He waited for the light to turn green and then turned onto the side road. The white man, with his window down, yelled, “fucking N***” out the window. My heart sank.
The older black man standing beside me said, “I’m glad I’m not younger.”
The handsome father parked his car and rushed into the school. He muttered to the crossing guard, “I’m sorry. I have to go check on my son.”
The crossing guard looked at me, “people have to be able to cross the street.” They do sweet lady. They do. People need to be able to cross the street. People need to be able to bring their children to school in the morning. People need to know that their children will be safe in the spaces they have to cross between the safety of home and the safety of school. People need to be treated like people.
“I agree with you completely. Stay safe.”