…while black.

By Evelyn Helminen

People don’t generally question my actions when I am minding my own business, going about my day. If I’m grouchy, I don’t smile at people.

If I’m in a hurry, I might let the door slam behind me without holding it open for the next person. If I need help with finding something at the store, and ask, someone will direct me to what I need. When I drive my car, I get to my destination, do what I went there to do, and then drive home. 

Sometimes the drive is long, sometimes it’s short.

This is a boring story, except of course there’s a reason I’m going on about this. 

I am a white woman. These things are ordinary to me. When I go out in public, it’s a fairly stress-free endeavor. I don’t worry about representing all white females with my actions. And it has never crossed my mind—not once—that someone would call the cops on me for going about my day, minding my own business, doing what I do. 

When I get an ice cream, I eat it.

It’s a different world out there for people of color. A racist world.

There’s a whole list of things that they have been found “guilty” of, and sometimes killed over. Birdwatching while black, jogging while black, and not resisting arrest while black, are three recent ones. A long compiled list by the Washington Post includes: couponing while blackgraduating too boisterously while blackwaiting for a school bus while blackthrowing a kindergarten temper tantrum while blackdrinking iced tea while blackwaiting at Starbucks while blackAirBnB’ing while blackshopping for underwear while blackhaving a loud conversation while blackgolfing too slowly while blackbuying clothes at Barney’s while blackor Macy’sor Nordstrom Rackgetting locked out of your own home while blackasking for the Waffle House corporate number while black and reading C.S. Lewis while black, among others.

As a white women who reaches a diverse audience, I want to bring more visibility to these issues, especially to the white community—people who have no concept of what it’s like to do something “…while black.” 

So in the next few weeks, I’m going to start a pyrography series with this theme. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like yet, but stay tuned to see how it all unfolds.