In Washington Square Park, I was sitting on a bench talking to a friend. A person came up and, unprovoked, started threatening me. I’ve written and recorded podcast episodes about the many times I’ve been assaulted and mugged, as far back as some of my earliest memories.
I understand “battery” means physically hurting someone and “assault” means threatening it, which this person did. It began by him approaching and starting to say something. As he did, I said, “I’m sorry, we’re in a conversation.” He just went off on that, menacing and threatening for no reason I could tell.
I stayed mostly calm, doing my best to talk him down. After a few minutes he walked away without touching or hurting me.
I feel compelled to bring up sex and race because I both get threatened many times and told I’m privileged and don’t know what it’s like to be otherwise. I’m a white man. Neither he nor my friend were. He didn’t threaten her at all yet wouldn’t leave me alone. As best I can tell, my being white and male make me a target. I don’t know how many times I have have to be assaulted, mugged, told I can’t go certain places, sexually assaulted, scammed, sucker punched in the face, robbed, called racial epithets, threatened by police, taunted, and more, all of which people have done to me, never asked for by me, but when I bring things like this up, people lecture me about how bad it is for people who aren’t white or men, as if I didn’t know, as if sharing what happened to me denies or comments in any way what happens to anyone else.
The chip on my shoulder
I have a chip on my shoulder because all I want to do is share a scary incident and that I felt targeted and vulnerable because of my skin color and sex with some hope of understanding and support, despite not seeing media coverage of people of my skin color and sex being targeted and victimized. Experience tells me that if I were, say, not male, sharing what happened and the sex of the assailant would prompt understanding and support. I think if a woman shared a man assaulted her, few would call her sexist for pointing out her assailant’s sex. But I expect to be lectured and called ignorant, maybe suspected to be white supremacist, sexist, or bringing things up for no reason.
The reason I bring up sex and race is that I feel silenced from bringing up being targeted for these accidents of my birth and expecting the opposite of understanding and support when I’m victimized. I’m frankly scared to bring up race and sex as a white male for people accusing me of being racist, sexist, or ignorant, that sharing what happened to me, that I did nothing to cause, could one day be used against me. I’m as scared of how society will treat me as I was of him. I don’t think I’m alone. I think if no one shares what I’m sharing, no one will believe people like me and things will never change.
For that matter, this incident happened the day after an old friend revealed to me how his ex-wife used to hit him. He was the victim of domestic abuse, but his only recourse in the moment was to run away from her. He knew his responding physically, even purely in self-defense, could put him in jail. He probably knew that many men who report being victims of domestic abuse are themselves put in jail, even when innocent and actual victims. He knew his upper body strength was nothing compared to the power she held over him.
I don’t want to keep running away.
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