Paper Cuts

I was walking my dog through the neighborhood yesterday… (well the day before writing this post which was July 9th for giggles). As I was walking, this lady driving by turned the corner relatively tight in her SUV, a moment after I had crossed the street. Clearly not close enough to hit me, but too close for comfort. So close that I could smell the new car scent air freshener coming from her oversized VW Atlas before seeing it because her windows were down. In that moment, I assumed the lady driving was in a rush, I continued walking but made a mental note of it. I saw that she parked further up the block and hopped out quickly while waiting on someone else to get out.  She stood behind her SUV and as I got closer, she looked at me square in the eyes, so I warmly said “good evening” with a smile and a head nod. She looked away and scratched her head as if she were raised by wild baboons. 

scratches and smudges
Photo by Daniel Reche on

Just as I was thinking in my head “this lady is an asshole” the person she was waiting on hopped out of the front seat. It was her son and he immediately asked me if he could rub my dog. I said sure and the kid rubbed and hugged away. It was odd because he was a very little kid, like 4 maybe 5 years old. No idea why he was in the front seat. Meanwhile, his mom looked even more uncomfortable, and I won’t lie, that made me feel pretty good. When the kid was done asking questions and getting his feels on my dog, he said thank you, I looked at his mom and she pushed out one of those pathetic fake smiles that look painful to do and feel phony when you receive them…then they walked across the street.

Awkwardon purpose

To combat social awkwardness, I would just act like I couldn’t be bothered – That kind of aloof persona or aloof demeanor. It’s so off putting

Janeane Garofalo

People are assholes for countless reasons, and I usually can take it in stride and proceed with my day. This particular encounter only bothered me because her kid was sweet. He hasn’t been corrupted by the baboon like behavior of his mother yet, and he’s still filled with innocence. It pains me to think this lady is going to instill her awkward on purpose, jerk like ways into him and he’ll be just as rude as she is when he’s an adult. Coincidentally, the day before this incident, I was walking my dog on the same street, and I saw a lady and two kids at the park across the street. As I walked, I saw this small SUV that was already parked and locked, blinking and locking again…then again, and as I looked across the street to see what moron was doing this, I see her arm up, pressing on her key fob repeatedly locking it as if she couldn’t tell it was locking. I was wondering if she had OCD, and this was just her thing or if she was completely overdoing it to ensure I wouldn’t target her car of all the cars on the block for a spur of the moment robbery in broad daylight with several witnesses. 

When I began looking for my current home, the lending company suggested a real estate agent for us. I communicated with him a few times over email and he called me one day to get a feel for me I guess. I sent him a list of homes that I wanted to see, but since I wasn’t there, my wife did all the house tours. Upon seeing that she is Black, he asked me if the amount we pre-qualified for was a typo. I assured him it was correct and that we were looking at homes we could afford. He then called the lending agent to find out if the amount we were pre-qualified for was correct, they reassured him it was, then let me know about his concern. The following week, I sent more homes, to which he said were all too expensive for me, and he discouraged me from looking at homes in guard gated communities or golf course communities. Instead, he kept suggesting significantly cheaper homes that didn’t meet our needs, in areas that were not at all what we were looking for. He expressed shock when I told him we no longer needed his assistance in this house hunting process. Naturally, the broker he worked for wanted to know why we dumped him. I let them know about his actions and the response was, “he was just being thorough”. I responded, maybe, but he wasn’t this thorough when our race was unknown. When I was just a small business owner and my wife was a military member, everything was accepted at face value, upon seeing her he decided to be more thorough and requested verification twice from the lender, whose job it is to be concerned about our finances. Maybe I’m being sensitive.

Micro Aggressions and Stressors

Without the help of the bigoted real estate agent, I moved into a nice home, in a nice neighborhood. As a Black man in this predominantly White, solid middle to upper middle-class neighborhood, I am hyperaware of my disposition as I walk through my own neighborhood. I speak to pretty much everyone I see, always with a smile because in addition to not being a complete jerk, that’s the league minimum you can do to be polite. I don’t go out of my way to be polite, but I do go out of my way to come off as non-threatening, because simply being Black elevates the perceived threat level in many places. Even a quick glance at the news or news articles highlights how for many people in the U.S., history and current events from a Black perspective or even mentioning an objective truth that goes against the narrative we’ve been told, is deemed a threat. People who see and highlight these issues are dismissed as “the woke crowd” and the issues they highlight are dismissed right along with them. 

Perseverance is not a long race, it is many short races, one after the other

Walter Elliot
Real Talk…but Funny

Cumulative Effect

These are just a few of the micro stressors that I and many other Black people live with. Most are taken in stride due to being common. Typically since it is not everyday, they can all be seen as “here and there” or minor moments. As such, they’re written off as no big deal. Every time my experiences are written off as no big deal I recall when I was in the military doing these security training videos. Our security training hammered home the idea that a single piece of information doesn’t have to be top secret to cause grave damage. A collection of lower classified information in one space is just as damaging in the wrong hands as top secret information. The same can be said regarding our treatment of people. Some of us are dealing with a collection of micro stressors just for existing in our skin. Each individual thing may not be synonymous to being wrongfully convicted or lynched, but the cumulative effect is still very damaging to the individual and society as a whole.

That said, it’s impossible to truly walk in the shoes of another person. Even in situations where you can go in disguise, there is no amount of prep work that will condition you to feel or react to the same input when you encounter it as the person that lives this way all the time would. At best you’d be able to get a sense of what their steps are like, but the cumulative effect can’t be duplicated or imagined well enough to convey the experience. One more analogy for the road. The stress of these micro aggressions build over time and is equivalent to death by way of paper cuts. No single cut deadlier than the next, but the cumulative effect of thousands upon thousands of paper cuts can be fatal. The absolute least a person can do is not add a cut to someone out of disregard or laziness. You never know when a person is at the end of their tolerance for cuts. 

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