Skating on Thin Ice

On the Tuesday afternoon before the verdict in the Rodney King assault was announced, I absent-mindedly changed lanes to make a turn, forcing the car behind me to hit mine. My car was badly smashed on the driver's side, and both doors on that side were jammed so that they would not open.

My boys, 6 and 11, were in the back seat. We sat, stunned at what had happened, as people passed us without stopping. Finally a Jeep Cherokee pulled up in front of us. A white woman got out and walked toward us, then past us, without making eye contact. A man followed her from the Jeep; he didn't look at us either.

They spoke to the woman who had collided with us and helped her and her children get out of their car. After the other driver left to call someone, this couple moved nearer to our car, but still did not ask us if we were OK.

I was stunned by their behavior. So I asked them if they knew the other woman. "No," the woman said, "we just saw her there with those two little children and we had to stop to see about them."

How ironic. I sat there with my two little children, in a car that we could not get out of without exiting into rush-hour traffic, and they never thought to think of us. Why? Because we are black and the woman who hit me is white? We were invisible and she was visible. She and her children were important. We were not.

THAT NIGHT I STOOD in the middle of my kitchen and wept, because my little children are not seen as being as important as two little white children, and I know that this is not an isolated thing. This incident, along with the verdict in the Rodney King assault, are indicative of the very fabric of American life.

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Sojourners Magazine July 1992
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