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GETtoKNOW Makayla

I swung by the gardens before heading to the community center. I needed to clear out the room where the girls would be doing yoga that afternoon. I was looking for an extra set of hands and I found them in Makayla.

I ask about her music preference as we climb in the car. I generally let the students who ride with me pick but she wasn't too concerned so I put Rihanna on shuffle and we headed out.

When we arrived at the community center, I did everything as instructed. Unlocked it with the key and pushed down hard on the handle because you have to do that to get it to open. I was largely unprepared for what would happen next and so was Makayla.

An alarm system we weren't notified about starts to go off and Makayla bolts from the door to the street as I attempt to figure out the code. Time runs out and the siren starts. It's blaring, ringing through the building and the neighborhood.

As I step outside to call for the code, I see Makayla standing by a sign, doing her best to pretend like its a bus stop. She is panicked, deeply concerned about the police coming. I try to reason for her to come by the door but she refuses. She paces back and forth and looks around as if mentally making an escape plan.

I pause at this picture of oppression.

She is not guilty but knows that she does not have to be. She is aware of innocence's irrelevancy. Her instinct to run is the result of a history where being black and being in the wrong place at the wrong time is enough to be shot and killed instantly.

Acknowledging my privilege here would be fitting. Because while she is stricken with worry, I am impatient, annoyed, and more embarrassed than anything.

I am privileged because I am not afraid. I am privileged because I do not feel compellled to create an escape plan in my brain. I don’t have to scramble to figure out what to do “just in case.” Recognizing privilege is recognizing that, in that moment, it was a luxury to feel safe.


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