“Have a nice day…you crazy bitch!”

Harassers get in their car

The usual comment to anyone who complains about dealing with stuff in the city is to “move to the suburbs.” Well I’ve moved to the suburbs and still deal with street harassment! What infuriates me even more is that I, a Black woman, was once again harassed by Black men who want to keep me in my place.

I have walked down this path numerous times without problems so for this to happen to me just shocked me back into reality. I was walking to the bus stop this morning, and I walked past Key Elementary School. Normally the school’s in session, cars and buses are in the lot and parents are walking their kids to school. Today the parking lot was empty and the school seemed to be closed, which I assume is in preparation for this so-called “Snowpocalypse.”

I noticed a group of four Black men who I’ve never seen in the neighborhood, and I was getting close to passing by them. My instinct told me that they were going to say something to me and that I should cross to the other side of the street to avoid them, but I thought “Let me not stereotype these men.” I continued to walk and looked them in the eye. I didn’t want to look down at the ground. I wanted to go about my day as normal.

But my instinct was right, they did say something to me.

“Smile, Baby,” the leader of their group said in a voice so harsh it sounded like he was barking at me. “You ain’t got to look so mean.” The other guys laughed. I felt so low and humiliated. All I wanted to do was get to the bus stop. Having to smile for men I didn’t know was not on my agenda this morning!

Had Key Elementary been open, this incident wouldn’t have happened because there are too many parents and concerned citizens around for that to have happened. Had I crossed the street like my gut told me to this wouldn’t have happened. Had I been any other race than Black this wouldn’t have happened, because guys like this are only concerned about what us “sisters” do. We have to smile and please “our” Black men. I was upset.

I told this guy “Can you please not call me ‘Baby’? I don’t know you like that for you to call me ‘Baby’. Call me ‘Miss’ or ‘Ma’am’.”
“Okay, I won’t call you ‘Baby’,” the guy said. I thought, “Cool, he gets it,” but then he responds with “I’ll call you ASSHOLE instead!” he snapped. His buddies laughed.

Nothing I did or said warranted that response. I didn’t curse, I didn’t yell or anything. I simply requested to be respected.

“You are strangers to me, and you don’t have the right to call me ‘Baby’,” I said.
“Sorry Ma’am, I won’t do it again,” the guy said. “Have a nice day.”
“Thanks, you too,” I said. But then the guy had to make a smart-aleck comment again.
“Have a nice day…you crazy bitch!” he yelled. Once again, his peanut gallery of friends laughed.

I tried to take photos of this guy with my phone camera, but he was too fast for my slow camera. He realized I was taking photos and jumped into his car with his friends.

“That was so unnecessary,” I said to myself. This car got to drive off and these guys got to share a laugh amongst each other, and I had to feel the rage, humiliation and anger of being a Black woman being put in her place by Black men. I hate that certain Black men feel that they can refer to me as whatever they want because they see me as their property, not as an individual who lives for herself.

I got a clear shot of the car’s license plate in one photo and I could’ve called the police, but with as many stories I’ve reported to the police about harassment, I know they would’ve dismissed me and said “So they called you names? So?” The police don’t care. And also, since we’re both Black, the police probably would’ve assume the harassing group and I knew each other, and that that’s how Black people act around another. That’s not true and that’s not fair.

Even as I type this I’m still shaking and tense with anger. I hate that these men got to me like that, and I hate that they ruined my morning.

– Anonymous

Location: On the Adams St. side of Key Elementary, Arlington, VA

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

17 Responses to “Have a nice day…you crazy bitch!”

  1. nycthinker says:

    I am outraged on your behalf as well, and I understand that you were angry when you wrote this but I have to disagree that they were only harassing you because you were black. I’m white and I live in a mainly black and Hispanic neighborhood. I am constantly being told to smile, being called baby girl, cursed out when I don’t respond favorably, etc. I’ve been harassed by white men, and all types of men. I think that some men are just jerks, regardless of race, and you had the misfortune to pass by a group of jerks that day. Hopefully, one day they will learn to keep their stupid mouths shut, right?

  2. b says:

    Harassment takes on a different connotations when it’s different racial or socioeconomic groups harassing others. Black men harassing Black women has particular historic and contemporary context, much like it does when Black men harass white women in public, or wealthier looking white men harass white women who appear to be a lower socioeconomic class. Dismissing this woman’s story as “not about race” invalidates how she experienced this and the personal and larger cultural context it represents.

  3. nycthinker says:

    I wasn’t dismissing her experience. I was taking issue with her remark on it only happening to black women, but whatever.

  4. Alan says:

    I can only say I am sorry for you and that this incident happened to you. As a white male, I don’t have any of your frame of reference, but I read of your experience and feel your pain. All my best thoughts to you.

  5. Golden Silence says:

    I was taking issue with her remark on it only happening to black women, but whatever.

    Not anywhere in that story was “Street harassment only happens to Black women” mentioned.

    b sums up my thoughts to a tee. This story’s not about street harassment happening to this group or that group, or certain races of men doing it more than others, this story is about how this woman interpreted what happened to her. And yes, different dynamics do come into play. To further go off on b’s post, when Black men harass Black women, they see Black women as lower than them and try to control them, as in this story (forcing a Black woman to smile). When they harass White women, they see themselves as lower than White women so they try to knock them down a few pegs (with comments such as “Racist bitch!”). Privileged White men (those with wealth and power) see themselves as powerful than all women, so they use all their power to demean women. Hispanic men who harass non-Spanish speaking women do so because they know the women don’t understand what they’re saying, but the subtext is enough to make that woman uncomfortable. I can go on all day with this.

    nycthinker, I get a dismissive vibe from you on this post, and a defensive vibe from you in regard to your comments on the other story. Instead of belittling these experiences we need to support one another and come together.

  6. nycthiner says:

    Oh really Golden Silence?

    “Had I been any other race than Black this wouldn’t have happened, because guys like this are only concerned about what us “sisters” do.”

  7. Golden Silence says:

    But you weren’t there, nycthinker, so you don’t know what was going through that woman’s mind at that time. There’s only so much we can gather from a few paragraphs.

    I’m not understanding your need to nitpick this story and to blame prostitutes for men’s idiotic actions. It’s contrary to the goal of this site—to support one another.

  8. Colette says:

    This is a lousy thing to happen to *Anonymous* no matter how you look at it. I so relate to everything she says, how she thought being rational should work to diffuse the interaction, her effort to humanize the encounter and get them to see her as a person, her saying “Thanks” even. How very frustrating and enraging to do all that and STILL get the abuse.

    I think I understand what nythinker was trying to say; that is, I am a white woman and I could substitute myself in every part of the story and I could also substitute the black men for white men. I want Anonymous to know that I have heard these same kinds of harassing comments from men of all stripes, to the word.

    Maybe posters could agree that it is difficult to tease out exactly what is happening in each and every harassment encounter, but we know it’s inexcusable and unsavory in its intent each time. I guess I feel these miserable men – and I use that word loosely – win when women who essentially are in sync with one another begin to separate.

  9. nycthinker says:

    Thank you Colette. I wasn’t dismissing her experience at all. It was wrong of these men to harass her no matter what color she or they are. Nowhere in my comments here did I say that she deserved to be harassed or try to excuse the harassers actions. All women get harassed, and maybe sometimes race does play a role, but it really ticks me off whenever it’s made to seem like it’s worse for black women. I feel for any woman who gets harassed. I really do. However, black women do not have some sort of monopoly on harassment, nor is it any less upsetting for white women, no matter what “connotation” is behind the harassment.

  10. Golden Silence says:

    However, black women do not have some sort of monopoly on harassment

    Sigh. This’ll be my last comment on this because Colette’s right, our conflicting views on harassment do have the harassers winning the battle when we’re attacking each other as opposed to standing together. But that quoted comment just rubbed me the wrong way. Of course no race has the monopoly on harassment. Yet I doubt you would’ve gotten upset if a woman had a story where she claimed that she was White and was harassed frequently by White men. With Black women being treated as if we’re on the bottom of the totem pole, and I being a Black woman, I take those comments very personally.

    We’re just going to have to agree to disagree, because this back and forth is defeating the purpose.

  11. CW says:

    This site also discussing the street harassment issue!

    http://blog.blanknoise.org/

  12. The Star Blazer says:

    It is real interesting how White women get so upset whenever Black women talk about being targetted ALL TOO OFTEN by Black men for this kinf of street harrassent.

    That should tell you something. It should tell us ALL something about how White women feel about Black women.

  13. Golden Silence says:

    That should tell you something. It should tell us ALL something about how White women feel about Black women.

    Trust me, I have had my experiences with Black-on-Black street harassment dismissed by White folks too many times, but for every White person who is dismissive of it, there are plenty of White people who do respect where I’m coming from. (The admin of this site is one of those women. She’s incredible.) In the same token, I respect the stories of every woman who posts here, regardless of whether it’s something I’ve been through personally or not.

  14. (thanks @goldensilence, i really appreciate it!)

    I’ve left this thread alone so far, but to quickly weigh in now — while a woman of any race could insert herself into the situation of this contributor and face the same words, the meaning would differ depending on racial dynamics, sexual orientation dynamics, class dynamics etc. Those dynamics add layers of meaning regarding why a particular incident is upsetting to a woman.

    Too often white women’s experiences are treated as all women’s experiences, so it’s very important for white women to read/listen, acknowledge, and try to understand how the seemingly same experiences can differ for Black women, Latinas, Asian women, Native American women, etc. Sadly white women (of which I am one) have race privilege and we abuse it if we try to push our experiences on all women. We need to learn from each other and try to understand the complicated layers of harassment and work together so that all women can be safe in public.

  15. northporter says:

    This is all based on what happened to me… I am not generalizing everyone’s problems… so no offense to anyone. I am a black woman… and I can certainly say that when Black men bother me on the street it is different from all the times men of other races do it…. black men do feel that I belong to them and I’m beneath them. I’m not saying that they won’t bother a white woman, but usually the words they use are different. I’m also not taking sides. This is just something I have noticed over the years. When dealing w/ white men it’s usually this : they stare at me and don’t say anything or they say something like ‘why don’t you show me a good time’ or they touch me in an inappropriate way (one guy pulled my thong out of my pants and gave me a wedgie). Most seem to act like frat boys.. no mater how old they are. Hispanic men usually make little noises or wink at me.. the only thing they ever say is “tequila..morena… tequila”… silly I know but that’s what they say. Black men always,always always, say ‘hey girl, hey,girl’.. if I ignore them, they step in front of me or grab me by my arm (if I’m on my bike they grab my bike) and ask me why I won’t talk to them. If I look mad or keep ignoring them, they get pissed and tell me I’m not worth it or I think I’m better because I’m light skinned or some silly crap that they think will hurt my feelings. They do feel as if they have a right to bother me more. I have never had a man of any other race get so angry at my rejection. I had a black man chase me w/ his belt because I told him not to call me baby, I also had an older black man physically attack me and my boyfriend because he said I was his woman and I belong to the black men.. actual words (my boyfriend is white). I’m not making it up. He even called the cops on me and my boyfriend because “this white boy took my woman”… really folks.
    Black men do think they have a special right to black women. I don’t know if this gets off track of the subject and I do understand both points of view expressed … I don’t think nycthinker meant any harm. I also understand why golden took it the way she did… crap happens to all women (and men) it also happens in different ways but it stings and hurts us all the same…. I for one actually enjoy reading about the different things that happen to people that are not like me and live totally different lives. and yes, this site is about lifting each other up… not fussing about who is hurt more, although I do think that is a very interesting topic… how harassment is viewed in different places and cultures. now I feel like a hippie. Shall we all hold hands and sing.🙂

  16. Golden Silence says:

    northporter, you don’t have to apologize for how you feel. I deal with the same harassment from Black men too frequently and can sadly relate. And when I read your post before (on another story) about you being chased by a lunatic with a belt, I just couldn’t believe it. These men take their nonsense to the extreme.

    Black men do think they have a special right to black women.

    That’s the vibe I get too when I’m harassed by Black men, but with other races it’s something generic, less personal. White men will say something stupid, I’ll call them out on it and they’ll back off or get nervous. But when I stand up to a Black harasser they get physically threatening, violent, and start making personal attacks (I too get comments about being light-skinned, and usually a “bitch” is added with it). Why are these Black harassers so angry, especially towards women whose only connection to them is being the same race? I’ve never understood that at all.

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