I will never forget the day I was chased down the sidewalk of a Publix shopping center.
The source of my terror was a white man who had stopped driving his confederate flag adorned pickup truck and jumped out to vehemently shout “Niggers! Get out of here!” repeatedly while running after my mother and I.
My mind immediately went back to that Publix sidewalk this morning when I woke up and read about Black Lives Matter protestors being gunned down in Minneapolis by a group of white supremacists as they sat through 26-degree temperatures outside of the Department’s 4th Precinct to seek justice for the murder of Jamar Clark
The terrorism that I fear, and that we fear as black people in America, is not of the masked crusader from afar. Rather, it is the homegrown terrorists brandishing their confederate flags, armed in their white privilege, flanked in their version of Christianity, and protected by the guise of their law.
I was no more than 10-years-old on that Publix sidewalk. The attack occurred right down the street from the pristine, Christian, predominately white grade school that I attended. Not a single person in that school could or subsequently would understand why I became terrified after that day.
The thing is, they feared Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. They were afraid of Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. Their terror lived in a far off land. The weapons they dreaded were suicide bombs, heavy artillery, and planes flying into buildings.
I did not know that fear. My terror lived in the nameless man at Publix. Each and every time we pulled into the parking lot, I found my breath becoming shallow and sharp. I scanned the parking lot for pick up trucks, confederate flags, and his face. When we left the store and got back into my mom’s blue Volvo station wagon without incident, I shuddered until I felt at ease. I begged my mother to stop taking me to that store. She said we couldn’t live in fear. But the thing she didn’t understand was that it was more than fear. It was terror at its core.
This terror was why I wept when my high school yearbook featured images of the confederate flag. It is why I could not agree when the yearbook advisor of my Christian school told me to not be so sensitive because it “represented heritage and not hate.” It is why I cheered when Bree Newsome boldly removed the symbol of my terror from the South Carolina State House.