My social conduct has shifted. At the beginning of the pandemic some people wore masks while others did not, so I would just avoid anyone not wearing a mask and even cross the street if I saw someone coming down the sidewalk without one. When I was at the post office last week someone was standing in line right behind me, and not practicing social distancing so I just took off and made the decision to come back another time.
But now it is mandated in public to wear a mask, but not necessarily socially distance. Yesterday I was at CVS where they have marked X on the floor at the waiting line so people know to stand six feet apart. There was one person in front of me and another person behind me. The person behind me was not standing on the X and I turned and said, “Sir, can you please step back.” I pointed at the mark and he ignored me. I looked at the front of the line and saw that I was after the guy in front of me so decided to just wait. That guy in front of me turned to me and said, “You can go next white lady.” He smirked at the guy behind me. Both of these men were black.
Black Lives Matter has been a huge deal in Downtown LA. There have been protests, rallies, and outcries and we have had federal government involved with men on corners holding guns in camouflage. Although things have settled down, the atmosphere is different now. I am a minority here. I am a tall white freckled redhead that stands out most of the time. Now sometimes I feel more like a target, and this particular instance put me in a predicament. If I decide to go ahead am I an entitled white lady? If I ask the guy behind me to step back again, am I a racist white lady? I didn’t know what to do so just stood there silent. Then the register freed up and I stepped forward and the guy in front of me quickly stepped in front of me blocking me so I stopped. He turned to me and said, “It’s ok, you can go white lady.” He looked at guy behind me and they both laughed. I was being mocked. I couldn’t take it anymore. “Are you going to go or not?” My tone was not kind. I had been pushed too far and was not going to let the racial sensitive climate keep me from not treating myself like anyone else. The guy looked taken aback and stepped away at which point I stormed forward and walked to the register. When I got there I handed the checkout girl my cans of tuna and Gatorade and she whispered, “Be careful.” She was a Latina girl in her early twenties and she looked afraid. I didn’t feel afraid. I was mad. I was unclear how to handle the situation. I’m not a “Karen,” I’m a person. Yet, somehow as a white woman people are quick to judge and label me.
When I got home I walked to the elevators and stepped on. Right before the door closed a young black girl stepped in. She was not wearing a mask. I usually would just get off, but decided to say something. “You are supposed to be wearing a mask.” She didn’t seem pleased with my comment. Maybe I was being judged again for being white but I didn’t care. Wearing a mask and social distancing is not a racial matter. My social conduct has shifted and guess what, I’m okay with it.