I See You

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The other day my best friend and I were doing a workout at Townlake. Townlake is this big beautifully scenic/ sketchy lake in the middle of the city surrounded by trees and a good 4 miles of trail. In a city like Austin, it’s easier to see more trees of color than people of color. Let me explain.

We are working out, kinda. I’m more dying than anything. My friend is killing it. But basically we are minding our own business. The scene is a dusty trail with semi-melancholy beige folks trying to get in shape and us two black girls. This is normal. We wrapped up and took a weird route back to the car. My friend had me run across two lanes of traffic. I’d like to note here that I would never run across two lanes of traffic. It was there that I spotted her. Another black girl.

I’d also like to note here that I once attended a Beyonce Dance class at Ballet Austin and was 1 of 2 black women in a BEYONCE dance class.  The other black girl only showed up twice.

Immediately on sight, she looked up, waved, and smiled. I waved back. I smiled back. My friend also waved and smiled back. The quickness with which this whole exchange happened was such that if you blinked you would have missed it. My friend asked if I knew her. You know, because you don’t just wave at strangers. Before I could even think about it I was like ‘nah, she’s black and I wanted her to know I see her’.

When black people are as scarce in a city that too often prides itself on “diversity”  as Austin is,  when we see each other we low-key panic. We raise our hands in a desperate attempt to be seen, wonder if that other black person gets us, smile, and jolt with excitement. We might not take it further than that. We might not become friends. We might not agree on things politically. We might not have anything in common aside from our race. It’s just always nice to see another black face in a white space. It makes you feel a little less GET OUT.

Obviously, I found a great group of black women in Austin. I found them all. Mostly. It’s like finding Pokemon. ‘Cept I’m not trying to capture them in a little ball for use later in a battle. Ugh. This analogy is getting weird. Let’s drop it. This encounter made me realize I desire to see black people randomly. I see us at my job. I’m really lucky in that aspect. And I see us when my group of friends and I meet up. Other than that, it’s a ghost town.

Do you live in a diverse city? What’s it like? Do you live in a city like Austin? Am I exaggerating?

7 Comments Add yours

  1. laquetha says:

    I have lived in Austin since in my freshman year of college in 2000. I feel the same. I wave and smile everytime I see a black woman or person. I have not made many black friends & part of it is me and part of it is I just rarely see black people. After living here for almost 17 years its one of the main reasons I am considering moving back to Houston but I really love that Austin is so beautiful!

    1. nchanel says:

      Yea, I love Austin. I REALLY Love Houston. I grew up there, but Austin is home and I am going to wave a black folks all day everyday for the culture. lol 🙂

  2. Gemma says:

    So my college experience was exactly like this! I went to Boston University, and though the school likes to boast about diversity, the amount of black people on campus (especially back then) was so small, everyone immediately knew when someone new visited or popped up. I live around campus, and still, at minimum, I smile and nod at all black people I see. Usually I get a smile and nod back. It just makes you feel just a little less alone in a sea of people.

    Basically, you’re not exaggerating. I understand what you mean. completely lol

    Gemma | https://activelygemma.com

  3. texasex08 says:

    I feel the same way about seeing Indians, only they don’t feel the same way about me! I notice them in any room, and I make awkward eye contact to say, “Hey, I see you!” I grew up in West Texas, so I’m used to it, but find it sad how excited I get when I find someone like me out in the open, doing normal things that don’t involve Indian food, weddings, etc.

    1. nchanel says:

      SHELLY! Thanks for commenting. I love how this experience is a shared one with POC. 🙂 I too feel awkward at times when it doesn’t seem quite reciprocated.

  4. texasex08 says:

    This is Shelly, by the way…

  5. Just want to say that I LOOOOVE your writing. You are very talented. You deal with real issues and topics with perfect amount wisdom and wit.

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