I was driving and dropping off gifts to the children in the youth department group of my church. The sun was warm, neighbors were out and kids were playing. I was driving at the pace you drive when you are unfamiliar with your location – as you track with your eyes and move your head from one side of the street to the other – slowly. I chatted with the kids and their parents at a distance, dropped off their gifts and then got back into the van on to the next home.
As I backed out of the driveway and waved goodbye, I turned right instead of left. I then realized I had to turn around. I made a turn into what was a cul-de-sac. I saw the little lime green man with his flag extended telling me children at play, I saw dogs running around off leash; family pets in their yards, I saw families gathering enjoying each other and I saw some kids on little bikes on the sidewalk. I smiled as I slowly drove through this neighborhood. The kids smiled at me and some even waved.
As soon as I smiled, I felt a chill come to the back of my neck. I heard and saw men yelling. My window was up on the van, so I wasn’t sure what was happening so I rolled down my window a little so I could hear, slowing down even more. As I looked in the rear view mirror I could see their anger. Scary.
As I navigated the cul-de-sac to get outta there, one man walked into the street and the others were coming – so close to my van window that they could have jumped in the front seat with me and I began to get worried. The guys closest to me motioned for me to roll my window down. I did not. He yelled at me and pointed at the kids and the dogs and told me to slow down and then hurry up and get outta there.
I realized then that it wasn’t so much me that they were mad at it was my skin. Their tone was one that I have become so familiar with in my 60 years. What would have happened had I rolled my window down, I don’t know but I know I did not.
I will never drive in that neighborhood ever again. I made a wrong turn on a beautiful sunny day in Tracy and I was scared.
The mother in me instantly thinks of my sons and any young person of color who could have been walking or driving that day and made the wrong turn. Tracy has its history and many cling to it; however, if we are all to thrive we must really ALL thrive.
We don’t have to like each other but we must respect the humanity. Kids are back in school, CDC has relaxed some guidelines, we finally got one guilty verdict and Tracy is our community. The kids were so cute and happy, that day they saw ugliness on a beautiful sunny day in Tracy.
• Yolande Barial is a Tracy resident and mother. Her column appears monthly in the Tracy Press. Comments can be sent to email@example.com.