As a black man, this is what I have to do in order to walk in my own neighborhood

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Jon McDuffie, a former Long Beach resident who now lives in Los Angeles. A version of the piece was originally published on Jon McDuffie’s Facebook page. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.

I got myself back into taking 6 a.m. walks but I had to remember my rituals.

My rituals for Walking While Black.

Make sure to turn my head and face every surveillance camera I can remember so that there’s a time and date stamp of where I was—proof that I was just walking by.

Make sure to use two redundant fitness apps with GPS to show exactly where I traveled.

Make sure to wear only one ear bud while in my own neighborhood so I can hear what’s happening around me.

Make sure to travel along a major street for a portion of my walk—not because I enjoy the extra noise but because I can spend half my walk deep into my music and not be worried about looky-loo residents.

Make sure to remember every location where someone is leaving a home, tip my cap, and smile. (Feeling like an idiot because what fat man smiles at 6 a.m. when pounding a serious stride?)

Make sure that if I am ever stopped by anyone with authority or school safety at the college, I remove my earbuds while slowly raising my hands. Do not reach in pocket for my phone.

These are my rituals for Walking While Black.

So why the hell would I go through all this just to take a morning walk?

Because of the driver who was pissed I was crossing a driveway he was entering and yelled, “Go back to South L.A.!”

Because of the man walking his dog—barking furiously at me—who said, “He knows who doesn’t belong in this neighborhood.”

Because of the woman who snapped my picture after I passed her at a sidewalk-adjacent ATM. (Thank goodness for the windows across the street that allowed me to witness that gem.)

Because of the half-dozen Dafuq-you-doin’-here? looks I get at 6 a.m.

Because of the sound of car door-unlock/door-lock checks that click as I pass by.

And sometimes, when I’m lucky, I see that one Brother, out in front of his house, and I have the warm comfort in saying, “How you doin’, Family?” I say this to this man I don’t know because it is simply to acknowledge him; to tell him I appreciate his presence; to humbly ask that he timestamp this moment.

And he replies, “I see you!” He replies with this because it is to simply acknowledge me; to tell me my presence gives him joyful pause; and to answer my call out for a witness of this moment in time.

Why?

Because he probably goes for walks too.

A version of this piece was originally published on Jon McDuffie’s Facebook page. Jon is a businessman and former resident of Long Beach. He currently resides in Los Angeles.

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