Mfume does it nationally. Sharpton does it in the Big Apple. I have ’em beat. I do it on pavement. That’s right—on pavement. You see, my belief is that there is no better place to wage war on America’s racial conflicts than on the road.
It all started a few semesters ago. For some reason or another, the students in one of my writing classes and I were discussing racial stereotyping. As we grew more comfortable with the subject, the (mostly black) students started to reveal to (very white) me some of the stereotypes they held of white women. One that surprised me involved white female drivers. To a person, the students claimed that white women fail to do that little wave thing that most drivers do when someone allows a driver out of one lane of traffic and into another.
I protested—but to no avail. The students simply weren’t willing to accept my claim that I (and many other white females) do indeed show the proper respect to other drivers. So, I decided to prove my case by taking to the road and conducting a little informal survey of my own.
For one week, I kept my eyes peeled. I watched carefully whenever I saw a white woman attempting to ease in front of a black driver, ever hopeful that my hypothesis would be proven correct … that white females really could “drive nice.” My hopes were dashed. Not once did I spy a fellow white girl doing that “Thanks for letting me in front of you” sign in the rear view. Not once.
Head bowed, I made a decision. I alone would right this wrong, build that bridge, steer the wheel. Yes, I would take to the streets on behalf of white women everywhere to prove that we could indeed do the wave—at least in the rear view. And so my work began.
I figure I spent a good eight hours on the road that week. During that time, I seized every opportunity to squeeze in front of other drivers—especially black drivers. Sure, it made them mad, but they can’t say I didn’t thank them for the opportunity to cut them off. By God, the minute I assumed my position in their lane (usually just an inch away from their front bumper) I (1) rolled down the window and waved like hell and (2) made eye contact in my rear view and smiled and waved again.
My job was hard—wrist-wrenchingly hard. However, it seemed to work. Most of the other drivers seemed surprised and kinda impressed. Sure, there were a few who seemed a little afraid of a white girl holding up traffic just to wave, smile, and mouth “thank you,” but you can’t please everyone. The important thing is that, in my own small way, I had become a campaigner—a champion on a steed that looked a whole lot like a ’95 Nissan.
I came to like my new race relations role so much that I continue in it today. In fact, I’ve recently expanded. I now openly encourage other drivers, the more multi-cultural, the better, to merge in front of me—whether they want to or not.