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Walking my dog ​​made me more comfortable in my neighborhood – and it was comfortable with me

By the time I normally get to my metro station, white faces are mostly oozing out of the metro. Nostrand Avenue acts as the water purifier of the C-train bound for Brooklyn: Whites are the residue removed by distillation, but there is no one to change the filter when it stops working – when gentrification really comes for us .

That day I was exhausted, but my dog ​​couldn’t have cared less, hopping with excitement as soon as I opened the door. I changed into something more appropriate for the weather as she followed me into every room I walked through, patiently waiting at each entry, my tail infused with a jolt of life whenever I made the briefest touch. visual.

“Black Boy Out of Time: A Memoir” by Hari Ziyad.Small A

“Let’s go, Khia,” I said, throwing down her harness. Once upon a time, I didn’t like walking around the neighborhood; for Khia I do it twice a day and in return she never leaves me alone for too long.

“He maaaad nice!” The old dude yelled at me from across the street, holding the ‘a’ as if if he lost it too soon he would get lost. Or maybe he clung to it just so he could get lost in the expanse he created with it. I did not know. But I knew he was from Brooklyn.

The way you hold the words means something here – something about loss and survival. It is not always easy to tell which of the two. And it’s not always a binary: it’s not just about how long you hold the words, but where you drop them and where you pick them up.

“What race is he?

“She’s a pit bull,” I replied, but my voice, being the light and bassless thing that she is, gave up her mission halfway across the street and didn’t has never reached his ears.

At that point, he could talk to an old queer me without restraint, without feeling hatred for his own relationship to manhood, and without taking that hate upon me.

“Huh?”

“Pitbull!” I said a little louder, the effort of speaking at the decibel level of the adult man catching my breath. He motioned to me. I was walking the other way, but didn’t mean to be rude, so I crossed the street, a little relieved that I didn’t have to yell anymore.

Khia was confused by suddenly departing from our usual walking routine and resisted, so I used the harness to pull her back. Google says that if we deviate from the same route every day, it won’t be as hard to walk, but it is too hard to deviate.

“What race?” Old Dude repeated.

“Pit bull,” I replied.

“Whaaaa? He is small. He grew up? He is nice?

“She’s mixed up with a bull terrier, I think. It’s as big as she gets. She’s nice – at least to people, ”I laughed.

Old Dude laughed back and leaned down to scratch Khia behind her bat-shaped ears, thanks to her possible bull terrier lineage. At this point, she was happy to have been dragged down the street, but I knew she still wouldn’t go without a struggle next time. (Google remains in error.)

[Dudes] around here i love my dog. [Dudes] I love the pit bull era, but there’s something about Khia that really appeals to them. I imagine they like pit bulls because the breed has been unfairly viewed as monstrously violent and criminalized by breed specific legislation, and [dudes] here I know what it feels like. But Khia in particular?

“It’s his pure white coat,” Old Dude said. “S — is dooope.” He looked up while holding the “o”. and I was sure he would get lost when his gaze rested on my stomach.

But eventually his eyes moved to mine, and he was still smiling. I could tell it wasn’t a flirtation, and yet we survived.

Until then, I had forgotten I was wearing a crop top – but what the hell else should I be wearing? Certainly not that fucking button. It was over 90 degrees that day. It was the only outfit that made sense to me. And for this exact moment, it also seemed perfectly logical for Old Dude. At that point, he could talk to an old queer me without restraint, without feeling hatred for his own relationship to manhood, and without taking that hate upon me.

Khia does that to the guys around here. Or to me. I’m not sure if that’s because walking my dog ​​makes straight cisgender black men in this not yet fully gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood more comfortable talking to me, or me more comfortable talking to them, thinking that they will not be unleashed. pit bull. It is not always easy to tell which of the two it is. It is not always a binary.

“What is his name?”

I had used female pronouns whenever I spoke of Khia, but to no avail. For the guys around here, she’s still a man and that’s it. And they’re not just guys: most people I meet automatically seem to assume that Khia is a male dog because she’s a pit bull. (I don’t know what they think all of these male pit bulls are mating to procreate, but I guess they haven’t thought that far.) I guess it has something to do with physical strength. and supposed racial aggression, which the patriarchy says we cannot belong to women.

We were just two blacks in our neighborhood of Black Brooklyn yet not completely robbed, not having to hurt each other.

But why was I so inclined to correct Old Dude by calling him “Old Dude” – while giving him a sex too – as if my assumptions about his gender didn’t have much bigger consequences than his about him. Khia? The sex is so f —— weird.

“Khia”

“Good luck, bro,” he said with a last stiff pat to Khia’s bulk head and left.

I hate being called “brother”. I have never felt like a “brother” or a “man” or a “gentleman” or a “gentleman”, although “boy” and “brother” and “girl” and “sister” feel good, for one. some reason. When I speak to customer service reps on the phone in my bassless voice, sometimes I get called “ma’am,” which doesn’t sound right to me either, but I never correct them. What would even be the correction?

All of these words sound like cages to me, like I’m being forced inside them against my will, being aligned with world views of gender as my experience with black people has so little to do with the world.

For the guys around here, she’s still a man and that’s it. And they’re not just guys: most people I meet automatically seem to assume that Khia is a male dog because she’s a pit bull.

But there, with Old Dude, with Khia, the words stopped feeling like a stampede. That was about how long he held them, where he dropped them, and where he picked them up – Brooklyn style, Black style, fries and butter. This is where you lose the violent boundaries and find a place where you can truly survive. This is where I find a god who can mend the fracture caused by my prison dissonance.

For a second Old Dude and I got to lose each other beyond the way words like ‘straight’, ‘dude’, ‘brother’ and ‘gay’ defined us – even though they were the best we could. formulate in the moment – because we weren’t stuck right then. For a second, we were able to get lost beyond the way these words despise us, criminalize us and cage us, and beyond how those words can sometimes make us feel hate towards ourselves- same, and how we can sometimes take that hate on top of each other. .

We were just two blacks in our neighborhood of Black Brooklyn yet not completely robbed, not having to hurt each other. I didn’t really have the words to say how liberating it was, but I tasted them. They were there.

Editor’s Note: This book excerpt has been edited with permission of the author to remove the use of racial epithets.

Extract from “Black Boy Out of Time: A Memoir” by Hari Ziyad. © 2021 Posted by Little A on March 1, 2021. All rights reserved.



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