When I was a young person traveling across the United States by myself in the early 1980s I was trying to get to Tucson. I stopped at a truck stop outside of Oklahoma City. It was almost an act of God or something–all music stopped as I walked in, and everybody stopped to turn and look at me. I was thinking, Uh oh, this is not a place where a black woman should be. I was very uncomfortable, but I needed that coffee. The hostess sat me way in the back. Everybody was literally staring at me, and there didn’t look to be a friendly face in the whole place. Nobody looked like me.
About three tables up from me, there were about six young white men laughing and pointing, talking about me. I was sitting there drinking the coffee and one of the men sat directly opposite from me, just staring at me. I was scared because I was totally alone, and I had no defense at all. He said, ”Y’all from round here?” I answered, ”No, I’m from New York and I’m just passing through.” When I went to pay at the register, that whole table got up and followed me to my car.But I saw one black trucker who I walked up to said, “Please walk me to my car,” which he did. That, to me, was my greatest memory, greatest fear. That was eye-opening and a major realization to me about being Black in the United States.