“I Have My Keys Out”

by BRIDGET BUTLER-SULLIVAN

Staff Writer

 

This Tuesday evening, I was lucky enough to attend our town’s annual “Taste of Downtown Visalia” with a friend and her parents. Feeling entirely too full (as is expected), to make their way back to the vehicle parked 4 blocks down, the adults asked for my friend and me to bring the car back around to pick them up. It was merely eight o’clock in the evening, a quite- acceptable time for two 17 year-olds to walk around during an event.

About halfway there, the two of us found ourselves on the sidewalk, accompanied by no other passerby’s than a group of four 20-something-year-old men approaching us. Now, it would be quite easy to act as if this were a mere description of the area. But, there be no need for ignorance here: four adult men approaching two teenage girls on a street at night is obvious cause for both worry and caution. And so caution we took.

“I have my keys out.”

“Okay, good. If they stop, we cross the street and enter one of the stores.”

“Okay, just act like we’re talking about something as they pass by.”

Nothing happened. Not a word was exchanged between parties. We passed them and they passed us. And I remain furious. For nothing being done, obviously not. My anger stems from the praise I felt towards these men upon their passing by. I am angry that all it took for me to award these men with my respect was their  treating my friend and me as human beings. I am angry that we were afraid in the first place. I’m angry that I cannot walk with a friend at eight o’clock on a Tuesday evening and not worry about the fact that I’m wearing a dress and so is she. I’m angry that when walking down a street at night, my first thought is on which stores are available for me to enter “just in case”. I’m angry that it is considered racist for me to cross the street when a man of another race is approaching me, when the fact of the matter is, I’m going to cross whether he is white, black, hispanic, Oriental, Indian, or any other race because when a woman is being approached by a man at night we know damned-well to put as much distance between us as possible. So, yes, I’m angry. And I’m going to stay angry because it is 2014 and it remains common knowledge that I must “have my keys out” when I walk down a street at night.

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