This weekend, I experienced the most abusive verbal street harassment of my life. I was walking with my sister in Chinatown to get coffee, and a man who appeared to be homeless was sitting in front of the Goethe Institut and asked us for money. I very politely apologized and said that I didn’t have anything to give him (which was true- I very rarely carry cash). We continued walking, and the man glared at us and said, “You won’t give a white guy money, but you’ll spread your ass cheeks and bend over and let some coon stick it to you.” My sister and I were shocked. We turned around, mouths wide open, and I said, “Excuse me, that is not OK.” We continued walking, and the man shouted after us, “I hope you choke on a coon dick.”
My sister and I were both incredibly shaken by this extremely violent and racist attack, and we kept walking in hopes of finding a police officer, but none were there (which is rare in that area). After we had gotten our coffee, we started walking back. We were going to bypass the guy to avoid any trouble, but we saw someone about to leave him some leftovers. I quietly said to the guy, “Excuse me, I know you are trying to help, but I think you should know what this man just said to my sister and I.” The man looked as shocked as we had been, took his food, and said, “Man, you can’t talk to women like that.” As we walked by, my sister tried to subtly take a picture of the harasser with her phone. He got really angry and started to get up and come towards us. We quickly ran across the street, where I called the police.
Now, this part of the story is almost as upsetting as the incident itself. I explained the situation to the 911 dispatcher and suggested that perhaps they should send someone to the area. The dispatcher then asked, “Is the man black or Hispanic.” I was taken aback, and had to explain that the man was actually white. He said he would send a car there, but by then, the guy had figured out what I was doing and went on his way, so I told them not to bother.
Living in DC, I have experienced my share of street harassment, and while it still gets to me, I am usually able to blow it off. This incident, however, has left me incredibly troubled. I know that there is a high incidence of mental health issues amongst the homeless, but this guy exhibited completely reasoned racist and sexist hate. Just thinking of how easily such violent sex, gender, and race-based insults came to his mind still makes me cringe.
Submitted by AS on 5/24/2010
Location: 7th and I Sts NW, right in front of the Goethe Institut
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