How To Live as a Threat To Humanity
Facing a reality that has been and always will be: I am a threat to humanity — with or without a virus
One thing this submicroscopic, biological mystery of a virus has made abundantly clear is this: we are each a threat to humanity.
That’s the best way I can articulate what this new normal is. Overnight, like a bite from a radioactive spider, we’ve all adapted this superpower — or curse — to spark fear in one another. Every interaction with the outside world is a glaring reminder, especially in those early weeks of the pandemic.
Like when a tickle in my throat triggered a cough during my post-op physical therapy session. My sweet ol’ therapist offered me some water for “the Not-COVID thing” I said invaded my windpipe. Then, the unthinkable happened. Our fingers faintly brushed as I grabbed the tiny cup (this was before gloves were mandatory).
If I could freeze time, I probably would have heard an “Uh Oh!” from us both. I sipped my water feeling like a convicted felon for attempted murder while he subtly shuffled to the hand sanitizer. But, I guess that’s better than the dirty look from a stranger that fled the scene of my friend hacking on a stray piece of Whole Food’s sandwich.
Then, there was the moment I was standing on the sidewalk waiting for a ride to my orthopedist. Actually, I was mostly on the grass in hopes anyone passing by would feel comfortable enough with the amount of space I left. Because, unfortunately, sidewalks are not six feet wide. The gentleman that passed by didn’t recognize my effort, so he stepped out into a three-laned street to maintain the optimal six-feet distance.
As your spritely, healthy Enneagram Type-9 Personality, your Kumbaya-Everyone-Let’s-Love-Each-Other-And-Feel-Safe fellow, having people step out into busy streets because of me has been quite the adjustment. Not only do I stay home for the good of humanity, I also stay home to avoid the shame and, consequently, the feeling of rejection that lingers out there.
At the risk of sounding absolutely self-absorbed, I’ll admit that being a walking (or in my case, limping) threat to humanity…hurts my feelings. But, where do my feelings fit into this when death tolls are rising, and people are doing what they need to do to protect themselves and selflessly protect those most vulnerable?
I figured maybe others are feeling what I’m feeling. It seemed like COVID-19 was, in fact, “The Great Equalizer” in which everyone can now get a taste of what it’d be like to be profiled for something unconfirmed and out of one’s control — like a white woman crossing the street at the sight of a dark-skinned male wearing a hoodie. But then, George Floyd gets murdered. And it seemed like just breathing was enough to make anyone a threat. But then, George Floyd was the somber reminder that the breath of Black lives had been deemed a threat for far longer.
So, as we fight to dismantle the notion that a Black man’s breath is threatening enough to warrant a knee to his throat and that a cop can indeed be a threat even after swearing to protect the public, the undercurrent is the same. We are all a threat to each other— always have been.
So where do we go from here? Should we be offended? Should we get defensive? What if, instead, we embrace this as part of our identity as humans? A threat isn’t sure confirmation of danger or harm warranting a label of “bad.” A threat merely suggests the potential or possibility — something we all have — to do harm. With that in mind, here’s how I’m choosing to live as a threat to humanity.
1. Recognizing we are all inevitably threatening.
I am a threat for one reason, and one reason only: I am human. Not because of my Blackness, my womanhood, or any other label prescribed as my identity. Like any human, I could unintentionally destroy someone’s peace of mind with reckless words as much as I could unintentionally destroy their physical health with a virus hosted by my body. So, as long as I make choices, I am a threat to those around me.
2. Recognizing our undeniable connection.
It’s quite sobering, the reminder that we can unknowingly ingest and inhale bits of other stranger’s bodily fluid. I bet you didn’t expect I’d go there. Sure, it sounds gross, but it paints a bigger picture of how connected we are. Life isn’t just about my immediate circle and me. The choices I make can ricochet into the cosmos and alter the life of someone I may never meet.
3. Recognizing our beautiful humanity.
In the early days of the lockdown, I noticed two ways people react to social distancing. There are the ones that do not fail to remind you that you could bring harm to them. It’s the trepidation and fear oozing in their eyes and body language. Then, there are the ones that may harbor the same fear and take the same precautions but never fail to remember that we’re still humans — beautifully human. It’s the kind smile or thoughtful greeting that goes a long way. I prefer the latter.
Even as we conceal a bit of ourselves behind masks to restore a semblance of safety and news of promising vaccines come to light, it’s hard to imagine not wondering if that random stranger is carrying a deadly virus. Long after this pandemic becomes something of a not-so-distant memory I’ll still be a threat. But I think I’m better for it.