Please note. . .

Don't Be Silent DC has been inactive since March 2008 and has not been accepting entries since. If you are in the DC area and have a harassment story to share, please go to HollaBack DC. If you are outside the DC area and want to submit your story, go to Stop Street Harassment. Thank you.

As of 3/1/08, I will no longer be working on this blog. Please read this post for more details.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Not in my library!

Something worse than street harassment happened before my eyes.

Just my luck. The Internet connection at my house is out of service for the next few days and the landlords aren't around to fix it (gotta love the holidays) so I have to lug my heavy laptop out. The wireless hotspots in my neighborhood are also closed for the holidays, so I took my laptop to the Petworth Library. I wish I could be home in my pajamas right now, but what can I do.

From where I'm sitting I can see what's going on. None of these people are using their computers for anything conductive (MySpace, rap videos, etc.), but I don't care about that. I'm trying to catch up with my massive emails, and all of a sudden, in full screen, I see oral sex happening on this middle-aged coot's computer. Ugh! Man, if you're going to look at porn, why do it in a public library where children are around? Keep that nastiness at home!

I get up to report it. This young guy at one desk tells me "talk to her," pointing at the head librarian. She's busy with another customer. So by the time the head librarian is somewhat free, the guy escapes, no one noticed him leave:

"He was the guy who just walked by two seconds ago," I said.
"Did he have sunglasses on?" the librarian asked.
"No," I said, somewhat annoyed. How could they not notice this fool walk by?!

I'm trying to get my head back together so I can continue my online errands (because I refuse to lug this laptop out of the house again---just have to deal with being Internet-free for the next few days), but seeing that nastiness in front of my eyes, and the indifferent reactions I got when reporting it makes me shake my head at people. I just don't get it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

DBS Shorts 12/22/07

2007 is coming to an end and I really don't have much to say lately because street harassment hasn't been happening to me much - and it's much appreciated. I could attribute it to the fact that I've been taking the bus home lately as opposed to walking home from the train station. While a lot of the passengers of said bus are loud, tacky, obnoxious, drunk and crazy, it's easier to deal with than walking past the "Loitering Losers" on a dark night.


I only had a half day of work Tuesday, so I used the remainder of the day to run errands. I carted bags of old clothes to the yellow donation box not too far from my house, and proceeded to dump them in it. I kept hearing "Excuse me, ma'am!" It was an appropriate gesture and it was still daylight out, but...

This fool was yelling this at me from the liquor store across the street! These men never want anything important enough for me to respond to, so I acted like he didn't exist as I continued to throw the bags into the donation bin. He never stopped screaming "Ma'am...MA'AM!!!!!" at me. I don't know where I got the resolve from to ignore him the whole time. One would think if I hadn't responded the first or second time he'd get the hint and leave me alone, but he kept at it. No common sense. I'm surprised I didn't get called "stuck-up bitch!" like I normally do when dealing with that.

It reminds me of when I was back in my hometown. I went to see a movie with my mother, and saw a woman in the lobby with the prettiest earrings on and I wanted to let her know that. "Excuse me, ma'am," I said as she came near us. She didn't respond or look in our direction.

"Maybe she didn't hear you," my mother said.
I said "Excuse me" again and was once again ignored. Yes, I was justifiably hurt, but I didn't start yelling "Fuck you, bitch!" like the men on the street do. When I ignore those men I wonder if I'm no better than that woman in the movie theater lobby from years back. But then I realize that these men most of the time are a physical threat and I need to keep cautious. Maybe the woman in the lobby was afraid of me and my mother because we're Black and she had unnecessary prejudices. . .I don't know. I just can't worry about the past and compare my actions to others, and must worry about myself.


I was out late Wednesday in Georgetown, and the punks were out in full force. This group of college students (I assume) was making fun of people on the streets, bouncing around, and acting like idiots. They started laughing at me because (drumroll please!) I was wearing red shoes and had a matching red bag. You can't take fools who spout out "n***a!" "fuck!" and "p***y!" seriously. They blocked the streets and I couldn't get around them to get to the bus stop because they thought they were so damned important. Remembering what happened to me when I tried to get around a bunch of sidewalk-blocking fools before, I decided to not respond. Let them act like assholes. The ringleader of the group, a funky-looking girl with a cheap curly weave, stood right in the middle of the sidewalk and copped attitude when people bumped into her. Maybe if she didn't stand right in the middle of the sidewalk no one would bump into her. I made it home in one piece thank god, but next time I'm out late in Georgetown, I'll spend that extra dough and take a cab home (though it'll cost me an arm and a leg).


Speaking of riding the aforementioned crazy bus home, yesterday was a trip. The chick in front of me was talking loudly into her phone about wiring someone money, the women across the aisle were laughing obnoxiously about stuff that wasn't funny, and one fool boarded the bus and squashed his too tall butt next to me. He kept leaning over me to look out the window (especially when we passed police cars and sirens), and while I was listening to old school stuff on my headphones (loud as possible to tune out the crazies) he started singing the "Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby" part to me from this K-Ci and JoJo song, "All My Life."

"Aw, hell no!" I said, and he left me alone. Unfortunately, he found another target, a teenage girl. Call me a coward, but I get tired of putting myself on the line for people who don't appreciate it. I'm tired of being insulted for being a good Samaritan. This fool was in his early 30s, and this girl didn't seem to mind his attention.

"You in high school?" he asked her.
"Yee-eh," she said, in that drawl the kids here have.
She then goes on to talk about her school's football team. Too much information and this fool didn't need to be talking to her. But the scenario with me is that:

1. I'll say "Leave that girl alone!"
2. I get called a "bitch" by the offender
3. Person I'm trying to help says "I'm grown...I don't care! Mind your business!"

And I just didn't need that. He found someone else to talk with (thank god!) and I continued to listen to my headphones. Had it escalated (him saying inappropriate stuff, her saying "Leave me alone!") then I would've gladly jumped in and intervened. I can never sit idly by when someone's in true danger.


Today I got up and got dressed to pick up my boots from shoe repair and grab a spicy hot cocoa from the local café. I wore my headphones to tune out the fools on the street. The boots (albeit promised today) were not ready and the café was closed early. The "Liquoring Losers" (ones who hang out in front of liquor stores) were out in full force and yelling.

"Say that to me again, motherfucker!" one of them yelled. It was complete with chest thumps and everything.

I was so certain they were going to say something to me, but all that yelling was at each other. Much better them than me...thank god, hallelujah! So I was sans boots and hot cocoa, but made it back harassment-free. Man I love those days.


As I said, not much street harassment's happened to me lately, and I don't think I'm that same person who'd curse someone out in a heartbeat who tried to bother me on the streets. Is it because I want to take different tacts to handling idiots on the streets, or simply because I'm tired and don't have the energy to deal with it anymore? I honestly don't know.

What I do know is that Christmas and New Year's are coming up, so please stay safe and strong during this holiday season. See you all in 2008.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

DBS Shorts

For the most part, I haven't had any major harassment issues since the blow-ups I documented in "Intraracial Tension." Not to say that it hasn't been going on...

Since I depend on public transportation, I have to deal with the freaks, wackos, and idiots that ride it. I took a bus home from Friendship Heights a couple of Fridays ago, and the most nasty, foul, vulgar and unkempt men were on it. One of them had dreads so nasty that they looked more like "Matlocks" than dreadlocks. For the most part I tuned them out with my headphones and stared out a window. I was fine until one of them started gesturing to me and saying "That's your girlfriend over there, lookin' out the window!" As soon as the bus had a mass exodus at a Metro station, I moved to the front as far away from these men.


This past Thursday all I wanted to do was wait for my bus to take me to tae kwon do and be left alone. I got approached by a dork who thought I looked like Alicia Keys ("I look like myself," I responded in annoyance), a canvasser, and a foreign student who wanted to know if she was at the right bus stop. None of this was street harassment, but the following was. As glad as I am to not be the recipient of harassment, I can't stand watching it go on. A young woman with long hair and skinny jeans walked by; her daughter in a school uniform in tow. This bum started ogling her.

"Mm-hmm, that's what I'm talking about!" he said. "You a diamond in the rough, God's gift to man! Mm-hmm!"

The woman was long gone (I could see her inside the store behind the bus stop neglecting her daughter while shopping, but I digress) but I had to speak.

"That's nasty," I said. "Ogling that woman like she's a piece of meat. Show some class."
"You a hater," the man responded.
"And you're ghetto and low-class," I said. "Have a nice holiday."
He walked down the street mumbling crap, but I maintained my composure. Since the big blow-ups two Thursdays ago, I've been keeping my cool much better.

The bus finally came, thank god.


This past Friday I was waiting for my bus home from Farragut Square. I hadn't eaten since lunch so I grabbed food from McDonald's and snacked on the fries as I waited. A Circulator pulled up to the stop and people get off, but the door stays open longer. I thought someone was rushing to catch it, but no one was around.

The doors close and I thought it was going to drive off, but the doors open again. The bus driver was checking me out...ugh!

"Girl, gimme some of those fries," he says, ogling me. A wave of disgust came over me, but I once again kept my cool.
"Stop harassing me," I said. "Your behavior is tacky and unprofessional."
He smirked at me grossly and finally drove off.
As soon as I got home I sent a complaint report on him via WMATA. Months ago I had an incident with bus drivers catcalling me while hanging out at the Metro station. I reported it, but got the runaround (the one guy's name which I got---first initial and last name from his name badge---was too common to track down) and the complaint ended up being dropped on their part. Since I got the number of the bus he was driving will they take it seriously this time? We'll see. I don't want this man to be fired from his job---of course not---I just want him to know that you don't go catcalling women, especially not on duty.

For a moment I worried if I ever saw him on a Circulator in the future, since I do use those. But then I thought I'll maintain my ground and composure. I'm not going to let that worry me.


More bus weirdos. Earlier today there was this creepy drunken fool trying to talk to me and a teenaged girl on the bus. The girl, a boy of about ten and I played musical chairs to get away from him. He kept mumbling nonsense and saying "Baby girl!" Even though it was a five-minute ride to the train station, it felt longer because of that whackjob. I am glad the kids were smart enough to move away from him as well.


Lastly, I have not had a run-in with the "Loitering Losers" in almost two weeks this Thursday. I've been thankful to be able to catch a bus home so I don't have to walk past them. In the rare moments when the bus ends up not coming, I ended up taking a detour. I always talk about how I'm not going to let harassing men change my agenda, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

All in all, I'm grateful to still be around, and not let these men steal my glory.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Too Close to Home

Blogger Thinking Girl did a write-up back in September about a guy who would not leave her alone on the streets, to the point of where she goes into a pizza place to avoid having the guy find out where she lived, and how the situation was handled from there. The responses are interesting.

An excellent post came a month after, Holding Your Hand Is Not My Fucking Job.

Check both out.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Women Harassed By Police

Two female employees were trying to lock up the Kennedy Rec Center for the night, and police held them at gunpoint and treated it like a joke. (Video included.)

And people wonder why I don't feel safe with our police force...

It's All About Respect

Greg had sent me this message:

I ran into your blog from your post on [a community list serv]. First I would like to empathize with you, even though I am a male I am well aware of harassment in DC. My wife regularly walks to and from the Metro station everyday and regularly comes home upset by some disrespectful comments.

Now my point. I lived in Egypt for a while and had a number of Western female friends who were being harassed constantly by the same guys on their daily commute. They mostly ignored them but were definitely bothered by this.

One day as I was walking her home she showed me one of the harassers. We crossed the street and I engaged the guy very nicely asking him why he was harassing my friend. He couldn’t really make an answer but we chatted a bit then left. After that the guy would respectfully wave at her and she would acknowledge his presence by nodding or waving back.

If the situation is obviously very different with harassment in DC because of the twisted relations between foreigners and locals in Egypt, the underlying dynamics in my opinion still apply even though it may be harder to implement in DC: People don’t harass people they know.

By talking going to talk to the harasser she ceased to be a sexual object and became a human being. If this is of course impossible to achieve with random harasser on a commuting route it may be achievable to some extent with some repeat offenders.

Just my two cents.

In my frequent run-ins with the "Loitering Losers," I think we're far past my approaching them respectfully. Many times I've told them "that's not cool, that's not polite, call me 'Miss' or 'Ma'am'" etc., etc., and it goes in one ear and out the other. But in future situations with different groups of LL's, it's something to try.

When I've been antagonized so many times by the same group of people, it's hard to approach them respectfully. You just want to yell at them and curse them out. But like always, I'm open to different approaches. If anyone has the courage to test this tactic out, please e-mail me and let me know how it works. Thanks Greg for your submission.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Answers to Harassment FAQ

In a discussion via e-mail about dealing with the "Loitering Losers," Kelly sent me her tactics on handling the harassment FAQ (she has given me permission to post the following):

I have set responses for FAQs. My answer to "Can I ask you a question?" is "No." My answer to "Have I seen you before?" is "I'm sure you have." Very deadpan. When I get asked on a date, I hold up my left hand, point to my wedding ring, and say "sorry, 18 years." Or I say "no," and it might take four or five of those no's to stop. When I get complimented in a disrespectful way on my waist-length hair, I say "Thank you" as if it were a sincere compliment.

I'll admit that it seems hard to "respond in kind" to the LL's, but it is a tactic I'm willing to try in the future. Anything's better than yelling and cursing and getting riled up. Thank you for the idea!

First Meeting Today---a success!

Our first DBS meeting was held today, and I am grateful for the outcome. Three members came, and we met together and discussed issues and ways to get the ball rolling in taking action offline and in the flesh when it comes to street harassment. This information will be available to the Yahoo! Group members within the next few days. (We love for more people to get involved, so please join!)

The meeting made me feel much better. With the brutality of the harassment I faced Thursday (in the previous post, "Intraracial Tension," something I struggled long and hard about whether or not to post it) and other personal stress I'd been dealing with, I'd been feeling sad and hurt and lost my joie de vivre for a moment. But when positive things happen and you realize that there are others that feel angry about the way things are going on in DC, hope returns.

Once again, I'm proud of the ideas thrown out there from this first group meeting, and am looking forward to seeing more faces get involved in the future.

Intraracial Tension

I was originally going to publish this Thursday (the day of the incidents), but I typed it, deleted it, typed it, deleted it---but now I have the courage to put it out there.

Forgive me for going beyond the scope of street harassment today. I have typed and deleted the following quite a few times. I have wanted to be politically correct about it, but for once, I cannot. Everyone expects me to always do the right thing and to be infallible. They ask me questions about harassment and I tell them that I'm no expert and am in the same boat as they are. I am not perfect, I don't always make the right decisions. I may lose readers and supporters, but I must get my feelings off my chest. So here goes:

As a Black female, I am angry, hurt, disgusted, and frustrated with the way I've been treated by Black men in the District. As many decent Black men as there are, they get overshadowed by the ones who act like harassing assholes. The vitriol is simply disgusting. I deal with nonsense from harassers of all races, but I feel Black men aim for the jugular with me because we're the same race. I feel as if I'm hated by the men of my own race, simply for demanding them to treat me with respect.

I had a long, rough day at work today. I left feeling worn out and burned out, and was going to get some takeout from this Chinese restaurant in Dupont I've been going to lately to uplift my mood. I'm a fast walker, and when I catch up to people on the street I need to get around them so I can keep on going. I was attempting to get around a group of five guys, but this one guy would not stop walking on a diagonal and into my path.

"Hey!" I said. "Behind you!"
The guy turns around and try as I might to get around him we collide.
"Why didn't you walk to the side to get around?" he said, copping attitude with me.
"I was trying to!" I snapped back. Hard to do so when you're taking up a chunk of the path by walking on a diagonal.
"Why you gettin' like that?" he said.

I wanted to get away from these men, but they started clowning on me and thought the whole ordeal was funny.
"She mad 'cuz she alone! She wouldn't be so mad if she had a man!" the one yelled. Laughter ensued. "If I had a beard I'd shave it off and give it to you so you can have some real hair!" (???)
"You're a bunch of no-class, no manner-having, tacky, ghetto, ignorant Negroes!" I yelled. It'd been said and can't be undone.

In turn I was called a "self-hater."

"Why you got dreads?" the one who collided with me said.
"I know where I came from and don't need to act like a tacky Negro," I said.
"You may hate Black people but we love you!" they started saying in a taunting, sing-songy tone.
"I can't stand you...leave me alone!"
"You're sexy, we still love you, you're sexy..."

The one who collided into me kept yelling things at me. They kept walking towards me. I wanted to hit him so badly, but I had to restrain myself. My safety is jeopardized already, I cannot make it worse, and I'm not trying to go to jail for these sorry people.
"Why you keep comin' up on me?" he said.
"Keep on walking!" I yelled. "Go away! If you don't go away I'll call the police."

The one guy in the group who looked like a bum kept trying to approach me. I kept backing up.

"Sorry, my friend ain't mean nothin' by it," he said. I didn't believe him because they were all still laughing and giving me shit.
"Go away or I will call the police," I said.

These men kept walking, but they stayed in the vicinity. The one I collided with had the nerve to get indignant after all that was said and done. Because they weren't going anywhere, I turned back and took a different path to get to the restaurant, looking over my shoulder to make sure they weren't following me.

I got my food and was on a train home. I didn't want to have anymore run-ins. I normally take my headphones off after getting off the train in the evening, but I was tense and music was the only thing to calm me. I did keep the volume low enough so I could hear the street noise and was on guard.

I thought it was going to be a safe walk home, until I got close to where the "Loitering Losers" usually hang out. There were about 10 men hanging out in front of a liquor store across the street, and three on my side. Shit, I'm outnumbered.

A man coming near me tried to go "Hey, girl, whaddup?" and I tried to use the fact that I was wearing headphones to ignore him.
"Why you ain't talkin? Oh, you listenin' to headphones!"


The Thompson Twins song I was listening to couldn't tune out the sounds of ten screaming drunk-ass men.

"Shut the hell up and leave me alone! Do something with your sorry asses!"

"SHORTAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!" turned into "Fuck yourself, ugly bitch. You ain't shit anyway."

I snapped. "You sorry-ass, no-good, ain't doin' shit with yourselves drunk-ass losers! You are the sorriest people! Nothin' going on with your lives except standing on a street corner getting drunk and yelling like idiots! You're tacky, uneducated, not going to be anything except passed out dead on the street because you're getting drunk!"

They thought this was funny. Steam was rising through my ears. And in all this I noticed a little kid out there with them and a female. Those punks were teaching him how to disrespect women, and this chick standing there with them apparently has no respect for herself either. I'm sure if clowns were heckling her she'd get loud like I did too. But seeing that little boy---dear. I hate cursing around kids. I should've been upright so he'd have some positive example to see, but the damage had been done.

The men on my side of the street were just as bad. Laughing at the whole ordeal then having the nerve to try to talk to me. I didn't want to be bothered.

"Don't talk to me either!" I said. "I am tired of you sorry-ass people!"
"Girl, we ain't mean nothin' by it," one of them, with gold teeth in his mouth, said. "We always tryin' to talk to you when you walk by---"
"I don't want to talk to you! I don't want to get to know you! I am not trying to talk to you when I walk by...I'm trying to get home!"

The light finally changed and I walked swiftly to cross the street. These men were still trying to talk to me.

"Talk to someone who cares because I'm not trying to listen anymore!" I said.
"Have a nice day, sistah!"
"Go to the library and take out some books and educate yourselves," I yelled. "Leave women alone."

I barely made it home in one piece. My legs were like Jello and I nearly collapsed when I got inside. I felt lightheaded and nauseous. I lost my appetite for the Chinese food I'd been craving all day.

Self-hater. As I said earlier, I've had run-ins with stupid men of all races, but when it happens with Black men they attack where it hurts the most. I'm tired of being accused of being a self-hating racist because I don't tolerate stupid behavior. I'm tired of being questioned as to why I have dreads (dammit, it's hair! Why does it have to be about Black pride?), I'm tired of being made fun of for how I speak, I'm tired of this intraracial bullshit. People who know me know I'm proud to be Black and the first one to defend my race. But today I'm worn out, beaten and defeated. I just want to crawl into a hole and die.

Too many of these misguided men think acting like a "triflin' Negro" is what it means to be a Black man. Acting like a common, harassing thug is not being a stand-up Black man. A real Black man doesn't degrade Black women, won't intimidate them, won't refer to them as "shorty" and "bitch." There is a lot of racial tension and intraracial tension in DC and I'm feeling the brunt of it.

There is no happy cookie-cutter answer to this. Do I wish I acted differently today? Of course, but all I can do is learn from it and move on. I wish I had a thicker skin so I could ignore the taunts instead of stooping to these punks' levels, but the hurtful comments I continue to receive from these scrubs on the streets eat through me like a caustic acid.

I know I have to put my safety first. I can't walk home anymore because it's getting too dangerous. I'm going to have to wait lord knows how long for a bus at the train station (though walking is quicker than waiting). Your "fearless" leader is now fearful. I've taken too much abuse and I can't take anymore. I'm tired of worrying about the "Loitering Losers" and now the "Liquoring Losers."

I'm going to rest now, and hopefully it's a new day not only literally, but figuratively. It's gotta get day.