"Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about the roving packs of young dudes in B-more who dumped on other young dudes, with no real pretext. So it was where I grew up, where those cats felt less like my contemporaries and more like a capricious force of nature. (I’ve said before that the reason folks at my high school tried hard not to get detention wasn’t because they were well-behaved kids, but because detention meant walking the five North Philly blocks to the subway on your lonesome.) You learned to look over your shoulder, to take the long way to wherever you were going. And if you got caught out there — and most of us did, at some point — that was your fault. You were slipping, actin’ like it can’t happen.
I remember my mom cautioned both my twin sister and me as teenagers to be on point, but there was a different shading to the warnings she gave my sister. They were: Don’t leave your drink unattended. Make sure your girls know where you are. My sister, it was assumed, was going to have someone say some slick shit to her, to hop in her personal space, to put their hands on her as she passed. The company of a friend wasn’t going to stop it. Nothing was. She was going to bear the responsibility for these transgressions when they inevitably happened. Others would have said my sister wasn’t cautious enough, or asked her what she was wearing, or why she was where she was. The response would always be to ascertain what she did wrong, how she should have known better, how she got caught slipping.
Our experiences were subtly, profoundly different, but they were mundane, and their ordinariness belied their injustice. To grow up like this meant developing a certain resignation about the specter of violence, and often — perversely — feeling personally responsible when something ugly happened. But I didn’t have a way to think about these things until I learned about feminism. The first time I heard the term “sexual terrorism,” then, I finally had a name to something I’d always fundamentally known. The great irony was that I was having these realizations and entertaining these conversations for the first time on a suburban college campus where I actually felt completely safe."