I fell down in the middle of the street in Brooklyn one time. Broad daylight, busy intersection. I’m clumsy that way. Okay, I was looking at my phone and I tripped.
Down goes Whatley. Fell hard on my knees, elbows, chin, my cell phone bounced off the asphalt and scittered away, further into the street.
“Mamí, Mamí,” a man standing in the doorway of a corner grocery comes running to help me up. “Mamí, are you okay?” He reaches down with muscular arms. I grab ahold. He pulls me up, bends over to pick up my purse, holds up his hand to stop a car and fetches my phone all in one graceful display of chivalry.
Or kindness, or decency, or concern, call it what you want. He ran out into the street to rescue me. I was embarrassed, flustered and disoriented for a moment. My knees were scraped, one of them bloody. He helped me to the corner. “You want to sit down? You need some ice?” he asked me as I limped along, shaking it off. “I’ll take some water,” I said, now in the doorway of his bodega. A guy inside fetched it and handed it to me. I started rummaging through my purse for some money. “No, Mamí,” the store owner says. “It’s okay. Be careful.”
I only mention now that he was Dominican for context. When I was splayed in the street, the only thing I saw after my chin bounced off the pavement were the arms of a black man reaching down to help me up. This is completely unremarkable. This is normal. This is the milk of human kindness that will save us all, if we let it.
This leads me to a hypothetical question. If it was you and just one other person left standing, in the acrid aftermath of the apocalypse, if the entire world had been leveled, and it was just you and one other person who raised up their head above the rubble to see what remained, would it make any difference to which tribe the other survivor belonged?
Please click on the link below, Change Is Gonna Come, to watch a tribute video about the Michael Brown killing and the resulting violence in St. Louis. I endeavored to find the names of all the photographers for these powerful images, some I was not able to trace. Scott Olson/Getty Images was the photographer for most of them, Ed Zurga/EPA for one or two. Olson was arrested and then released while covering the story this week. His images are amazing as is this recording of the Sam Cooke song performed by Otis Redding.