Hey, Good News, Black Man Not Killed This Time For Being In His Own Damn Apartment!
Believe me, it's easy to become desensitized to the random annoyances and mundane horrors of living while black in America. Yet some events are so egregious, they stand out and simultaneously demand that we stand up. Thanks to the twin innovations of cell phones and social media, we can unleash our inner Ken Burns and document the incidents that cause well-intentioned white people to exclaim, "That's not our America!" (It totally is.) Hey, I'm fine with a little liberal naïveté if it means we can hold some racist feet to the fire, which is fortunately what's happened to Hilary Brooke Mueller. (You know you've screwed up when we have to use all three of your names so the non-racist "Hilary Muellers" don't have lousy weeks.)
D'Arreion Toles, who's black, was returning home to his St. Louis, Missouri, condo Friday night when he encountered Mueller, who was already dressed for Halloween in a suburban racist outfit with small dog accessory. If you're black, you know there are few things scarier. Mueller, and her little dog, too, were blocking Toles from entering the -- I'm serious here, this is the actual name -- Elder Shirt Lofts. For what I'm sure are non-Klanbake reasons, Mueller didn't believe Toles belonged in the building. Maybe she thought he looked like someone who lived in the less-exclusive Old-Ass Hoodie Projects.
Our volunteer doorman demanded, without any actual authority to do so, that Toles show her his key fob and tell her his unit number. White women have freaked out so often when I've asked which floor to press for them on elevators that I've stopped doing it. You'd think Mueller would know better than to expect Toles to reveal where he lived to a total stranger. But Mueller also probably assumed that Toles wouldn't dare question whether her white ass belonged in the building because white asses belong everywhere, including the Oval Office and the Supreme Court.
Toles repeatedly asked Mueller to move (more politely than I would've), but Mueller was all "you shall not pass!" This was especially odd when you consider the recent profile of people who seem to forget where they actually live are white women like thankfully former cop Amber Guyger. It's not black folks who need GPS to find their own kitchens.
Toles: Ma'am, you're blocking me.
Mueller: Into my building.
Toles: It's my building, as well, so I need you to get out of my way.
Mueller: What unit?
Toles: I don't have to give you that information.
Mueller: I'm uncomfortable.
See, that's why it's a good thing Mueller is recording all this. Once a black person hears a white woman say she's "uncomfortable," it's usually our ass. That's covered in detail in "Not-So-Great Moments In White History, Volume All Of Them." The "Jessica Jones" cosplayer wouldn't drop the case and followed my brother to the elevator and asked who he's going to see. If she thinks he's an ax murderer, this is curious behavior, unless she also has Jessica's super powers. Do she and her mutt go around stopping crimes? I've tried to pitch that pilot idea and no one's returned my calls.
Toles: So now you're gonna follow me?
Mueller: I am.
Mueller: Because I'd like to know whose friends... and why you're here?
Lady, he told you why he's here. He lives here. But that's totally not registering with her. She probably thinks he's there to sell drugs to one of her white neighbors. This used to happen to me whenever I'd visit an ex-girlfriend at her relatively fancy East Village apartment back in the day. It was ridiculous because the actual guy who came to sell her drugs was much better looking.
What's frustrating is that you'd expect a young woman to appreciate how creepy and aggressive it is to follow someone around like a common George Zimmerman, but Mueller is incapable of that level of empathy. She probably planned to brag to her therapist this week about how she was so "brave" when confronting a scary black man. "Gold star for Hilary!"
Mueller must've used the same red phone hotline to the police that the Adam West Batman had in his study because a police officer showed up to visit Toles just 30 minutes later. The cop didn't even bring a pizza, but he did make sure to advise Toles of how "uncomfortable" he'd made Mueller.
Toles might've gone to sleep angry, but he woke up determined. He posted the whole shitshow on Facebook. It quickly spread across the Internets. Mueller's employer, Tribeca-STL, reviewed the video and promptly fired her.
"The Tribeca-STL family is a minority-owned company that consists of employees and residents from many racial backgrounds," officials with the company, an apartment complex in St. Louis, said. "We are proud of this fact and do not and never will stand for racism or racial profiling at our company."
That's nice and all but ... wait, hold up, Tribeca-STL is minority owned? How jacked up is their recruitment process? Maybe they can start trying some basic word association tests during an applicant's interview: "So, Black Lives..." "Are annoying?" "OK, good try, but we were looking for 'Matter' there. We'll keep your resume on file, though."
Toles, who runs a marketing consulting company and likely can rightly afford to live in both the Elder Shirt and Elder Pants Lofts, has no plans to make life any more "uncomfortable" for Mueller. He is a far less petty man than I am. Mueller stole something from Toles Friday night. She took it without thought or feeling, and I guarantee that Toles will have to live with that loss for a while. I've been there before.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).