Reflections on Being a Black Man in Guerneville CA

(This was originally a Facebook ‘post’)

woman flipping her middle fingers in front of a young man holding a confederate flag

I wasn’t initially going to share this story, but realized that I need to so that people can understand what it means to be Black in America, even in the liberal bastion of the Bay Area.

My partner has a getaway place in Guerneville, CA. He bought it last year with a friend, and it has two living spaces. During a lull in my travels last year, he was excited to have me come up and see it.

As I entered Guerneville and neared his place, I got confused by my GPS and took a wrong turn. I followed the incorrect street up to a point where I could turn around and backtrack. At the best place to turn around, I came upon a house that was flying a confederate flag. I immediately hastened my turnaround, and got the hell out of there.

When I arrived at Greg’s place a few moments later, I was so unnerved that I called to make sure I was in the right place. I also wanted him to come out to meet me. Seeing that flag had really jolted me.

He’d worked really hard to ensure my comfort up there because that was important to him. I’m important to him. But I will never be comfortable there after seeing that flag. I even have a hard time walking around up there by myself, because I stand out. I stand out in an area where I saw a confederate flag. I can’t erase that image from my mind, and I don’t want to end up as another Ahmed Aubrey. YES, even in CA.

I told his housemate about the flag and my uneasiness while walking around. His solution was that I should go on some walks with them so that the neighbors can see me with them and become comfortable with seeing me. I bit my tongue, and swallowed my bile.
Think about what it means that, as a Black man, I need to be validated by being seen with whites so that the other whites know that I’m not dangerous.

THAT is what it means for me to be a Black man, even in the bluest state in America. And FYI, just because they’ve seen me one time with my validators doesn’t mean that the police won’t still be called, or that someone may shoot me if they think I’m acting in a suspicious manner i.e. breathing. I don’t have the luxury of taking anything for granted in this day and age.


  1. Robb

    One of the things I’ve been confronting the last couple years is how much my own privilege lets me have the off road and backcountry adventures that I do.

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