Peter Tracey, a 60-year-old White lawyer in D.C., admits he was triggered.
“Get out of town! [Expletive] treasonous pieces of [expletive]!” the lawyer screamed from his wrought-iron townhouse porch at the mob carrying Trump flags down his Northwest Washington street.
And Shawntia Humphries couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw who was saying exactly what she was quietly thinking.
She was tired. The exhaustion familiar to many Black Americans suffering through a brutal year settled in her bones as she sat in her car at a stoplight, driving a colleague home after another weird, covid-19 workday, topped off with the Trump mob walking right past her car.
She perked up a bit when she heard residents yelling at the invaders.
“There was another woman screaming outside her window,” she said to me later. “Then, when I turned to the opposite sides of the street, Peter drew my attention because he was just going off. Wait, you’re White! I agreed with everything he was saying. It was all true.”
“I know! They really destroying our city!” she called out to Tracey from her driver-side window in an exchange recorded by Norwegian journalist Veronica Westhrin and her film crew, who happened to be on the block when Tracey reached his boiling point.
Tracey responded to Humphries: “They’re destroying the [expletive] city and it’s like nobody gives a [expletive].”
Humphries was close to her own home in a fast-gentrifying part of town — one that features an of-the-moment cidery and pintxos restaurant yet still has porch-sitting grandmothers who are third-generation Black Washingtonians. It’s a street that doesn’t always get close to the tourist and political action of D.C.
So it was surprising to both of them when Trump supporters marched down the street.
“I saw the way that people of color, our neighbors of color, were put down by police — brutally — during the protests this summer,” Tracey told me later. “We all have our triggering issues, and just seeing those flags, the people coming into a city where we respect each other’s diversity and they have none of that . . . that was it for me.”
And Humphries was stunned that it was this 60-year-old White man speaking her truth. Their truth.
“If that were Black Lives Matter, they’d have tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Tracey yelled back to Humphries, to everyone on the street, to a world that may not see the absurdity of what was happening in the nation’s capital.
“But they let these [expletive] . . . take over the [expletive] Capitol!” he said, using a racial pejorative to describe the predominantly White Trump supporters in town, which made Humphries laugh out loud.
Humphries, 34, had spent some days at the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, tense events with rows of police in battle rattle and riot shields.
And she was surprised that porch guy understood how that felt to her, seeing Trump supporters everywhere in her city, Trump flags and Confederate battle flags, without a Humvee or a phalanx of police in riot gear in sight.
On the video, Humphries told Tracey he’d made her “teary-eyed,” and you can hear Tracey going on in the background as she wiped at her cheeks, first with her fingers, then with the back of her hand.
“We’d die,” she said, if she or any Black Lives Matter protesters tried to storm the Capitol building.
The next day, Humphries told me she really was crying.
“It did make me tear up,” she said. “How he was really upset, too. He got it! . . . I was like, day-um, he understands.”
The next morning, after the exchange had gone viral on social media — it now has more than a million views, and Tracey, who is not on social media, became #GuyOnPorch — Tracey said he had no regrets.
Well, maybe one.
“I could’ve professed it a little less profanely,” he said when we talked on the phone.
Tracey moved to D.C. from Delaware 22 years ago and loves the vibrant diversity of the city — and, like just about anyone who lives in D.C. full time, is well aware of the stubborn racism woven into daily life, even here.
On Thursday morning, he still didn’t know Humphries’s name or who she was.
And Humphries didn’t know who he was.
“People kept asking me for the cross streets because they wanted to send him a beer or some gift,” Humphries told me.
Her friends around D.C. tagged her on the video as soon as they saw it — the 34-year-old is well known because of her job as a recreation manager for the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, and because of her slaying Instagram fashion photos.
And her social media feed quickly underscored the power of their exchange and the importance of another human being’s empathy. It was exactly what Americans needed at that moment.
She wanted to tell Tracey that personally.
“I went to Walmart and got him a bottle of wine. And not the $3 kind,” Humphries said. “I bought him the $9 one.”
And she drove back to the street and found his red brick townhouse and knocked on the door. She squealed when they met and took selfies. He invited her in, and they talked for almost two hours.
“It’s like, I think we made the energy brighter,” she said. “I’m glad that we went viral for something good. Because on that day, no one else really spoke up. There were no other protesters outside. The mayor asked D.C. to stay home. . . . We were the only ones speaking up that day against the people walking on our street, in our city.”
America has already begun the healing revolution, on city streets, in neighborhoods, in living rooms and on social media. No riot needed.
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