“Hey-can you buy me a coffee?”

I tip my head in the direction of the baritone voice replenishing the empty coffee shop.

I instantly thrust out my hand with a recently pulled tall Americano.  “I need to drink more water. Please have this.” The space is quiet. No words. I skim the front of my sunglasses and look directly into a sea of surprise behind his eyes.

Only after do I consider the gesture.

I work for a food security non profit driving to decrease hunger by 50% in ten years. On this morning, for five hours we considered whiteness, crucial conversations and personal leadership in light of systemic racism. As a multiracial team we are tasked with awareness raising and writing our own racial equity map. I’m in the emotional wake of the training as I enter the coffee shop. Exhausted. Empowered in a sheath of belonging in a diverse community.

I replay the situation.

As I walk into the coffee shop I notice it is empty except one man. His six foot frame arches over the counter as he wistfully asks a young woman for a coffee. They engage in an inaudible conversation as I make my way closer. I notice he is wearing a rose colored Hawaiian shirt splattered with large white leaves. He leaves the counter to make room for me. Our bodies slide by each other; respectful and silent. I order my drink. My voice booms through the almost empty ceiling.

With the flash magic of an experienced barista, my coffee dismounts from her hand and into mine. Hints of tobacco, blackberry and lime float between us.  I turn.

“Hey-can you buy me a coffee?”

In that moment I am only me. Not white. Not privileged. Not a social justice teacher. Not a mother.

In that moment I want him to have my coffee. Not as an act of charity. Not as a gesture that will make my privileged self feel better. Not as a infinitesimal and mandatory gesture of reparation.

In that moment I see him as a person who would like a coffee. As a person who I would like to share a coffee with. As an equal. And as a person I am curious about. His life. His day. His longings. His loves.

I cycle back to my words. My words communicate that I did not need the coffee and he did.

The frame is wrong.

The communication faulty; emblematic of centuries of ‘othering’.  My intrinsic human response methodically, systematically and oppressively trained out of me.

And yet sharing food and beverage is foundational to human existence. Our emotional DNA needs the community-and safety- breaking bread upholds. This came first, rooted in belonging, including and relating.

I cycle back to the moment and think about what my primordial self would have said.

“Hey-can you buy me a coffee?”

“Yes-I want you to enjoy a coffee. Would you sit down with me?”