A White Woman Overcompensates: A Sketch

Hilary Schwartz
3 min readJun 4, 2020

She’s trying — badly

A white woman is in the lobby of an apartment building. She is wearing a mask with BLM on it, along with buttons that have messages such as “equality” and “no justice, no peace.” She sees an African American man get into the elevator and quickly follows.

White Woman: Hold the elevator please.

She enters.

White Woman: Thank you so, so much.

Man: You’re welcome.

The door closes.

White Woman: How are you today?

Man: Good.

White Woman: So glad to hear it. That’s wonderful.

She holds two bags and begins rummaging through the larger one.

White Woman: Oh hey. Can you hold my purse?

He’s confused, but he takes the purse. She continues rummaging through the larger bag, getting nothing out. She then retrieves her purse.

White Woman: Thank you for holding this. It’s so nice to have people around you can trust completely.

The man smiles and nods at her, warily.

White Woman: I know that I don’t know you. But still, I admire you.

Man: Uh, thanks.

White Woman: You make me want to call the authorities to report an outstanding citizen.

The elevator door opens:

White Woman: Have an amazing day!

He looks back at her in fear and speeds away.

Another black man is on the same floor, locking his door.

White woman (from the elevator): I’m holding the elevator for you.

Man 2: No, go ahead. I’ll be a moment.

White woman: No, take your time. I’m here for you. This is a safe space.

The man enters the elevator:

White woman: Hi. How are you? I hope great. Can you hold my purse?

The door closes.

Scene changes to the lobby of the building. The elevator door opens. The man scurries out with the same freaked-out look on his face as the last man. As the woman exits the elevator, she calls out after him.

White woman: Have a phenomenal day! Thanks for being you!

She sits in a lobby chair. The man from the elevator is now standing with the doorman. They are looking over at the woman, who takes a book from her bag, making sure the front cover is conspicuously seen. It’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Doorman: She’s been doing this and the elevator thing all week.

The woman puts down the book and takes out others from her bag, one by one, with titles in full display: Black Boy by Richard Wright, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, White Fragility, White Rage, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Roots by Alex Haley, Waiting to Exhale. Last is a DVD: A Medea Family Christmas. She selects The Fire Next Time, opens the book and reads intently.

The white woman smiles widely at the man and doorman. She waves even more widely.

Doorman: What do I do to get rid of her? I can’t call the cops. They’ll take her side.

Man 2: I know how.

He approaches the woman.

Man 2: Miss.

White woman: Yes.

Man 2: I want you to know that you are the world’s least racist white person.

White woman: You think?

Man 2: I know. We all know.

She grins. Puts her books back in the bag and moves with satisfaction toward the front door.

White woman: My work is done here. I have other buildings to get to. Good day.

She drifts out the door into the afternoon light, which she pictures shining down on her like a halo.