She blocked a black man from entering his own building, then followed him to his door.

Why do some white women insist on harassing black people for living their lives?

We've seen the stories of Permit Patty, BBQ Becky, Pool Patrol Paula, and other white ladies calling the police on black people doing normal, everyday things. Apparently, some have not yet figured out that black people can, you know, live lives.

This past week, we've added Walmart Wendy, who called the cops on a black man who was babysitting two white kids because she had a "funny feeling." (Has anyone ever called the cops simply because they saw a white person caring for two black kids? That's a no.) Then Cornerstore Caroline traumatized a 9-year-old black child who accidentally bumped her with his backpack, claiming he grabbed her butt, making lewd gestures toward him, and acting like she was calling the police to report a sexual assault.


And now we've got Apartment Ashley, who tried to block a black man from entering his own apartment building and followed him to his front door because she felt "uncomfortable" and didn't believe that he lived there.

D'Arreion Toles shared videos of the woman blocking him from entering his building.

According to CBS affiliate KMOV, Toles was returning from a late night at the office when the incident occurred. As he tried to enter his luxury apartment building in downtown St. Louis, he was stopped and questioned by a white woman.

The woman can be seen asking why he was trying to enter her apartment building. When he told her he lived there, she asked him what apartment he lived in — all while physically blocking his way into the building. He calmly told her he wasn't going to give her that (personal, private, none-of-her-business) information, and said, "Excuse me" as he tried to go past her. But she blocked his way and said, "I'm uncomfortable."

To Be A Black man in America, & Come home,Women tries to stop me from coming into my building because she feels...

Posted by D'Arreion Nuriyah Toles on Friday, October 12, 2018

I'm all for women being assertive when they feel uncomfortable, but let's just back up here a minute. She's blocking him from entering his building. She's asking him for personal information. She's refusing to believe him when he offers proof of his residency and refusing to let him by . . . and she's the one who's uncomfortable?

Not only did she try to stop him from entering the building, she followed him into the elevator.

Once Toles moved past her, undoubtedly feeling more than a little uncomfortable himself at this point, Apartment Ashley followed him to the elevator. Despite his being nothing but calm and polite, despite his having named the people who manage the building, and despite his having a key fob for the building, she felt the need to follow him and repeatedly ask him who he was there to see.

Now, her behavior here begs the question: If she was really concerned about security and worried that this man might be some scary bad guy of some sort coming into her building, why did she get on the elevator with him alone?

Could it be that she wasn't actually afraid of him, but rather afraid of the idea that someone who looked like him might live in her building?

Not only did she follow him into the elevator — she followed him all the way to his front door.

Even after Toles told her that he was considering calling the police to report her for harassment, this woman still insisted on following him all the way to his front door.

Only at this point, she starts to tell him that if he really is a neighbor then she wants to introduce herself and get to know him. And even after he showed her that he was in the apartment, with his key in the lock, she still stood there trying to tell him she just wants to know his name.

Seriously, Ashley? Stalk much?

If this were a one-time incident, we could chalk it up to a wacky woman with some serious boundary issues. But it's not.

Could the woman have been inebriated, as some suggest? Sure. Is it possible that this woman has some mental issues? Yep. Does that mean racism was not at the heart of this incident? Absolutely not.

Practically every black person I know has a story that fits the category of "White person freaking out because a black person is doing normal life things." It's not unusual. It's not a one-off. Some may say it just seems common because we're seeing viral videos of these kinds of encounters, but it's actually only a fraction of encounters that get filmed and sent around on social media.

Ironically, the woman actually worked for a luxury apartment company, but has since been fired. A statement from her former employer reads:

“The Tribeca-STL family is a minority-owned company that consists of employees and residents from many racial backgrounds. We are proud of this fact and do not and never will stand for racism or racial profiling at our company. After a review of the matter the employee has been terminated and is no longer with our company.”

Poetic justice, I suppose. But for Toles and other Americans of color who put up with this kind of crap regularly, true justice won't come until we root out the racism that causes such incidents in the first place.  

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Today, I'm a 35-year-old man with a flame shaved into my beard. If the '80s movies I love so much are any indication, this is a sure sign I'm going through some kind of existential crisis. Next week, when the semester starts and I begin teaching again, it will not be strange if my colleagues start to worry about me just a little. A sports car or a neck-jerking pivot to physical fitness — that's an understandable response to the realization that life is fleeting. But a large meticulous flame carved out of facial hair? What does one do with that?

At this moment, though, I'm showing my face proudly to a woman wearing a swimsuit with a taco cat on it. We have only recently met, but she's telling me that she's so into my "fade" that she wants to kiss it. Then she does, blowing a raspberry into my cheek so hard that her hat falls off. Neither of us can stop laughing.

"Live Mas!" she yells with the excitement of someone who's never had trouble fully seizing the moment.

"Live Mas!" I shout back without any irony. There is no irony here in Palm Springs, where, for four days only, hundreds of people celebrate their love for Taco Bell.

Here, there's only swimming and hot sauce-themed leisure wear, and the warm pleasant feeling that comes from eating too much and knowing that you're with your own people. Even if the only thing that connects you is a love for a fast food giant that feeds you when you're hammered and shameless at 2 a.m.

We drank the Baja Blast! My Taco Bell fade and my friend's specialty manicure!Mark Shrayber

What does it mean to Live Mas? This is a question I am forced to ask myself over and over during my 24-hour stay at "The Bell," where I have stowed away as a friend's plus-one. We are, of course, both politely pretending that I'm a full-on guest with all the perks that entails, but we also both know that I wouldn't be here eating unlimited quesadillas poolside without her.

So maybe that's the first thing Live Mas means: To build strong lifelong connections which you can, with some luck, exploit to your benefit. :) :) :)

But this is too cynical an interpretation, because everyone here is so happy. Happy that they've gotten a reservation; happy that they can cool off in a room themed after an iconic Mountain Dew Drink, and happy that they can share their own personal story of what Taco Bell means to them. (Though there's no formal essay contest — I've checked.)

Me: This room won't be that cool. Also me: OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE COOLEST ROOM I'VE EVER BEEN IN!!!Mark Shrayber

Snatches of this story float around the "Fire" pool, where all the entertainment is concentrated: One couple canceled their trip to Prague because "Prague will always be there" — a brave stance considering climate change; another met last year on Tinder after the girlfriend's Taco Bell senior photos went viral; at the opening ceremony on Thursday, where sauce packets were cut instead of a ribbon, a city official brought others to tears with both her Taco Bell fashion and a memory of how her parents would feed an entire family with 19-cent-tacos from the first-ever Taco Bell in Downey, California.

Oh, I forgot one: The guy who skipped out on Prague? He got a giant bell shaved into the side of his head, so he might have to miss out on a black-tie event happening later this week. But it's all good. Bring on the nacho fries.

I make fast friends with four women who are here for a bachelorette party, the bride overwhelmed with good vibes and prosecco. This year, for her 30th, she rented a party bus. Inside? $100 worth of Taco Bell that her fiancee was worried might not be consumed.

"But little did he know," she shouts in the hot tub where we're "cooling off" after a long day of 108-degree sunning, "we ate it all!"

A bachelorette party and a birthday! We're really living it up (but also staying hydrated.)Mark Shrayber

Others whoop it up at the twist, but we all get it. Though there's no essay contest, I don't mind telling you that when my first boyfriend dumped me 14 years ago, I stuffed my face with chalupas. When I lost a job I really loved four years ago, I once ordered so much Taco Bell that the delivery app of my choice informed me I'd exceeded the maximum number of items they could comfortably fill in one order. We get it — though none of us can truly explain it.

There are, if you look at the The Bell from a literary perspective, many other writers who deserve this experience more than me. They could talk about the blue of the pool. Or the insouciance of youth. Draw parallels between marketing stunts such as this and the end-stage capitalism. Or envision a "Demolition Man" future where Taco Bell is fine dining and none of us know how to use the three shells in the bathroom to get ourselves clean.

And I wish these writers could be here to paint you these landscapes, but what you've got is me, a literal Taco Bell super-fan, and what I'm doing is eating and getting sunburned and taking a synchronized swimming class with the Aqualillies, who refer to themselves as "the world's most glamorous water ballet entertainment," but have very little idea of what to do with 10 eager recruits who can't stay afloat or on beat.


G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S!!Photo courtesy of Taco Bell.

"It's okay," one of the instructors comforts me just before the Tacolilies (the name of our "team") are invited to perform our watery version of "Senorita" — which was supposed to be two minutes long, then 1:15, and has now been judiciously cut down, due to talent, to about 45 seconds — in the bigger pool. "We regularly teach five-year-olds. And you're doing much better."

Usually, I would take offense at such blatant reads, but today I'm unbothered. I'll continue to be so right until I get home and discover that I've left all my electronics on United Flight 5223 (if anyone wants to get them back to me). And even then, I rage at myself for all of five seconds before checking that I've still got what's important: A certificate that says I did not drown while doing water ballet.

It's still there. As is my phone, which is blowing up with messages from people who took pictures of me in what Taco Bell calls its "power suit," and which is best described as "cult outfit, but kinda make it fashion." I bought my husband one, too, and I look forward to the argument we're going to have about holiday cards later.

This is "Live Mas."

I've never been so happy to match with someone else in my life. MaMark Shrayber

Or maybe it's the moment another stranger tells me that we'll be friends forever. Such friendships are forged quickly when you've got less than 24 hours to make lifelong connections and I'm pleased to get the full experience.

"We may never meet again," he says while we're swimming, "but we'll always have this time together."

Then we establish that he lives just across the park from me in San Francisco.

"Aw, man," he says, floating away to take pictures of the people he came with, "I've got lots of close friends I never see because they live across that damn park."

But the sentiment holds.

We Live Mas it on.

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