Those inevitable ‘deer in the headlights’ moments!

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Throughout the journey of life, there’s no escaping our unavoidable “deer in the headlights” moments; those times when we find ourselves caught completely off guard as either the deer or person behind the wheel about to careen into that poor deer. And it is then when we’re confronted with that inevitable split second decision, basic survival instincts kick in and our reflexes are tested, be we the driver or the deer, occasionally with dire consequences.

And alas, the poor deer seldom if ever emerges as the clear cut winner.

With that as an opener, dare I say that matters of race in a race-conscious (or race obsessed) America always seem to set up collision opportunities for many “deer” and many “drivers”? Our “racial highways” are littered with deer carcasses on the side of the road and repair shops with smashed headlights, bent fenders and broken radiators courtesy of such collisions.

Now, let me share with you a deer in the highlights moment for me a few years back.


After weeks of replacing worn carpets, touch up painting, other indoor repairs, and pruning hedges on the outside, our house was finally put on the market.

But after week one bled into week two, then week three, then weeks four and five with many visitors but no offers, we decided to drop the price. More visitors but still no offers. Another price drop, then two. Several months passed with a constant flow of visitors, yet no offers. Meanwhile, other houses in our neighborhood were selling lot hotcakes.

Finally, and sensing our growing frustrations, our realtor dropped by late one evening, sat down with us over an ice tea and calmly suggested that our house may need some “minor modifications.”

“Take down the family pictures,” she started as we roamed from one room to another. “And while you’re at it, put that picture of President Obama out of sight, maybe up in the attic.”

“The black art and African figurines need to be put away,” she continued. “Although your collection of gospel music and soul CD’s are impressive, they have to go.”

Even though she did not tell us why we needed to do all this, duh, it didn’t take real estate rocket science to figure out her rationale. After all, we’re talking about race-conscious America here.

“And let me also suggest that while you’re out that you call me well in advance before coming home in case I’m showing your house. I’ll alert you once the potential buyers leave.”

Now our restlessness to get the house sold trumped any infuriation of having to do some “ethnic cleansing” of our home, so much so that I took extra pain to ferret out any telltale signs of our “blackness.” Thus the frozen collards and chitterlings – darn it!- in the freezer had to go as did all the ethnic hair products and my Derek Jeter cologne.

Our Ebony, Jet and Black Enterprise magazines soon ended up in a wastebasket. And to be further on the safe side, we alerted our black friends in the neighborhood, the ones accustomed to dropping by on a whim without prior notice, to now call us before showing up. We decided not to issue a similar alert to our white friends in the neighborhood (although their stopping by may not have been such a bad idea, now that I think about it).

And outside the front of the house, I put up those three American flags I came across in a closet while storing our black art and pictures.

Turning now to my deer in the headlights moment.

You see, having forgotten some stuff I needed for work that Tuesday, I rushed back home to get it that afternoon. The realtor’s car, normally parked directly in front of our house, this time was parked in front of the house next to ours. I did not notice it.

I darted up the drive way, pushed the key into the front door lock and opened it. I then came face-to-face with my shocked realtor and the potential buying couple standing in the hallway foyer.

Oh, oh! They looked at me and I looked at them. Enter split second decision.

“Oops! Housekeeping,” I blurted out. “Sorry for the interruption. I’ll come back later.” I smiled at my realtor and watched her exhale a sigh of relief.

Two days later our house sold…… to the couple I encountered on that Tuesday afternoon.

My, my, my!

Those deer in the headlights moments and the split second decisions that accompany them when we get to haunt, hurt, heal or humor. Something to think about, huh?

But don’t think too long, particularly if you have a relationship to develop, repair or preserve…or a house to sell.

© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer, story teller and senior associate with Diversity Wealth. He is also a member of the Cross Cultural Academy, the founder of the Global Diversity Consortium, a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, New York-based Catalyst and the American Diversity Report. He can be reached at or Also see


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15 comments on “Those inevitable ‘deer in the headlights’ moments!”

  1. Karen says:

    Very insightful!!

  2. Avis Revear says:

    Way to think on your feet!!

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