Earlier this year I witnessed an encounter that I wanted to make sure that I got out of my memory and on something semi permanent. For context of my line of thinking we have to go back a few years and remember some statements from President Obama about race and racism.
Back in 1995, the then Law School Lecturer Barrack Obama made a statement about his Grandmother which some have equated to calling her a racist.
“…Take my grandmother, while she loves me, she still has a fear of strange black men. For her, her suspicions and fears are real…”
If you Obamaniacs want to go crazy on me about context, go to the article to get more of the context (that’s why those links are provided, duh).
There was a point early in his term as President where he talked a lot about racism. The Beer Summit after he said that cops were acting stupidly (white cop, black man). The comments about how we have to talk about racism. All of this pointed directly at the white population of the US.
Well, let me take you to a pleasant spring day in downtown Seattle. Naturally, as in many large cities, there’s areas where you can encounter interesting people. Most of the people in the area around my office are really quite harmless. On the occasion, you see a pretty rough type. The kind that the street smarts say to avoid.
So, it’s in the late afternoon, I’m walking to my bus from work. There’s a good mix of people out on the street because lot’s of people are going home from work. Some are hanging out, enjoying the warm afternoon (it’s Seattle, a spring day where there’s sun and it’s warm brings everyone out). As I’m walking up to my bus I see a guy hanging out about 100 ft ahead of me. All I really notice is that he’s someone that I’ll probably have to walk around as he’s just standing just on the inside of where people usually walk. He’s dressed up as an “Urban Thug”, ball cap with the straight bill, jogging jacket hanging off his shoulders, baggy pants defying gravity. The only reason I noticed this detail is because he’s noticed two young black guys walking the opposite direction as me about another 100 – 150 ft ahead of me. He greets them in the only way he can as an Urban Thug.
Now, these two black guys that this White Urban Thug is trying to talk to aren’t your average black guys from the area. Heck, it’s evident from the vest sweaters and shirts that they were likely H51 visa holders from another country than some young urban black professionals. One thing is certain: they were terrified that this guy was talking to them.
Because I was walking towards them, I had a full view of their faces as they tried to avoid eye contact and walk steadily on. As they continued to walk and I passed the white urban thug I heard the thug say “Oh, I see how it is…” and that was that. I started to chuckle after I realized what had just happened. The poor guys had no idea what to do except to just walk on and not acknowledge the greetings from the white urban thug.
The point about bringing this up is that there’s more to someone feeling uncomfortable around someone else other than race. More than anything, it’s the large differences in culture that can cause fear or distrust. I witnessed it first hand. Two black guys who really didn’t want to stop and talk it up with this white guy because of the large culture differences. Really, people need to stop making a racial issue out of things that really have nothing to do with race. When I see someone pulling out the race card, automatically I think it’s for some personal gain or political gamesmanship. Not really about race.