• Posted: Jan 30, 2016 13:44:31
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A few years ago, a colleague and I were driving through a western state. Nebraska? South Dakota? Oklahoma? I don’t remember. What I do remember was that he was driving and I was dozing. It was late at night. And I remember waking because it seemed we kept passing the same place over and over again.
“What’s up?” I said. And he said, “I’m trying to find a place I can use the bathroom.”
I was incredulous. I looked around me. There were plenty of places open. “I don’t get it. Just pick one.”
“Oh no,” he said. “You don’t get it. I don’t want no trouble.”
Then it hit me. It hit me hard, harder than I’d ever understood before. This guy was scared, literally scared. He was scared because he was black and everyone around him in this town was white. He wasn’t huge, but he was big, a decorated Viet Nam veteran who’d rescued wounded soldiers by hanging from a cable lowered from an airborne helicopter all while bullets and rockets flew past his ears. And yet this guy was scared enough of white guys he’d never met to nearly wet his pants.
“Just stop,” I said. “I’ll go in with you. Nobody will say a thing.” And that’s what we did. And nobody did say a thing.
I’ve been a stranger in many many places. But I’ve never felt the fear my friend did and probably still does whenever he’s out of his home territory. And for me, that’s both sad and maddening. There he is, a natural born US citizen, a hard worker, talented, law abiding, educated, having put his life on the line in service to this country, but deathly afraid of his fellow countrymen. It’s disgraceful, truly disgraceful.
And he’s not the only one who suffers similarly. Take a look into the eyes of the two pictured above. Their visible apprehension could be for any number of reasons. But it is 100% certain those reasons include the same fears my friend lives with. Wherever they turn, wherever nearly any Black or African-American turns, there is always the possibility of “trouble”, unwanted, unearned, unavoidable, trouble.
There is no rational reason for that situation to exist. It is unAmerican. It is even unChristian. But unfortunately, it is not unhuman.
At base, we all fear and distrust what is different, what we can’t clearly see is part of us. And the only cure is learning to see how superficial differences are not the same thing as threat or intent to do harm. But how, how do you change the quick reflex cognitive habits of generations of people? And how do you prevent the learning of such self-destructive thought patterns by generations to follow? It just cannot be done without deploying systematic cultural imperatives. Only with everyone pulling together in the same direction within their every activity will such change actually occur. But how, how do you get that to happen?
Take that question to mind as you look over the current crop of political candidates, and see which one’s you think are likely to take us in the direction of less irrational fear or more.
Monday, February 10th, 2014