Black

I had an unnerving experience during a traffic re-route on a highway outside town. A series of traffic cones had been placed on the median and cars were being directed into a long, backed-up line behind a ‘detour’ sign. There was a law officer next to the cones up ahead pointing the traffic into the detour lane. I knew the area and was in a hurry, so I slowed and began to pull into a u-turn so I could backtrack a block and get home sooner. The cop looked up, pointed at me with one hand, and grabbed for his side-arm with the other.

This sort of thing happens to black guys all the time. Sometimes the cop shoots.

I’m a white guy, and I live in another world. I run into racism accidentally. It’s deeply scary. I spent some time in Alaska, where the indigenous peoples are socially suppressed. I was new, and didn’t know the word ‘native’ applied to an Inupiat or an Athabascan. I ran into an old white friend from years ago, and in our re-acquaintance conversation asked how long he’d lived up north. When he replied ‘fifteen years’ I grinned and said, ‘gee, you’re almost native.’ He responded with an astonished, disgusted ‘no….’

At home, in an equipment store where a display shielded me from the view of two white guys, I heard them talking about God, and one said, ‘really, though, if God wanted us all to live in peace – why would he have created blacks, you know what I mean?’

I think I’m too quick to pooh-pooh the media displays that come and go; too quick to dismiss today’s ‘movements.’ They probably will recede. Very likely, they’ll accomplish nothing. But people are voicing a real horror. Better to be on the streets yelling ‘stop!’ – than sitting in a chair like I am.

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