As a white male, when I interact with humans (being socially awkward to a degree, I avoid this interaction as much as possible), I have come to expect a certain reaction from people. Maybe not reaction, a better word might be impression. As I assume all people do, they look a person in the eyes and usually see from most people some type of reaction. Inquisitive eyes, happy eyes, etc. Often, I see happy eyes looking back at me since I wear a yellow SpongeBob SquarePants hat. One of the main reasons I like wearing it.
I have learned to appreciate this, as not everyone receives this. As a young man, one of my Father’s best friends was a 6’6″ black man named ‘Magic’. His real name was Verdon, so I see why he preferred Magic. He had a chance to go pro and play for the KC Royals back in the ’80s, but due to a family illness, he chose not to try out. Very good man with a big heart. He went on to greatness when he helped my Father coach my little league baseball team, leading us to second place overall, and 1st place in the B-flight tournament.
That’s not my point… Some time after I turned 21, we went out to a local dive bar named “The Crossroads”. So, suburban Kansas City, after work. Handful of Harley-Davidsons out front, couple of pick-ups… average white suburban hole-in-the-wall bar with darts, pool tables. This was the FIRST time I had gone out with my Uncle Magic just him and myself.
I will never forget it.
When we walked in, a quick pan across the room showed 20 to 30 middle aged white men, a handful of white, middle aged women, classic rock playing on the jukebox, people laughing can carrying on… A bar. BUT, as Magic and I walked in. He’s 6’6″ and BLACK,not brown or tan, but BLACK. I’m a 6’4″ white beanpole, maybe my whiteness helped contrast the difference, like a polar bear in a tropical forest, but EVERY set of eyes turned and trained on us. EVERY ONE. For a good couple seconds, they looked. To me, it was like a punch in the face. I stopped. I assume my mouth was agape. In my head it was! But Magic slapped me on the back and said something like “Come on, what’cha havin’?”
We didn’t outright discuss it. But I said something like “Did you see that?” He noticed that I had never seen that before. But it was obvious that he sees that ALL THE TIME. As if the situation was just another day, he blew it off and we went and grabbed a pool table.
It angered me. As I thought about it over time, I tried to empathize and thought “Maybe they don’t have a whole lotta black friends? Maybe its just Magic’s massive build?” I didn’t realize at that time. Not for many months, it didn’t occur that that situation could have been a dangerous situation. As I sit and write this now, I wonder how many times a situation like that DID turn dangerous for him. Just because he is a black man.
I look at a person and begin to size them up from the get-go. Nothing concrete, impressions can change, as they should. But a person’s outward appearance says a lot about where they come from, where they’re going. To me, in my mind, these things say NOTHING about a person’s inner character. They give information about ones decision making process, but say nothing about their future potential. I went to the Urgent Care center a few years back with a persistent cough. After an hour wait in the lobby, I went back, saw a nurse, answered the questions (where’s it hurt, how long, let’s take your temp) and then waited for the doctor. She came in, sized up the situation, and wrote me a prescription. She said, “This will take care of it. Have any problems, call or come back and see me.”
I said thank you and extended my hand to say thanks, to wrap up the evaluation and show my appreciation. She was shocked. A bit ecstatic, but shocked would be the word. As if she did not expect I would want to shake her hand, or did not receive this simple gesture of appreciation from men too often? There is a lot of assumption on my part here. Maybe she was happy I didn’t ask for Percocet or Oxy, IDK. But, to me, its seems insane that a medical professional would NOT be shown this simple gesture by everyone she evaluates.
Regardless a person’s race, gender, age, we ALL have important attributes that are valued by everyone, and we should remember to show appreciation for that. Sometimes our ignorance can come across as judgement of others if we do not express how we are feeling. Communication. It’s required by businesses of its employees to be tolerant of others differences, because we know everyone has the SAME CAPABILITIES ON THE INSIDE. As HUMANS, we ALL work the same, we are put together a bit differently from model to model, but the ‘manufacturer’ is the same. Expressing this from time to time is important.
In real life, we all want to feel we have a role to play, a place we are needed. Sometimes expressing a limitation within yourself to someone else,as a sign of empathy or compassion can change a mind, and open a dialogue once thought impossible.
Expressing our own ignorance, AND the desire to become more enlightened, will see unity FASTER than a speeding bullet. I may not know EVERYTHING, but I CAN someday, with help from others, know everything. And that is the path I am on, and I know I share this path with many others. We just gotta talk about it more often, to more people, with confidence.
And, again, being introverted, I understand it can be hard. Baby steps, right?
Keep your head UP!!