July 10, 2010

Steve Pomper

It’s not always about your race, sometimes they just don’t like “you.”

author photo seattle curiosities

The intricacies of race relations can be difficult to discuss, but it must be addressed, if for nothing else, intellectually honest and self-reflection, on both sides. In this instance I refer to the paramount racial intensity in our society, which exists, much of it unnecessarily, between blacks and whites, fostered by the race crisis entrepreneurs.

I have a very good friend who recently demonstrated my point: We received a police call and when we arrived I knocked on the door and addressed the complainant. This was a cantankerous old coot as if he’d been trained to it from birth. He aimed his tirade at me and stepped out into the driveway, ignoring my partner, and with a sweep of his hand while moving backward almost collided with him. The man paid little attention to my partner during the five-minute interaction.

As we were leaving my partner who is black said, “Well, he sure didn’t want to talk to the brother [me].”

I found this reaction intriguing, and while I’ve seen it before, I haven’t given it much thought for some time. When someone disrespects, or out rightly expresses an obvious dislike for us, how do we perceive their motivations?

From my perspective, I’d initiated contact with the “gentleman,” so it seemed only logical he would direct his attention, and in this case animus toward me, while he chose to ignore my friend, probably because the old man was simply a socially retarded boor.

From my partner’s perspective it was immediately a racial incident. And let me interject here that I’ve known my partner/friend for more than a decade and a half, and he’s one of the nicest and most easygoing people I know. I’ve seen him treat everyone regardless of race appropriately on every occasion.

This incident made me think of the disservice done by leftwing civil rights activists and other progressive organizations that try to paint every interaction between black and white people as racially based. There are people who’ve grown up all their lives being told white people don’t like them, have little respect for them, and will mistreat them if given the chance, so now it seems the reaction becomes instinctive.

As I wrote in one of the vignettes in my book, Is There a Problem, Officer? (The Lyons Press, 2007), an officer was dealing with an irate, disrespectful, and loud woman, he’d stopped for a traffic violation. The woman looked at me and said about the officer, “He doesn’t like me because I’m black.” I studied her for a moment, considered how belligerent she’d been with the officer, and returned, “Why do you think that’s [your race] why he doesn’t like you?”

My implication being, she could get away with acting the perfect fool, and then simply write off the officer’s doing his job to his being racist, and thus harassing her because she’s black. This is of course ridiculous, but as I saw with my partner, whose general demeanor is the polar opposite of this woman; both apparently maintain a similar core race-based outlook, as to the motivations of any white people with whom they have a confrontational interaction.

While there are of course racists, from all races, and there probably always will be, the overt racism of the past, especially institutional, has decreased significantly. Only the pushing of affirmative action and other quota programs seems to be interfering with race relations, and fostering racial resentment.

Consider the formal and informal polls that ask if a person has experienced racism in their lives. The respondents answering yes are always very high, but how much of what they thought was racism, was actually for other reasons? The black person who thinks the store clerk is being unfriendly because of his race, when the clerk is a militant atheist and dislikes the black person because she’d just seen him come out of the Catholic church across the street. While religious discrimination is no better, it just illustrates there are lots of reasons folks treat each other the way they do, and they’re not all related to race.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been called a racist while performing my duties: I didn’t stop the guy because he almost ran over the lady in the crosswalk; no, I stopped him because he was black. God forbid the lady in the crosswalk is white. After all, I wake up in the morning already planning how I can ruin some black person’s day. Give me a break!

My wife experienced this phenomenon, but with regard to gender, and in reverse, as she’d benefitted from a perceived “discrimination.” In becoming a firefighter, because of the hoopla over affirmative action, no matter how well she did by objective standards—her test did not lower standards for gender—she was always fighting the insipid thought she’d received special treatment due to gender. This is the damage affirmative action-type programs cause in our society. Good, qualified candidates will always wonder, and their colleagues may too.

The more we view, or are told to view, society through a racial lens, the more discontent we’ll breed toward each other. Our society has come a long way from our segregated past, and by denying, or discounting this progress we disrespect all of the sacrifice all those freedom fighters—black and white—contributed to Dr. King’s admonition that we judge all people not by the color of their skin, text of their creed, or their gender, but by the content of their character.


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