Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Racist In Me

Before you write me a scathing email calling me a racist, let's save some time: This is going to be a bit of a racist rant. Not in the way a lot of people would assume but, racist all the same. I don't even make an apology for it. I reckon we're all a little bit racist, and that it comes out at select times. Everyone has his or her triggers. For me, this video, which was the first thing I saw online this morning, was the perfect trigger.

When I first saw this video, and read what the people in it had done, I looked at them and the words I heard in my head were, "Fucking white people." Yeah, I told you this was going to be racist. Because this band of entitled, heterosexual white people, walking down the block like the cast of Friends had just committed a hate crime, and nowhere in the news story did I see the word "gang" or "marauders" or "thugs"...words that are ALWAYS used when a group of black or Hispanic people gather. Instead, the article described them as "clean cut" and "well-dressed."

Fucking white people.

Even when they commit a hate crime, and their images are caught on camera for posterity, even then they get the benefit of the doubt. They're clean-cut! They're well-dressed! Really? How about mentioning that they're dangerous, violent, and full of rage? How about referring to them as a white gang? Because, hey - when three or four black dudes commit a crime together, the media seems just fine with describing them as a "gang of black youths." But no.  Michael Brown - unarmed, not committing a crime, not doing anything but being a black guy on the street - he was "no angel." A marauding bunch of young white people who target a gay couple, gang up on them, beat them badly enough to send them to the E.R., and rob them of their property? They're "clean-cut" and "well-dressed."

Fucking white people.

This story breaking the national news was perfectly timed, given my experience last night. I promise this is a true story:

I went out to dinner with a friend, last night. It was about 9pm when we headed home. The first leg of the trip we took together, but we parted ways when she had to get off the bus and transfer, leaving me to ride all the way out to a dodgy street corner, where I'd have to wait for a connecting bus. A bus that runs infrequently. I'm a city kid, which people mistake for being tough. Being a city kid has little to do with being tough, and everything to do with being smart. Being a city kid means having the common sense to know when and what to actually be afraid of, where and when true caution is needed. Being a city kid means never wasting fear on a person or a situation where danger doesn't really exist. This particular street corner, where I had to wait for the bus? At night, my fear and vigilance are not wasted. It's a tough corner. The street lights are often out. It's a corner where bad things often happen, and bad people often gather. When I got there last night - the only person waiting in the dark, under a broken street light - I was relieved to find that I wasn't entirely alone on the street. There were three teenaged guys standing maybe 25 feet away from the bus stop. They were loud and rowdy. They were yelling insults at one another, but it was clearly all in jest. They were all laughing heartily as the insults hurled back and forth. One of them had a cellphone, and kept saying something about some girl whose photos he'd seen on Instagram. All three teenagers were black. Two of them wore hoodies. Knowing they were there made me feel safe on this dark, somewhat unsafe street corner. This city kid was not wasting fear on people or a situation that posed no threat and, if anything, probably served a deterrent to actual trouble. While waiting for the bus, I texted back and forth with a friend, and mentioned how much I hated this part of town after dark, but that I wasn't worried on this particular night, because there was a group of young people making all kinds of noise just a ways down the sidewalk. I think I even said something sarcastic like, "Imagine that - feeling SAFER in America because there are black guys around!"

My instincts last night were right on target. It's the clean-cut, well-dressed gang of marauding white youths I have to worry about.