In Remants of You's latest blog entry, she mentions the highlights an example of how race seems to color people's perceptions. In other words, when the same situation is considered by different groups of people, the white people tend to interpret it one way, while the Black people tend to interpret it a different way.
That's just what I expected after (and during, to be honest) an incident that occurred at a local drug store, yesterday afternoon. As the incident unfolded, I kept thinking about how others would react to each stage. In fact, that affected how I responded, because I wanted things to be as clear as possible, when I shared this story, as I knew I eventually would.
That's enough introduction. Here's what happened:
Yesterday, my girlfriend and I went to a local drug store. After we chosen our items and we took a few minutes to flip through some magazines. While doing this, an elderly, sickly-looking white male slowly walked by.Now, I'd like to know how some of you see that situation. I'll just tell you, now, that I wanted to give him the benefit-of-the-doubt and assume that his freaky-looking eyeballs were less functional than ours and maybe he really didn't see that we were in line, already.
I made note of his appearance and even mentioned it to my girlfriend because it was so distinctive and, to be honest, a little creepy. You know how you can kinda pull your bottom eyelid (for lack of a better term) down, exposing the pink, fleshy material beneath it? Well, this both of this man's eyes looked like that... on the regular. They just hung open like that.
Anyway, we eventually finished with our magazines and decided to head for the register to pay. As we did, we approached the same elderly man I mentioned before. I told my girlfriend to prepare herself for his appearance, as we'd probably pass him, soon.
We did. He was pretty slow, so we casually strolled by him. As we did, he turned left, so I figured he was going down an aisle to shop some more.
While waiting in line, I noticed a shopping cart headed toward us. It either would've hit us or blocked our path. I looked up and saw the same elderly man leaning against it with the same vacant stare. I thought he might've inadvertently pushed it toward us, but before it'd make contact, I reached out and stopped it.
I said, "Sir? You almost hit us with your shopping cart."
He responded in a somewhat muffled tone saying, "Well, you've gotta be quick, in this world," going on to say something else I barely made out. I think it was something like, "That's allright. I'll just get your number when you leave."
I responded saying, "I don't understand," but he didn't say anything else.
We waited in line a little longer and I just couldn't let it go (because I knew it'd bug me and leave a lot of room for interpretation, later), so I asked, "Were you joking?"
"No," he said. "You ran up here in front of me."
I corrected him. "No, sir. We passed you over there," pointing to the area where we'd passed him and he'd eventually turned. "We've been standing here for a while, now."
And we had been. It hadn't been fifteen minutes or anything, but it was long enough for the line to "uncurl" and straight-out along the length of the counter.
He didn't say anything in-response. I went on to say, "but you're welcome to get in front of us, if you like."
"No, no," he declined.
When we finished paying, I said good-bye to the cashier, then turned to the old man and said, "Have a nice day."
He didn't say a word, so I finished, "...or don't. Whatever."
But the thing is, at SOME point, he KNEW we were there and he STILL pushed his shopping cart up to hit us with it. Now, that's happened to me, before, at a local grocery store and, just like this time, I stopped the cart and spoke up to the old man. Again, just like this situation, the old man failed to apologize for almost hitting me with his cart.
That says, to me, that he did that shit on-purpose.
And, just like in that previous situation, I wondered if this old man would've been so quick to express his old-rage at us, if we'd been a younger WHITE couple, instead of a Black couple.
As you've surely guessed, by now, I'm all but convinced that this old man would NOT have played knick-knack paddy-whack on that white couple's bones.
Whenever I relate these kinds of stories to folks, the reactions are more or less split along racial lines: The Black folks think race was a factor and the white folk tend to think that it wasn't. There are always exceptions, of course, but this is how it usually goes.
My experience, though, makes me pretty confident that race was probably a factor. After all, I sure don't hear too many of these kinds of stories from white people.
So, whether you agree or not and whether you're Black, white, brown, or plaid, please free to share your opinion about this little situation. If you wouldn't mind, though, please let us know your ethnicity, so we'll touch on "Remnants'" point about how differently we tend to see the world, based upon our own ethnic background.
By the way, I felt comfortable with my departing bit of smart-assery, considering h0w uber-polite I'd been up until that point and considering how impolite he'd been.