Tuesday, January 30, 2007

'You've got the look."

A couple of recent incidents have stood out in mind.

The first occurred a couple of weeks, ago. Since it's gotten colder, I've tried to be more consistent about covering my bald head with a skull-cap. I really don't need to get sick. With my system, one illness leads to another, leads to another.

Well, as I got ready to leave work, the other day, I slapped on my leather coat and skully, then jumped on the elevator. When I stepped off of the elevator, I saw a couple of white women who also work in the building - one of whom has always been especially friendly, to me.

When that young lady saw me step off of that elevator, she looked like the devil himself had looked in her direction. She was still sporting the deer-in-headlights expression as I approached her, so I asked, "Did I startle you?"

"Yes. I didn't know who that was."

Up until that point, I didn't think much of her reaction, but saying she didn't know who I was was kind of odd. Not that I think she should recognize me, at a glance, in all manner of attire. I just mean that seeing an unfamiliar face shouldn't have mattered all that much since there are plenty of strangers who enter that building on a daily basis - some are dressed up and some are dressed down. Why would THIS particular "stranger" be the one to whom she'd react so ... strangely?

To be fair, one never knows what another person has gone through. Maybe she was attacked, at some point, by a Black man dressed in that manner. I will never know, but what I think she came down with was the Black-man-in-a-skull-cap Syndrome. There's something about that look. He must be up to no-good.

Kinda reminds me of some conversations from last year in which other white associates referred to the "thug caps" they claimed some Black males were wearing so they could look like gangstas. After they described them a bit more, I realized these people were talking about wave caps.

Then, just last night, my girlfriend and I visited a local hospital. When we got to the maternity ward, or whatever they're calling it these days, we were met with a hostile greeting - especially when the white security guard took a look at me.

On the way out of the building, my lady stopped by the restroom. While I was waiting on her, I took a look at the many staff photos lining the hallway. I heard another security guard call in some kind of code then look suspiciously in my direction, quickly breaking eye-contact as I turned toward him.

Obviously, this is my interpretation of these events. They may not have been as they appeared to be, to me. However, these types of responses occur with much greater frequency during the colder months - when I'm wearing skull caps to protect my head.

There's something about that look that puts certain people on-edge. That's unfortunate, since their reactions put US on-edge, creating a particularly negative catch-22.

I wonder how many other Black men experience this. I doubt I'm the only one.

EDIT: This also reminds me of something my uncle mentioned, this weekend, as we got ready to step out of my truck and enter a convenience store. We both put on our skull caps, at the same time, and, realizing this, my uncle said the clerks were probably thinking we were about to come rob them.

We laughed hard at that - partially because there may have been a little too much truth to it.


chele said...

Maybe you should try wearing a cowboy hat!

West said...

It's funny you say that.

I considered mentioning that I have a couple of leather hats that I often wear during the Winter months, but I figured it'd be too much of a distraction from the main point.

In fact, it was while wearing that hat that (the black one, anyway) that I was first mistaken for a local male stripper (I think I mentioned that in a post, at some point). I don't know if I was wearing it the second time or not.

Miz JJ said...

Black men are scary?? Didn't you know?

You can try clicking on the link on my post to view the video instead of clicking on the picture. I made a note of it in my post.

West said...

re: "Black men are scary?? Didn't you know? "

I guess I do, now.

re: "You can try clicking on the link on my post to view the video instead of clicking on the picture. I made a note of it in my post."

Ahh. I missed the note the first time. I could barely see it on my monitor.


B. Good said...

You're probably looking too much into it. We all know racism is dead. Its 2007 for goodness sakes! (whatever that means, lol).

But I'd probably cluth my purse if I saw you coming as well. :)

West said...

Be good, now. :p

Shai said...

Ignorance at its best. Then again I have stereotyped folks. I say some men do look good in a skull cap. I think with hip-hop, entertainers who have an edge, they associate skull caps with bad things. Then again it may be some other stuff. Like where did skull caps originate and why such a bad rap?

I mean I have worked at a college and had some odd non-blacks who I assumed where either Skinheads or Devil worshippers. Only to hear them and see them interact that I was wrong. Then again folks wear masks.

I do admit some black males can have a scary edge. I look at their aura, pay attention to vibes. Some males mad at the world or themselves, some are reserved but look mean. Instinct can usually rule these things out.

West said...

It's interesting how they don't even require any interaction with me to size me up and conclude that I'm one of these or one of those types of people.

It's something we all struggle with, as Shai fairly illustrates, and being on the receiving end is a very good incentive to avoid sizing others up in such a way - unfortunately, I think the natural reaction is for the wronged to give as good as we get.

I'm really sleepy, so I hope that was at least mildly coherent.

Luke Cage said...

That's too bad friend. I've had it happen on several occasions and the first time it did was the bitch of the bunch.

Now, whenever I inadvertently incite that kind of reaction, I either expect it to happen, or look for it to happen because it's so easy for one to reach that conclusion instead of thinking, well he's probably not menacing, it's just his attire.

And you brought up a good point. One doesn't know what one has been through in the lives they led before meeting you or me, or other brothers. Good perspective to have West.