This comment is by Nick, Mostly on the post “Walking While Black: Calling for the Arrest of George Zimmerman.”
Even being a person of color I still feel that sense of apprehension when I encounter a group of young black men wearing hoodies at night. And then I remember that group of young men was me and my friends some twenty years ago. Sure, sometimes we carried chips on our shoulders, but usually we were just broke and tired and hoping to avoid a confrontation, whether that was with the cops or with other restless youth.
Racism isn’t one way, and I admitted as much in relating my fear of the white faces behind the curtains. I am also reminded of the first post of Jackie’s that I read here on GMP, one that I identified with all too well. This section in particular touched me:
My mom still lives in Jamaica, Queens in the house I grew up in. From my apartment in Brooklyn I have to take two trains and a bus to visit her. Recently, when returning from one of my visits, I took a seat on the subway, only to feel my well-honed instinct for trouble tingling. I looked immediately to my left; there sat a large, intimidating black guy. We’d made eye contact; I couldn’t look away without appearing cowed. Subtly, almost imperceptibly, he nodded his head in my direction: the slightest token of respect. I responded in kind. Just to my right sat another equally menacing looking black guy, who repeated this ritual of acknowledgement; again, without breaking eye contact I returned the most meager of nods.
Safety secured, I relaxed and looked straight ahead, to see a black man in aviator glasses, a black bandana, a hooded sweatshirt and Harley Davidson motorcycle boots.
It was my own reflection in the window.
That’s when I realized: I’m a big scary black guy. This is people’s first perception of me. No one sees my Scottish grandmother, or my half-Italian grandfather. No one sees an artist, a musician, an entrepreneur, an autodidact, a devoted son. To those that know me, the idea that anyone (who didn’t have a legitimate reason to be afraid of me) could perceive me as a threat, is laughable.
To everyone else, I’m just some black guy.
Yes! how many times have I felt that way. It’s a subtle racism, one that I think is fueled by the images we see of black men, images that say we should be afraid. I, too, wish I didn’t have these initial feelings of unease, but it’s what I do with them that matters. One thing I don’t do with them is pack a 9mm anticipating a confrontation. Sure, there are signs of racism all around us, and it’s not all directed at blacks. But let’s not forget which group is disproportionately jailed and killed, whether when committing a crime or just walking home in the rain with a pack of Skittles.
photo: zoonabar / flickr