It’s Monday morning on the Washington, DC Metrorail and so crowded its standing room only, like a typical rush hour. People are standing shoulder to shoulder. That is until a young African-American man boards the train. There is an immediate shift. Some people shift in their seats, while others shift on their feet. However, both shift to a posture that allows them securely grab their backpacks, handbags, and other valuables.
I’ve seen this happen so frequently that unfortunately, I consider it the norm. My African-American son experienced it regularly.He worked a job in Washington, DC while he was a high school student and had to commute on the Metrorail. He was so disturbed one day when he got home that he asked my why white people wouldn’t sit next to him on the train. He asked why white people wouldn’t speak to him even after he spoke to them. He was confused.
His confusion came about because I raised my children in a culturally diverse community. I encouraged them to get to know an individual before passing judgment. For example, not all white people are racists. It was disheartening to explain that some people will judge him based on the color of his skin and his gender without even taking the time to get to know him. They will see him as a threat, as a criminal, as a bad person, and not to be trusted.
No one took the time to know him beyond the color of his skin and his gender.
Fast forward the clock. My son serves our country proudly in the United States military. His experience is entirely different when he’s in uniform. People of all ethnicities acknowledge him, smile, and repeatedly thanked for his service. More often than not, he is treated like an A-lister regardless of the color of his skin or his gender. It’s as if because he is in uniform he has a stamp of approval. The uniform eliminates a presumption of guilt or a perceived threat lifted and he is a contributing member of society.
My son doesn’t live in his uniform. He does however live in his black skin.
The solution to ‘guilty until proven innocent’ is found in United States pledge of allegance. “I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” As one Nation, we must put the words we recite into action. Liberty and justice for all leads to the practice of “innocent until proven guilty”, a uniform of humanity.
Male Call: Let’s not judge a book by it’s cover without first reading a few pages.