This mainly has to do with a question that came to mind after I had read the President's speech to his reaction on the Travon Martin case. I thought the speech was very thoughtful and a necessary dialog that needed to be said, and if the president can't say it how is anyone else going to? His timing was decent too as he waited for the jury to decide the case before coming forward.
However, as the words kind of sloshed around in my head for awhile as they always do a statement he made popped into my head. It made me laugh.
Because I realized the President, while bearing his emotions may have revealed something that is absolutely necessary to understand for our racial dialog to take the next step forward.
That feelings can betray the facts.
What do I mean? Well this is the quote from Barack Obama on how blacks see the world around them:
"There are very few African-American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.
And there are very few African-American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often."
I realized something, I too have experienced these things. And I'm white.
The car door locking as you're crossing the street? Well you're approaching the vehicle, it's only common sense to lock the doors if someone is approaching the door, black or white. I mean, if you're going to learn anything from Grand Theft Auto games it should be to lock those freakin' doors. Most newer cars even go so far as to lock as soon as they start moving. It's a standard security procedure.
The elevator... that was the one that triggered this realization. Who HASN'T had that awkward elevator silence? When it's just you and some other person and you're both just holding your breath waiting for your floor. It's not just blacks that have experienced this, I as a white American have experienced many an awkward elevator ride.
In fact here's a tutorial on how to make those elevator rides less awkward... it seems it is a big enough problem for people to write articles on it: http://www.ehow.com/how_5190650_avoid-awkward-elevator-rides.html
So of course when the president says. "Very few African American haven't experienced the lady holding her breath until she gets off" it's going to ring true, because it happens to not only them but to all Americans, the problem is merely bigger than the President seems to realize.
And the department store thing? As I was perusing the pricing information and scanning the boxes on electronics in a Best Buy, an employee came up and asked if I needed help finding things. Now, many lay customers are going to interpret that as being helpful. However, as a cashier in a grocery store I was taught that if a customer is acting suspiciously and you think they're pocketing things to approach and ask if they need assistance. It reminds them they're being watched.
It seems to me a symbiosis of paranoia. You have people wanting to protect their things, and their property, and protecting their 'personal space'; in response others interpreting that everyone around them thinks they're a criminal as a result. I've sensed this in certain social situations, I'm sure every American has at some point felt that the stranger they coincidentally shared space with looked at them with an eye of suspicion. Say you both are walking along a side walk at a particular time and they step off the sidewalk onto the grass to keep you at arm's length... Yes that happened to me when I was walking around town at night once.
So I think the important message to send to the country right now is not only that we need to be less paranoid of blacks, but in effect less paranoid of EVERYONE. Or if we are to treat all strangers as dangerous, then to let everyone know to expect to be treated with distrust and it has nothing to do with how you're dressed, or your race, or your mannerisms. It's just human nature. It's just "STRANGER DANGER!"
In a world where we are paranoid of everyone equally, everyone will believe it's only their kind that people are paranoid of.