|WTF? That white dude spoke to me.|
Living in a predominantly Black neighborhood takes some adjusting. People just act different. My neighborhood is considered lower middle class. Crime is higher than it was when I grew up here 50 years ago. City services like parades and fireworks displays on the Fourth of July have been cut to put more police on the street. Domestic violence is more visible. Unruly teens are everywhere. They routinely get kicked out of the library because they use it as a place to hang out, rather than a place to study and find books.
In the last four weeks, my truck has been vandalized and my wallet was stolen. I accept my surroundings and just try to get through the day.
Something that I notice here that I never noticed anywhere else is when you ask a black person a question or make a joke, they look at you in shock. Rarely do they even respond. They stare at you until you go away.
Not all black people act this way, but the majority do - especially the people that work with the public.
I can't tell you how many times I've been somewhere ordering food or buying something and made a funny remark or a "How's your day?" comment to a clerk and they never even made eye contact. They never even acknowledge that I spoke to them.
One time a young black kid with his pants hanging around his thighs was trying to plug his phone into the outlet where I had my laptop plugged in at the donut shop. I told him, "That's the only outlet, unless you have a long cord and use the one over by the window." Then I said, "If you have other stuff to plug in, I have a power strip and you can hook them all up." Followed by, "If your cord isn't long enough, you can sit at my table." I also added, "Ain't those phone batteries a bitch?" Through all of that - NOTHING. He never looked at me, never responded, never commented - NOTHING. I was like a talk radio station at table 6.
I was in a black owned restaurant the other day. I wanted to tip the help in the open kitchen and I laid $2 on the counter, The woman behind the counter, with a scowl on her face said, "What's that for?" I told her it was a tip. She said thanks and went about her business.
In the grocery line, I'll see some adorable black baby and comment. I get a look from the mother or grandmother like, "WTF are you talkin' bout my kid for?" The kid was cute. I offered a compliment. It wasn't received that way.
At the drugstore, I made a comment to the young black man at the register about the basketball playoffs. He stood frozen like he had never heard of basketball and I was Stephen Hawking explaining Black Holes.
When I'm ordering fast food, the black girl at the counter will never look at me. She takes my order. Gets it wrong. And then asks for money. I say, "That's not the right order." She says, "It's $4.98." "But that's not the right order." "It's $4.98." What freakin' language do I have to use to communicate?
Black people don't even understand other black people. I listen to the orders at the drive-thru. "You want what?" And for some reason, black people don't like to read the menu. They have to ask if certain items are on the menu. "You got pizza?" "Sorry sir, this is Burger King." "You got tacos?" "Burger King does not offer tacos." "What if you don't want cheese on your cheeseburger?" "Then you would order a hamburger." "I'll have a blah, dee, da, doo, boppa, whop." "Excuse me, what was that?" "WTF are you deaf?" "I want a blah, dee, da, doo, boppa whop." "Sir, could you pull around."
I'm not the only one that has noticed this "white aversion" in this neighborhood. Routinely, black people are served before white people - which doesn't bother me unless I'm in a rush. Black people were sent to the back of the bus too long in this country, some paybacks are justified in my mind.
But what is going on with routine conversation? Why the big eyes when I speak? Why the lack of eye contact when I talk to you? Why do you ignore me when I speak to you? Is it fear? Is it racism?
My thought is that there is still racism on both sides of the color line. But I also get a sense of fear from the black people I talk to and don't respond. It's like they're thinking, "WTF is he talkin' to me fo?" I don't have a problem with talking with anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity.
I've actually had black people that I've spoken to say, "Are you the po-leese?" Because I'm white, I'm a cop?
I have developed some friendships with local black wanderers in the neighborhood. Marty has introduced me to his brothers. None of them looked like they wanted to talk to me either, until Marty said, "Hey, this dud is cool." After that, I was just another boy in the 'hood.
As other people came into the restaurant and I spoke with my new friends, the other people were looking like, "What's this white dude doing talkin' to the owner?" Then Marty would have to jump in and say, "Don't worry, this dude is cool."
I've had the same scenario come up in situations with black people at other locations. Everyone looks at you like you're a narc, a cop or some white redneck until someone says, "Don't worry, he cool."
Maybe I should get a badge that says, "Black people approved." Or "Don't worry, he cool."
All I'm trying to do is engage in a little friendly banter. I usually make a joke and people laugh. Black people, however, either don't get the joke, don't want to hear a joke from a white dude or are just so pissed off at life that they can't accept a joke. I don't know. I'd like to be able to see more smiles through the course of my day.
And that's why I wonder, "Are black people afraid of white people?"
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