"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, January 05, 2007

More on Hate Crimes

Jim, it's interesting you bring up these little verbal street assaults. There may be something about some of us pale fellas that occasions taunting from men of darker hue.

I don't know what it is, but I have, in the past racked up the following incidents:

1. On an unmotivated walk, just strolling through Charlottesville, VA into an unfamiliar neighborhood, I began to hear threatening remarks issuing forth from somewhere out of my vision. I suddenly realized I was the only caucasoid on the street. "You bettah get yo a$$ outta here, BOY. You bettah RUN."

I don't mind admitting to you that I RAN.

2. Same town, different day. I was walking through the charming downtown area. Two African-American gents hung out on a corner just staring at passersby. When I passed, they issued a gratuitious racial insult. I kept walking, head down, seriously peeved. The Christian humanist in me wanted to engage these guys and find out what was at the bottom of insulting somebody they didn't know anything about. I was too mad and too afraid of where a confrontation would lead, so I kept walking with a knot in my stomach.

3. Atlanta: Running late to get to the capitol for lobbying work. I jumped out of my train and stepped onto the escalator. I may have walked up the first two or three steps. A large African-American man dressed in heavy jacket and baseball cap turned around and menaced, "Don't you ever run up on me like that, boy."

4. Atlanta: Riding MARTA to the capitol. Made the mistake of boarding a car full of African-American young people while dressed in a suit. A young woman came and stood over me and then began to RAP at me and unleashed a number of lines I could barely understand, but were clearly not complimentary. Her companions leered and giggled. I sat there thinking, "Here I am working, trying to establish a career, and I've somehow merited RIDICULE."

5. On another occasion, I walked through the underground train station in Atlanta. A young, black man dressed in the gangsta style ran up to me, dropped down to a football three point stance, and waited, I think, for me to get out of his way. By this time I'd had enough. I outweighed this guy by a hundred pounds and I wasn't moving. He jumped up, spun around me and yelled as he passed, "Boy, I would have KNOCKED you down!" I replied, "In your dreams." My cheek had been turned about 270 degrees from its original position and I was beginning to react.

Strangely enough, since that time the unwarranted cross-racial attacks aimed at me seem to have stopped. Maybe the Lord decided I'd had enough. I don't know. Maybe I walk a little taller, stand a little straighter these days. But I do know that it's a very unpleasant thing to be insulted, called out, and taunted, and verbally spat upon when you haven't done a thing in the world other than mind your own darn business.

10 comments:

Matt Huisman said...

#5 reminds me of something that happens to me all the time...namely, people walking into me. I'm not talking about freak turns around dark corners or run-ins with streat punks, but reasonably uncrowded, straight-forward encounters with very average looking people.

The high frequency of these events always struck me as odd, in that I happen to be a reasonably athletic (at least by appearance) 6'9", 300lb man. You should be able to see me. You should be eager to make the effort to get out of my way.

I used to think that the considerate thing to do in these situations was to play the matador, making the deft maneuver at the last moment to avoid the impending collision. But after discovering that shear gravitational force could not explain (most of) these near misses, it occurred to me that something else was going on.

People seem to enjoy the small psychological "wins" gained by these very low risk confrontations. Seriously.

I have since determined that the most charitable thing I can do for these people is to knock them down, pick them back up as graciously as possible, and then apologize for the inconvenience.

Some may think it childish; I consider it a public service.

Hunter Baker said...

I hate to say it, Matt, but I've noticed that phenomenon, too. It's got to be a matter of projection. I've intentionally projected a more forceful profile in the past few years and things changed.

I think it came from being bookish bully bait as a kid.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Lest this forum find condemnation among more enlightened souls for chronicling this social phenomenon, the estimable Larry Elder offers corraborating testimony in his latest article, Flipping the bird---while black.

All I myself can offer is that I weigh somewhat less than Hunter Baker's previously reported avoirdupoises, but never had anyone set themselves in a three-point stance before me without pads.

Jim Bowman said...

I think you're on to something, Hunter, with the walking tall and being bothered less. It's social pathology here. It's been said of the addict that he's preternaturally aware. Paranoia does that. In Oak Park much of what I see -- not the con-man stuff, as panhandler with great story -- stems from deep sense of discomfort in whites' company. Any # of blacks are cool with it, to use a going expression. But others are terrified of whites. It's ingrained in them. First on whites' agenda is to ignore this and go for the gold: find the cool ones and enjoy their company, even if in a fleeting glance while passing on the street. This is quite a good discussion overall, by the way.

Hunter Baker said...

Tom, I worried about the centurions of Enlightenment when writing the post, but I shouldered it aside when I realized I was about to scrunch my head down between my shoulders as I had on previous encounters.

What I wrote about here and what Jim wrote about earlier is just simple human decency. There's a color element that, if anything, helps explain the hostility that otherwise has little explanation, but it's certainly not intended as a blanket indictment.

Matt Huisman said...

There's a color element that, if anything, helps explain the hostility that otherwise has little explanation...

I like the way you put this, Hunter - an unexplainable hostility. Racism, it seems to me, is only one of the manifestations of this hostility - a coping mechanism, in its own way, that allows one to "solve" for the source of the unknown frustration and to compartmentalize the reaction towards it.

It can be quite frustrating to not know why you're frustrated, and so I have great sympathy for these people. Which is why I am very nice when I knock them down.

Kathy Hutchins said...

An observation from another place and the other sex: the only place I have ever failed to observe the hostility you fellows describe is my current home, Prince Georges County Maryland. Here I am, as a white, outnumbered about 3 to 1. Everywhere I go I am in the minority, and many many places I am the only white face in the place. Yet I have never, in the four years I have lived here, either experienced or witnessed the slightest racial hostility or taunting. My theory on this is that since blacks constitute over 2/3 of the population here, practically everywhere you go there are several middle aged black women in the place. No matter how thuggish and tough a young fellow considers himself, he knows a damn sight better than to act up in front of momma.

Evanston said...

Please bear with me while I take y'all into the "Wayback Machine" to 1993. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Mundy, was interviewed by 60 Minutes regarding minority representation/promotion in the officer corps. The following remarks got him into deep kimchee: "In the military skills, we find that the minority officers do not shoot as well as the non-minorities. They don't swim as well. And when you give them a compass and send them across the terrain at night in a land navigation exercise, they don't do as well at that sort of thing."
Now, he was merely summarizing known statistics, but it didn't matter. We soon had a second annual round of sensitivity training (normally once annually), some Command gatherings where minorities insulted the Commandant (and my white hand, when raised repeatedly, was ignored) and then all members of my unit (Blount Island Command) attended seminars at DEOMI (just look up DEMOI.org).
Why is this relevant? The seminar began with a list of "discriminatory behavior" that included, at bottom, "Avoidance." The instructor explained that avoiding minority people in any way, such as walking across a street, or failing to discuss "issues" with them, is discrimination. On that basis, Jim/Matt/Tom/Hunter/Kathy, you must walk near any group of minorities (young hooligans or not) or if you avoid them in any way, you're a racist.
Well, at that point in the seminar the instructors lost me. As a rule, I'm not a confrontational guy. I walk away from personality conflicts whenever possible, and in the workaday world seek consensus and compromise whenever practicable. These things are, to me, "avoidance" in some respect. It's a tactic I have used with everyone -- not just co-workers, but even my closest family and friends -- at one time or another. The DEOMI instructors had no solution for us as leaders other than to talk things out with our juniors and seniors, and of course use the EEO complaint process whenever things didn't work out (if you were a minority complainant).
Again, I'm not a big believer in talking everything out, in my personal life nor my business life. And this philosophy absolutely undermines the military chain of command, as I had already seen in the insults hurled at General Mundy.
Here is what I learned from DEOMI: EEO personnel are self-righteous and expert at complaining. Sure they showed us all videotapes and skits of behavior I found abhorrent (from childhood, I might add, though some Marines clearly need EEO training). Nonetheless, I found their eagerness to label non-confrontational behavior as "discriminatory" idiotic at best, and at worst to be their own means of discriminating against white men.

Later in my career (after I made Major) I used to give my Marines a lecture along these lines:
- It'd be nice if all the "bad people" were black or brown, or white, wouldn't it? Then we could tell based on color who they were, and get rid of them.
- But it's not so. The truth we know about ourselves and others is that we're ALL capable of doing wrong.
- So how do we judge who is a good Marine and bad Marine? Simple. If the Marine cares most about accomplishing the mission, at the risk of occasionally apologizing when mistakes are made, that is a good Marine. This Marine is "mission oriented."
- Conversely, if a Marine cares most about how he/she looks, his/her promotion, or "what's in it for me?" then that's a bad Marine who is "self oriented."
- Bad Marines are a danger to everyone. Work with them and try to show them the errors they are making. Show them that accomplishing the mission is actually, in the long term, what is best for them as well. When our organization is a success, medals are handed out and promotions follow. On the other hand, we all know that when things go bad "the shit rolls downhill." Focusing on the mission is key for everyone, from the General on down.
- If you believe the Marine Corps put you in charge of a woman or man so you can have some "action" you are wrong. Go outside of this unit, or better yet, out in town to find your "action." If you believe the Marine Corps put you in charge of people of another race or group so you can bully them, you are dead wrong.
- Overall, if ANYTHING you do or ask of your fellow Marines is for personal gratification, it is illegal under the UCMJ. That's why we even see Generals have to resign due to self-serving behavior. If they get burned, don't think for a second that you won't.

Getting back to 1993, the Colonel who led our group discussions and insisted that everyone attend a DEOMI seminar was selected for promotion to Brigadier General. I heard second-hand (so I'm not sure about all the particulars, but know he "disappeared") that he was forced to resign at his next command due to adultery, sexual harassment, or both.
When I worked for the guy, I was not aware of any specific malfeasance but I nonetheless avoided him from the get-go because of a "vibe" and later some violence he perpetrated in a basketball game. If he'd have been a woman or member of a racial minority, DEOMI would have classified me as a racist for avoiding him.
Backing up a step further, the 60 Minutes hit piece on Carl Mundy was probably spurred by the resistance of the joint chiefs to Clinton's effort to allow open homosexuality in the military.
Is it a coincidence that the Colonel who forced his entire Command to attend DEOMI seminars and the Commander in Chief who forced gay rights ("don't ask, don't tell") on the military were both serial womanizers?
Overall, I believe that people who push their own "victim" agenda are most eager to victimize others. This reverts back to the Libertarian vs. Leftist discussion you all have had...yes, someone is actually reading!
Well, "Peace Out" "Screw the Man" and "Eat More Potatos." Or is it "potatoes?" Where's Dan Quayle when you need him???

Hunter Baker said...

Evanston, THAT was a mouthful (or a keypadful), baby!

Evanston said...

Yeah, too "wordy." Like you, I guess I'll make it as the male Oprah.