I was on the train last night. It was crowded with rush hour commuters, and it was standing room only. Luckily I’d found the last seat on the top row of the train car. As I neared my stop, standing on the steps was a well-dressed African-American gentleman. He was slender and bookish looking, with round eye glasses. More than that he was reading a David Baldacci mystery novel. He nodded smartly, slipping a bookmark into the novel, gathering up an expensive leather shoulder bag and moving over so I could slip past.
I thanked him, of course, offering a friendly, “hope I didn’t interrupt the good part.”
“Not at all,” he replied, without a single “yo,” or “fahshizzle,” or without flashing a single gang sign. His voice was so smooth, as if he’d been properly raised in a decent White neighborhood, like say, Kenilworth or Lake Forest, or some other affluent place. He seemed perfect. And if I wanted to deflect any potential accusations of being racist or bigoted in any way, this was the sort of Black I’d want to prove it.
See, I have these other Black friends, but at the end of the day they are way more black than white. For example, I like Blues music, but they actually relate to the blues. I love jazz, but they get jazz. Don’t get me started on soul food. They’re great and all, and I love them dearly, but what I want is a Black friend that I can relate to with the least amount of effort.
Part of the problem with my Black friends is that they carry all this baggage about “racial profiling,” stereotyping them into one group or class, assuming that all of them grew up in the ghetto, aspire to welfare, hide a criminal background or take public transportation in hopes there will be an accident that they can profit from. They get all high and mighty when I don’t get why its bad to call them the “N” word, but I’m still a cracker. They’re touchy about slavery, and in no humor to hear the high numbers of incarcerated Blacks as a reason they are followed in department stores. The older ones still have this chip on their shoulder about segregation, being shot at and spit on by snarling and deranged whites for wanting to attend a better school, sit at a lunch counter or use a toilet. Racism happened 30 years ago. I mean, the Jews got over the Holocaust. The Rwandans are over their Genocide, and the South Africans over Apartheid, right? When was the last time Christians ever brought up Roman atrocities 2000 years ago? Easter doesn’t count, because that involves bunnies and colored eggs.
Since the Civil Rights movement I’ve learned that being with my “own” kind is racist at worst and divisive at best. I’ve learned. I’ve learned to be very careful about how I talk to and what I say about Blacks. I’ve learned to never say what I’m actually thinking, but to find a less offensive way of revealing the obvious. So, since according to a lot of White folks I know, racism has been eliminated (Hello, we hired a Black guy in the White House!) and we are living in a “post racial” period, I am perfectly willing to overlook the color of a person’s skin. In that regard, is it so much to ask that they are just like me?