You ever find yourself in a situation that, if you were a betting person, you would go all in on what is about to happen? Well, this is one of those stories.
I’m was in a hurry yesterday. After several meetings for local politics I had to hurry back to the store and get some merchandise packed and off to the post office before they closed. I scurried about from the store to the library (to print postage) then to the Post Office.
As I walk in, I realize I’m not the only one that is making the last minute rush to the mailman. I am about 20th in line. But, to be honest, I didn’t mind; I was glad to have made it in time after promising two overseas customers I would have their items shipped that day.
As I walk in I notice two men sitting at a desk, not in line. As we move forward in line the two men remain sitting there. Younger fellas, they appeared to just be hanging out at the desk and not in line.
Well, as I move forward about five or six places, they get up and get three places in front of me.
The lady directly in front of me, an older white lady, turned around and asked me if I saw what she just saw. I told her yes, it appeared to me they decided the line wasn’t going to get any shorter so they chose where they wanted to be in line and took that place.
The lady in front of me then turned to the two gentlemen and mentioned, “Typically we start in the back of the line, not just in the middle.” The two men then said they were already there and had just taken a seat waiting for the line to move forward and away from the door where the breeze was blowing in. This lady asked them again, then raising her voice, she said that they needed to go to the back of the line.
At this point a gentleman, appearing to be not with the two “line cutters”, turned around and said the two men who appeared to be cutting had actually been in line, got out of line to sit, then decided to get back in line as the line became shorter.
Well, not only did this upset the lady in front of me, but so did the fact that even as they were in line, they were not “in line”… they were standing to the side goofing off, playing on their phones, joking around. My thought is that they were some young kids that, like many other late teen/early 20 year olds, have little etiquette or appreciation for the social norms those of us a little more… “vintage”… might have. (Now, I know many of my readers are a little more “vintage” than me, but let’s just say I believe my generation (late 70s early 80s) are some of the last who appreciate social norms and appropriate behavior, and believe they still have a place in society.)
At this point the lady, now irate, asks me to watch her stuff and keep her place. I told her sure, not knowing what she was doing. She was getting a manager to complain.
It was at this time I realized that if this escalated any more, I could see where it was going to go from a mile away. What I saw from a mile away did not happen because I’m good at psychology, but because it is that “simple” to read the general public.
No sooner did the thought cross my mind did comments from those in front of me start. They went in just the direction I thought they were going to go. to The patrons were “sure they knew just what this was about.”
What was it they were so sure about, you may ask? Oh, yeah, forgot to mention the two guys we’re talking about who were “cutting”… they were black.
And yes, it went there very quickly. The old white lady returned, visibly more upset than I thought it was worth. She continued to tell them they had cut, and those in front of the two men who had “cut” began to tell her that she needed to tell everybody present what “this was really about.” The words “simpleton” and “close minded” came out and in the direction of this one lady.
At one point the manager had to come out and tell everybody to calm down or she was going to get the Postmaster. Eventually it died down, but not before the line itself died down.
As people were leaving, the same manager was at the door apologizing for the disruption. When it came to my turn to receive her apology I told her she handled herself well. I also mentioned that I saw the race-card coming from a mile away. She said she saw it herself.
After I left I got to thinking. Maybe the older white woman in front of me was racist. Maybe she was an old KKK member. Fact is I don’t know and neither did anybody else. All that was clear was an older white lady tried to correct some young black men. That, in itself, is apparently racist.
As I left I had a heavy heart. Sure, it was apparent that maybe those kids were in fact there before we were. However, I don’t believe that gives them the right to assume their place in line is going to be held. It doesn’t. And what’s more, it deeply saddens me to know that regardless of the fact they were sitting down, away from the line, and until they decided it was convenient to get in line, what really mattered to three or four people is the color of the skin of those who were involved.
We say we want to get past race; however, we throw race in the mix any time something is awry and the cards are stacked against the minority. We can look to national stories and local stories and see that if race can be made a factor and you’re white, you lose in the public’s eye.
Until we can truly look past the color of one’s skin, and I mean all sides of the aisle, all races, in all situations, we are not going to ever truly know what it’s like to live in a society that judges men “by the content of their character” and not the color of their skin.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I come to this post as a half white/half Mexican kid who was a “cracker” in California, a “Spic” in Missouri, and been in fist fights with people because my step dad is black, making my mom a “Nigger Lover.” I have faced the racism from black people and white people alike.
What saddens me most is the close-minded attitude that people have when they think that they are providing some type of social justice and believe they are somehow more enlightened with their attitudes and dispositions, rather than seeing the reality: that they are as “simple” as they are accusing others of being.