Out of Context

I have a very strong rule against engaging with stupid people on Facebook. Why? Because there is no point.  It’s just another way of being stupid in public, if you will.  And I won’t do it.

But yesterday, I had to do it.  Why? Because someone was getting people all riled up by totally taking something Obama said during his remarks about Trayvon Martin out of context.  In short, she was saying that if you lock your car doors, you are racist.

Uhm, no.

What Obama said is that most black men have experienced that moment when they walk by a car and hear the doors lock.

And you know what? He’s right. I’ve been with people who have done it.  They encounter someone who is different than they are – not white – and they assume the worst and take, what they see, as preventative measures.  When I ask the person who does this why they do it, they will often cite the fact they heard a crime was committed lately and the person was black.  They associate race with crimes.  Is that fair to the guy who is just trying to get home after work and happens to be walking by the car? Nope.

It’s funny because my neighbor – a wonderful man who teaches music and tennis to kids – a man who has also helped low income kids get into college via scholarships – he said one day after another neighborhood boy did something wrong the he had to talk to his son about being around someone getting into trouble.  “Even if he is not doing anything wrong, they are going to remember the little brown boy is with whoever did wrong so he will get blamed. I have to teach him that now so he can be careful in the future.”

He was not teaching his son right or wrong – in this case, he was teaching his kid it won’t matter if he does what is right, if he is around wrong and is the non-white kid in the mix, he will be implicated.  He will be the one who is “wrong” even if he is the only one doing “right”.  What a lesson to have to teach a kid!  At 7 years old.  But as he pointed out, he learned it the hard way himself – and he lived in a good neighborhood growing up.  This issue is not about socio-economics – it’s about race.

Years ago, I told the story about a neighborhood non-white kid being defended for stealing and hurting my daughter because he was just being targeted for being black.  This was never a race thing. This was about respect, right, wrong, and just treating people as you want to be treated.  Yet a passing couple seeing a black kid getting yelled at by a white man was convinced he was clearly being targeted because of race.  Imagine their surprise when G marched him to his mom just to have the boy openly admit what he did to her.  Oh. Guess this wasn’t about race. Guess this was about a kid doing something wrong – and another parent holding him accountable for his behavior.  Oops.

Race is a tricky TRICKY situation. And that is the point.  When a situation comes into play where race is a factor, we have to all ask hard questions.  And be honest with ourselves.

Did I lock the doors because this person was not white? Or did I lock the doors to my car because I just saw him pushing and shoving someone trying to take something away from them?  Did I judge him by his actions and not his “look”?

Did I protect my possessions because the person was not white? Or because they have decided that of all the places to stand in the train car, they decided they must stand as close to me as humanly possible?  And it’s not crowded.

Am I uncomfortable with the way that person is looking at me because it is lecherous, or because it is someone who doesn’t look like me?

I often am baffled – like last night with the FB post – how some of the people who believe race is not an issue at all are some that are married to a non-white person – and whose children (sons) are going to get the same bullshit I described above – they seem to be the ones who yell the loudest and miss the point Obama was trying to make.  In the case last night, they had a problem with a neighbor who “targeted their kids as doing everything wrong in the neighborhood”.  The police were involved even – repeatedly.  They had to get an attorney involved.  I can almost guarantee you that it was the fact that this was an all white suburb and these were the only non-white kids in the area. Yet, that point is missed.

I will admit.  When I was young and naive, I believed if you ignored race from everything that race could not be an issue. But you know what? Those were the ignorance of a white girl who has never been in their shoes.

Forgive the pun, but nothing is black and white. I wish it could be easy like that – clear cut in how to eliminate this factor from the world. But it is not.  And I believe that is the point.  The only way we are going to get better at this is to start talking about it – realize that it exists – and start challenging our own thinking about it. Denial is not going to fix anything.

And neither is picking and choosing what a leader says simply because you don’t subscribe to the political party he is a part of – and you are looking at something to bitch about.

What do you think?