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It's Because I'm Black! -- Writer's Poke #328

I have been the victim of racism. Sort of.

When my wife and I were in Washington D.C., we stopped for lunch at a Subway. As we ate our meal, I watched a young African-American male hitting up passers’ by for money. God, I thought, I hope he moves on by the time we’re done with our meal. He hadn’t, and as soon as we left the safety of the restaurant, he approached us.

“Excuse me, sir,” he politely began, “but I’m a student on a field trip with my college.” Sure you are, I thought. “I’ve been separated from my group, and I need $20 so that I can get back with them.” I declined to give him any money, and his attitude and demeanor immediately changed.

“It’s because I’m black, isn’t it!” he shouted. I just kept walking, but his volcanic reaction scared me. What would I do if he attacked me? I thought. I didn’t think this because he was black, either. I have been approached by panhandlers all over the nation – some white, and some black – but I had never experienced anyone reaction to a “no” so vocally. Most simply go on to the next person walking down the street. Why this person decided to lash out at me I’ll never know, but my wife and I kept on walking, and he didn’t follow us.

Truth be told: the whole incident ticked me off. Here’s a man that didn’t know me, but he assumed I was racist, or he assumed that his accusation of racism would be an effective ploy to make me feel guilty enough to reconsider and give him money? I’m not sure what he was thinking.

Racism does exist in this country. Of that I have no doubt. But throwing around the accusation like a hand grenade is counter-productive, to say the least. Then again, ignoring the fact that racism still exists in the United States isn’t the solution, either. So what is?

What is the best way to deal with racism in the United States in 2011?

“Excellence is the best deterrence to racism or sexism.” – Oprah Winfrey


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