I was walking down a sidewalk in Kent, which more often than I like turns into an “adventure.” Ahead of me I observed a woman walking a large dog, almost as tall as she was. This occurred in an industrial park environment a fair distance from the nearest residential area. Dog and woman crossed into a vacant lot for a few moments, returned to the sidewalk and continued on toward me; apparently this was doggie-dump operation, and she had walked a long way just to avoid picking up the dog’s doo. It was near dusk, but I perceived the woman as having dark skin.
When she came within 50 yards of me, the woman hesitated, and then crossed to the other side of the street. I wasn’t in the mood to speculate on her motives, but I couldn’t help but to observe that were still cars and trucks regularly passing in both directions of the street, and the surrounding was wide open, not claustrophobic. I gave her at least the benefit of the belief that she had intended to cross the street all along, although her furtive behavior suggested otherwise. I continued on my way, but because of my suspicions I turned around, just in time to catch her crossing back to my side of the street some fifty yards behind me.
For someone who dwells overmuch on such matters, this naturally disturbed me. Now, if this had occurred in darkness, in a closed environment at a “dead” time, I would have “understood” if not sympathized. But this was clearly an action based on paranoia and stereotyping. I couldn’t let her get away with it, so I called out “You are a pathetic,” making certain that she understood clearly the latter word. This apparently caught her unawares, and she responded “I don’t know you” in that self-conscious way of a person finding themselves compromised by his or her own guilty actions. It’s odd, but why is it that I know these people better than they know me?
I also could now tell that she was black, although her features suggested possible mixed race. She spoke in “proper” English, likely from being raised in a white environment and being the “token” in otherwise white schools. No doubt she fancied herself more “white” than black. What makes this example of “assimilation” into white society disturbing is that this person has adopted the racial paranoia of the white people she apparently associates with. Naturally, this drips with irony; if she happened to be strolling through a white neighborhood where no one knew her, she would likely encounter the same “suspicions” she was applying to me. I suspect she was so intertwined with the illusion of her life, that she could not conceive of the irony of the situation. Worse still, she was perpetuating stereotypes and “confirming” the prejudices of her “friends.” I hold special contempt for such people.
I grant that most people I have encountered in the world prefer to go through life living and let live. If they can do so without harming their own position, they will go beyond the expected common courtesies of civilization. But one should never have any illusions about the world they live in. It’s funny how one deliberate act of prejudice can erase the memory of a dozen acts of good will.