Two years ago I was robbed at gunpoint just before Christmas.
I sometimes have a little PTSD from it.
I still meet customers daily (I am an electronics dealer) and sometimes, suddenly, my body goes into a fight or flight response.
I know what is happening.
There is something about the person or the environment that reminds my brain of the time I almost died and it releases adrenaline into my bloodstream so I can protect myself.
The problem is, there is no threat.
And I am not going to make some innocent person feel like they are a suspect, just because they may have the same fashion sense as my robber or a cold breeze hits my face in a similar way as the day I was robbed.
The night of the robbery, one of my friends said “Has your job made you racist, yet?”
I said “No. And it won’t.”
I know my friend’s heart and I know he is not a racist.
I knew exactly what he meant.
I sell refurbished electronics and I sell them really cheap, so most of my clientele are black people.
What does this mean?
Is that racist that I say that?
Maybe, but it’s true, and I would rather identify the reasons why something exist than be politically correct and pretend something isn’t real.
Why IS my clientele predominantly black?
There are a lot of reasons, but primarily the reason is that blacks have had less money in our culture than whites have traditionally had.
So they have had to learn to spend wisely.
Being black in America has become synonymous with being poor in America.
So to answer my friend’s question
“No. Being robbed by a black kid, did not make me racist, because I know he did not rob me because he was black. I know he robbed me because he was poor and desperate and had been mislead by a society that teaches him that if he does not have the same physical possessions as the people that he sees on TV than he is subhuman. He robbed me because he believes a series of lies that you and I can only begin to comprehend.”
As the young man stood there with his gun trained on me, all I could think about was my kids, and how I had to “be cool” and get through this so I could pick them up from school that day.
There was a point in which he became careless and I could have taken the gun from him (20 years of martial arts training), but I realized if I did that, then one of us was going to get shot and I did not like the idea of either of us dying.
All he wanted was money.
He didn’t hate me.
I opted to “be cool”.
Later the police were confident that they had apprehended him.
I was willing to press charges and incarcerate him.
I knew this wouldn’t help.
He would be back out in a few years, with more anger than ever and a litany of mental illnesses he would have acquired in prison and would probably just repeat the same mistake.
What I really wanted to do was talk to him.
He was about the same age as my son.
I wanted to tell him that I understood as much as a “white dude” could (I am actually equal parts Native America and German, but I look white and that is how police and other people treat me).
I wanted to tell him to put the gun away and I would show him how to make some real money.
I wanted to show him that I hate the system as much as he does.
I wanted to tell him that I have been as poor or poorer than he had been.
I wanted to show him how to beat the white man at his own game.
I wanted to tell him that a gun leads you to a prison cell or a pine box and that when I was his age I was just like him.
But at the end of everything I told him, he would have probably have told me that I don’t know shit about it, because I’m white.
And he is right.
Living in poverty doesn’t take away my white privilege.
Sleeping in between buildings when I was a kid, does not make me understand what it feels like to be hunted by white police everywhere I go.
And the Native American blood that courses through my veins doesn’t mean that I understand what it is like to be enslaved any more than he does.
But I can insulate myself from the dangers of society.
I can drive a nice car and I will never get pulled over for suspicion that I stole it.
I can fit in.
I can wear nice clothes and smile and pretty much get my way everywhere I go in life.
I never have to wonder what it is like to have a racist white officer, who is having a bad day, pull me over and want to literally crawl out of my skin, because I am afraid for my life.
Being a compassionate white person, who sympathizes with the black plight is an asymptotic curve.
I can get close to understanding, but never fully empathize.
Therefor I am reluctant to think I know much of anything about racial issues.
I cannot make excuses for a black man who will pull a gun on me.
I will not.
If I could only say one thing to him it would be “No. This is NOT acceptable. I don’t care how hard you have it. I have it hard too. We all do. But this way will only lead to bad things for everyone. Don’t you realize THIS is what THEY want?! Don’t you realize that all the armchair racists in the country want you to believe that this is what you are? You are better than this. Do not let them win. You can overcome. You will have more to overcome than I will, but you can do it and sometimes you will want to quit, but because your road is tougher, YOU have to be tougher, and THIS my friend, this thing you are doing right now, is straight up bullshit. And no one hates that you are doing this more than the black people who live in this neighborhood, because they have worked SO hard, just to gain the respect that is freely given to others and when you do shit like this, you set the whole thing back. THIS is unacceptable.”
So I decided that I would send the message to him that this was not okay and send him to jail, although the whole thought of doing this made me sick and sad.
A detective came to my home and showed me six pictures.
He said “One of these men is your attacker. Can you please identify him for me?”
As I looked at the dreadlocks on each young man, I realized I could not tell one from the other with confidence.
“All these guys look like Lil Wayne to me.” I said, trying to make a comment at my own expense, playing on the white-racist axiom that all blacks look alike. Feeling like I might be one of them, because I could not tell one person from another in these pictures.
The detective thought I was serious and said “Yeah. They all look alike, so that way they can blend in and hide from us.”
“But seriously I added. They do look pretty much alike to me. I cannot ID my robber with any confidence. And I cannot live with myself, should I pick the wrong one and put an innocent man in jail.”
“None of these guys are innocent.” he said “You can sleep well tonight, knowing you put a bad guy behind bars, regardless of who you pick.”
I sat there stunned.
I was somehow accepted into the good ol boys club.
This white cop thought I was on his team somehow.
I was disgusted and alarmed that our “justice” system worked this way.
I wanted to tell him to “Get the fuck out of my house.”, but I didn’t want to have a police officer angry at me, so I offered him coffee and we talked for a while.
Me, the Native American impostor, impersonating a white man and getting away with it.
I fit in.
I kept hoping he would show me the secret handshake.
I kept looking at the pictures of the young men on my coffee table.
We talked for a while about the decay of society.
Then he left.
Taking the pictures of Lil Wayne and a little piece of my faith in humanity with him.