The woman’s tweet recounts something that happened in 1991. She was working and asked a co-worker for a ride home. He was uncomfortable at the prospect.
“You’re a white woman and I’m a black man,” he said. “We’ll get pulled over.”
According to her tweets, he was right.
The officer looked into the car and asked one question. “Are you all right, miss?”
This didn’t happen in 1947, the year Jackie Robinson became the first black man in 60 years to play Major League Baseball. It didn’t happen in 1964, the year the Civil Rights Act passed. It happened in 1991, just two years after the NFL hired its first black head coach.
Yesterday, I was called a racist in a church-related setting, solely on the basis of not favoring socialism. It pissed me off and I overreacted.
You can’t quantify the difference between my slight yesterday and what happened to this black man 29 years ago.
I won’t defend the rioting, arson, and looting that’s mushroomed over the last few days. Based on my overreaction yesterday, though, I have no choice but to understand it.
While I didn’t break, pillage, burn, or steal, I did lash out with a mighty, righteous anger, by da-a-a-amn. Because of something a guy said to me on a Zoom call.
I had the luxury to do that, unlike the guy in the car who simply gave his colleague a ride home 29 years ago.
I don’t think you have to be a Bernie Sanders fan to avoid racism. You don’t have to condone the damage being done to the businesses the aggrieved count on. You don’t have to support the rioting and looting.
But you might put yourself in that guy’s shoes in 1991. He literally did nothing wrong, except give a white colleague a ride home. How angry would you be?
And then consider what happened to Philando Castile and Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
You don’t have to raise your hand and accept your share of collective blame for everything. You don’t have to purge yourself publicly for being white. This shouldn’t be about guilt.
It’s about, as St. Francis suggested, seeking to understand before being understood.
If we’re all in this together, it’s a necessary step.