The Hole in the Fence
He was walking over the bridge. It was below zero and I was walking my dog on the sidewalk. My dog, sniffing a tree, was oblivious to anything but the scent he was trying so hard to eke out. I was intrigued, though, by the man.
He was dark skinned. He wore a hooded sweatshirt under a waterproof jacket. He carried a lunch pail and was surely on his way to work.
As he approached me, I moved over to the side so he could pass. Instead, he walked well into the street, eyes downcast. Perhaps he had a bad dog experience, I told myself.
“Good Morning”, I said to his back as he ambled down the road.
Later, I walked into town. I love the idea of being so close that I can wander the shops or do a little work or people watch.
But it happened again.
This time a group of women. No eye contact no greetings, just doing their best to avoid me as they tried to nonchalantly pack themselves tighter to get around me.
You know, people don’t always have to be cordial. But it sure takes the sun out of a person’s day when they aren't.
It is either not enough or too much.
Since we are talking about attitudes, what is up with people thinking that you want to hear their point of view about politics, race, left or right, etc? Those people you wish had walked by without a second glance.
Something has been bothering me.
I had an encounter with a woman last week, and I can’t shake it. She and I had cause to be in the same vehicle for about 20 minutes.
I don’t really know how she began, but I really didn’t take notice until she said: “It is all going downhill, because of the blacks.”
My head shot up like I have been shoved.
“Excuse me?” I said.
Had I heard correctly? Did I just time travel back 50 years? What the hell?
“That’s right!” she continued “They have moved into all the neighborhoods, including mine! They don’t think any rules apply to them. We have had to call the police because they are too loud playing basketball..”
I really was trying to keep it under control. But I couldn’t help but poke the bear on this one..
I asked questions about what might have happened to the area? Were jobs or industry a factor? Have you always felt this way about African Americans? Have you had a bad experience?
Her answers never changed and it got pretty sickening.
Then I realized, some people don’t want their ideas about other people to be changed. They want to sit and simmer in their anger about what is wrong with the other side. They enjoy the safety they feel with the others of their ilk who see the world as they do.
It is like when we used to throw snowballs and hide behind a wall. No one really knew who had made the attack.
“Look ma’am. I have to ask you…”, I began, “What makes you feel that I share your opinion on this subject? Did I say something or do something that made you think I did?”
She looked at me with distaste. “Never mind then, I was just making small talk.”
Really? …… Really? What happened to: "Nice day, isn't it?"
Folks, these people are still out there. I have chewed this over in my mind for an entire week.
In my heart of hearts, I want you to know that I believe that this woman only says what she has been shaped to say and led to believe over time. She hasn’t taken, nor will make, the effort to get to know any person of color. Her bigotry is deeply rooted.
.Perhaps her encounters have been negative. I believe she will go to her grave carrying this on her back.
If we so deeply draw our lines in the sand, then this world is truly doomed.
I challenge all of you to take a look at the good things the other side offers, whether in politics, racial divides, religious ideas, or just general ways of living. Just once, take the step back to ponder.
Your brain won’t blow up.
At least reach the fence and have the conversation.
Thanks for listening.