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Posts Tagged ‘First Impressions’

A few years ago, before I replaced my 1996 Ford Ranger with a newer model, I stopped by my bank one evening to get some cash from the ATM. The bank was closed and the only ATM is a walk-up. Before I got out of my truck, I looked around. There was only one other vehicle in the parking lot, a compact car that could have been a Nissan or a Mazda. It was the sort of car that people of modest means drive, and it was much shinier than my old truck.

A young black man stood at the ATM. Regardless of race, I would have taken a minute to assess whether he seemed to be a safe person. He looked clean and respectable, dressed in slacks and a button up shirt, no tie. He might have been a teacher.

When he glanced my way, I read alarm in his face. Through my tinted windows, he probably couldn’t see who was driving, and his first thought might have been “red neck.” So I stepped out of my truck. He visibly relaxed when he saw I was just a little ole lady.

I kept a respectful distance to let him finish his banking before I approached the ATM. We nodded at each other and said, “Good evening,” and he was on his way.

Sometimes when I go to the grocery store at night, there are knots of young people crossing the parking lot. All kinds of young people: students, athletes, country boys, goths, and groups of kids, both white and black, loudly flaunting their individuality in the face of conformity. I’ve learned to see them for who they are. Most are quite harmless, and many are courteous.

How miserable would I be if I reacted in fear based on their appearance? Instead, I smile, remembering my youth and how the older generation was affronted by how we dressed and wore our hair.

If the young man at the bank had worn a tee shirt and dreadlocks, I might have taken two minutes, instead of one, to assess him for safety. But what if I’d been a white man with a beer belly, how safe would he have felt when I got out of my truck, even with a friendly smile on my face?

That he would have been afraid of me, based on prior experience, without getting to know me, is a sad thought.

 

 

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