To the Editor:
The police shootings of two black men and the massacre of police in Dallas [and Baton Rouge] recently should make all of us stop to examine our attitudes and interactions with our fellow Americans.
I was fortunate enough to be raised in a large military family. We lived in integrated communities here in the US and in Germany. We were taught at home and school to value a person because of their deeds, not the color of their skin. However, in the late ’80s, when one of my sisters decided to marry a black man here in the Richmond area, I was concerned that they might encounter some level of discrimination. Following their marriage and the birth of their daughter in the early ’90s, I visited often and saw the discrimination in person. Going to local restaurants involved waiting in line for some time, while white patrons arriving after us in parties of the same number were seated first. I would finally request the manager and we would be seated, again receiving slow service while trying to order and receive our food. Service in area stores followed suit; clerks basically ignored us until I requested the manager. My sister and her husband, apparently used to this level of treatment, said it wasn’t worth “making waves.”
This wasn’t only in stores or restaurants. On three separate occasions I was riding alone with my brother-in-law when we were stopped by white Chesterfield County police officers, once for speeding, once for a non-functioning taillight, and a third time for “just checking.” In the first two cases, the officers were abrupt to the point of rudeness and inpatient until they apparently noticed my “white face” watching them from the passenger seat. The stop quickly ended with a noticeable difference in attitude. On the third occasion, the white officer was rude and insulting, and once he noticed me, even more so. I ventured to inquire about the reason for the stop and was basically told it wasn’t my business. Again, my – brother-in-law did not want to “make waves”, and since it was the police, I left it alone. Could the fact that my young, black brother-in-law was driving a relatively new red truck have had anything to do with it? I think so.
Some of you may remember when the CBS “60 Minutes” show did a segment where they sent a nicely dressed white man and a nicely dressed black man out separately to drop off shirts at the same cleaners, purchase something in the same local store and have lunch in the same restaurant. The level of service was very low for the black man; he was even charged more for the cleaning!
The Cherokee Indian tribe has a saying: “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.” Perhaps more white folks need to do a “ride-along” with a black or Hispanic friend to see if you are treated equally in various situations. If not, make a difference and speak up.