R.Reese, Daily Bulletin Newspaper , OP-ED, March 24, 1998, B5

 

RACISM OR NOT? SOMETIMES IT'S NOT EASY TO KNOW FOR CERTAIN

A couple of years ago I was having a discussion with one of my African American friends. The discussion topic was racism in America. He reflected on a racist incident he experienced while in a restaurant with his (African American) wife. He and his wife ordered a meal. Some 15 minutes after they had ordered a white couple sat next to them and ordered. The white couple received their food before my friend and his wife. According to my friend, this was blatant racism. I ask the question, “How do you know it was an act of racism?” He responded by saying it was obvious. I then asked him if he saw what the white couple had ordered. His response was no. I asked, “So how do you know the (white) waitress was being racist?” Maybe the white couple ordered soup and salad while you ordered filet mignon and lobster. He did not get it. Most of us do not.

In 1990, Marion Barry, the mayor of Washington D.C., said that he was a victim of racism when he was caught smoking crack cocaine. In 1995, Representative Walter Tucker III was found guilty of nine felony counts of tax evasion and extortion while he was the mayor of Compton, California. He stated that he was a victim of racism. Reverend Henry Lyons, head of the National Baptist Convention USA, was recently charged with racketeering and theft. Was he also a victim of racism (as some suggest)?

Racism does exist in American society. However, some minorities justify the negative results of their actions by automatically alleging racism. Unjustified calls of racism undermine the significance of truly racist acts. We must start to take the extra step in analysis before we automatically assume an incident is racist.

I was recently at an ATM machine in Los Angeles one night at about 10:00 p.m. An Asian male in his 50's and an Asian female in her 30's were using the only two ATM machines. The Asian male was serviced before the Asian female. As he walked to his car I approached the open ATM machine. The Asian male waited in his car until the woman was serviced and safely in her car.

My first thoughts were that he waited because I was an African American male. Was the Asian male a racist because he waited for this woman? I do not know. Maybe he was being a perfect gentleman. I asked myself would he have waited for an African American female to get to her car safely. What if I were a thirty year old white male or a thirty year old Asian male would he have done the same thing? Only by knowing the answers to these questions would I know if his act was truly racist.