Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Acting White: Life In The Crosswalk

I was driving from Berkeley the other morning, heading for Oakland, when ethnicity presented a mini-performance right there in the crosswalk. The 'actors' were a young white woman, three teenage black youths (male), followed by an older white man. They were crossing in the same direction at a stop light of a four lane downtown parkway, with a center divider.

As I came to a stop in front of the crosswalk, the walk-signal beckoned the pedestrians. The white woman led off, followed by the three black youths. The white man brought up the rear, as he was tardy to the initial signal. The woman’s pace was exactly in sync to the amount of time she had to get to the other side. The white man moved in double time, to make up for his late start.

The only way to describe the pace of the black boys was as exaggerated sauntering. Now this sauntering is no problem in and of itself, but when combined with traffic it creates a problem. By the time the signal had expired, the three had only made it to the center island, but this was of no matter to them. They continued at the same pace (against the signal) through the second half of their crossing, even while traffic backed up. Long after the white woman and man were safely across, the three innocent-looking black man-boys held-up traffic, with their drooping pants, sideways caps, and no-concern attitudes.

As I watched this, my thoughts swirled about the futures of these boys, beginning with the grounding my mom or dad would have given me, if they had ever gotten a report of such behavior from me. I wondered how these boys would ever convince anyone, black, white or otherwise, to take a chance on them for that first job to jump start a future, where moving fast, when you don’t have to, is the difference between success and failure.

At that crosswalk, I was sad for their plight at the hands of their own obliviousness. But that’s just it, they were not oblivious! Their control and disruption of that intersection was very purposeful, and, sadly, an exercise of the most control (perhaps) they may ever experience in their ‘day late-dollar short’ lives. Yes, I was very sad that my delay of a few minutes was but a minuscule moment next to the self-imposed limitations of these young men.

James C. Collier

READ MOST RECENT POSTS AT ACTING WHITE...

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43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some people will think that you are making mountains out of molehills but I for one agree with your concern. That sort of unwillingness to hold yourself to some sort of behavior that does not impede the community as a whole without being forced to, can ultimately become a detriment to a civil society. I think that we are being overrun with such behavior. Death by a thousand such minuscule cuts.

Anonymous said...

Very real observation Mr. Collier.

I have had issues where I work when going to scan out. Sometimes there will be a young black guy in the way, he sees me coming, realizes what I need to do as I am holding my card in my hand, and does not move until I say "excuse me". I have seen him do the same thing with other white folks but not black people.
You tell me what is going on other than being a nuisance to the old, (49,)white guys..

Also when walking down a hall going out there will be black folks walking toward you, men or women, usually younger, in a line crossing the aisle which is at least five persons wide, and they will not move over to allow you to pass until the absolute last moment and then the space is given just barely and ever so grudgingly.

What are people supposed to think about these people when they are so rude in such simple ways.

And blacks wonder why whites have mixed feeling about race.......

Anonymous said...

This type of behavior seems to be very commonplace in urban centers, particularly in the Northeast. A lot of the affectation that Black youth, in particular, display in public is symptomatic of underlying issues of anger brought about by broken expectations and shattered hopes/dreams resulting from the disintegrating Black family. The feelings of anger and powerlessness that they experienced as children, particularly those who grew up fatherless, translate into an "I don't give a rip what you think" attitude when interacting with others. Whites who try to understand this will be able to view this behavior from a different mental place and learn not to take it as personally.

People who are angry are also much more susceptible to getting roped into clicks/cultic-type groups, such as the Nation of Islam, that trash the powers that be (a euphemism for White people in general) rather than acknowledge that they're angry (and for good reasons, having experienced so much pain and let-down growing up) and seek constructive ways to get on about life. This mindset can stay with some for most, if not all, of their lives. The ability/willingness to forgive those upon whom they've projected all their life frustrations and hardships is a bridge too far for some.

The danger for their own mental and spiritual health is that they can remain trapped in such a death spiral, never arriving at a place where they can forgive those who walked out on them growing up (largely the absentee fathers out there) or those who otherwise hurt/failed them in some way.

The dynamics in the Black community have changed some since the days of overt racism and oppression. As much as some may not wish to admit it, we have far greater access to opportunities today, so it's pretty disingenuous to try to draw a link between problematic attitudes/pathology and bars to access. My analysis of the situation is that what's ailing us most are bad decisions that would hurt any people group if they overly engaged in them (fatherlessness, an inadequate number of two-parent households, failure to take the pursuit of education seriously, etc.).

The glue that used to keep everything together, intact families, is no longer there, so we can expect that things will continue as they are, if not worsen, until this reality is reversed. The challenge, though, is that, as alluded to earlier, one reason why things are where they are is because of unresolved/lingering anger issues. Anger is leading too many of us down a road of bad decision making, bad for us and bad for our offspring.

Anonymous said...

This happened to me at an intersection where pedestrian crossings flowed in the same direction as traffic and were controlled by the same green/red traffic lights as cars.

A young black kid about 10 years old was crossing/walking normally in front of my car. Halfway to the otherside he noticed his traffic light turn yellow and was ready to dash the rest of the way across until he turned and saw that I was a white driver. He then immediatedly switched to a slow hip/hop walk while I had to wait.

p.s. this only happened to me once but race was certainly this kid's motivator

Anonymous said...

i'm a black woman and have seen this behavior by non-black kids as well. but funny, it never made me wonder if the kids would ever be able to find job or why they were dressed they way they are.

is it possible that we're talking about a difference in maturity levels than race? and if that's possible, why wasn't that the go-to? this blog post has irritated me for the morning.

Anonymous said...

Come on white people! What's the big deal? You've had every advantage in American society but you're so thin skinned you can't handle a little ribbing from a teenager? Relax, it's just kids being kids. When the kid hits the next curb you get to go back to being Master of the Universe, and the black kid goes back to being invisible. Why not let him have the smallest element of control he's allowed by our society? If it were some spoiled brat white kids whose only worry in life is which Ivy League school will he get into, then I'd say, yeah, run the prick down. But if as a society we are going to systematically deny a segment of our population basic respect and dignity then we should expect these public displays of disrepect and rudeness. We've earned it.

Shiek Yerbouti said...

Collier you seem to view everything through the narrow racist prism of a white bigot.

Correlating behavior with race is RACISM.

Black teens = bad behavior

White Adults = civilized behavior.

This is very disturbing coming from a black man.

You've never been around unruly white kids?

You don't know of any well behaved black children?

I really wonder what happened to some of you in your lives to make you hate your own people so much.

James C. Collier said...

Readers: Contrary to some opinion, I love black people and myself. The greater suffering of blacks at the hands of others gets far more attention than that which is self-inflicted. That I choose to give voice to that which we do to ourselves is merely my niche. Consider 'creeping normalcy' - "the way a major negative change, that happens slowly in many unnoticed increments, is not perceived as objectionable".

Anonymous said...

Rev Collier
All of us arent going to make it to Beauhland!

uptownsteve said...

"The greater suffering of blacks at the hands of others gets far more attention than that which is self-inflicted."

This is so much garbage.

How the heck is some silly teenagers swaggering through an intersection representative of "self-inflicted suffering"?

Why do you black conservatives cosign the same racist nonsense of white bigots?

Whites are far more likely to be harmed by someone of their own race yet have no problem making the face of crime in America black.

What I don't get is why black folks would do it.

atldude said...

Anonymous@9:06pm - I think you eloquently wrote what is in my head. "Anger is leading too many of us down a road of bad decision making, bad for us and bad for our offspring." And I would add bad for society as a whole, which is where it effects me directly as a member of this society.

Shiek and uptownsteve, is it possible for someone, especially a black man, to criticize a segment of the black population without being called a racist? Even if it's true?

also uptownsteve, if you look at the stats in most cities the face of crime IS black and the face of crime and violence to other blacks is definitely black! The biggest threat to black people is black people. The reasons, I think, are close to what anon@9:05pm said.

uptownsteve said...

"is it possible for someone, especially a black man, to criticize a segment of the black population without being called a racist?"

Correlating behavior with race is RACISM and for a black man to do it to his own people is moronic.



The rest of your post is just out and out garbage.

In hispanic barrios the face of crime is black????

Or when the Southern and European ethnics were at the bottom of the social ladder in urban America weren't they the preponderance of the street criminals?

Isn't most violent crime INTRACIAL?

Aren't most people their own worst enemies?

What's wrong with you black conservatives?

You really wish you were white, don't you?

uptownsteve said...

atldude,

My son is 22 years old, wears baggy pants and cornrows and listens to hiphop.

He's also a member of the National Honor Society, a graduate of Howard University and in the second year of the MBA program at George Washington University.

Yet from what I get from your conversation if you were to see him in the street you would automatically assume he was from that "segment of the black population" that you despise so much.

And the sad thing is that you seem to have no clue how totally screwed up that is.

Especially coming from a black person.

James C. Collier said...

uptownsteve: (I could be wrong, but...) your well-earned pride for your son's accomplishments suggest that holding up traffic was not one of his youthful pastimes. You also must know that he is an outlier. With your urging, he has made choices that serve him, including where to invest his emotional capital for greatest return. On another note, I have seen white kids play this 'hold-up' game, but it usually ends with them getting dusted by a driver (often black) who knows the game too.

uptownsteve said...

"You also must know that he is an outlier."

Are you actually saying that MOST black males are ne-er do wells????

Or is it just the ones wearing cornrows?

Or the ones who listen to hiphop??

"On another note, I have seen white kids play this 'hold-up' game, but it usually ends with them getting dusted by a driver (often black) who knows the game too."

Wow. You got serious issues my brother.

Were you picked on a lot as a child?

James C. Collier said...

Psycho-comedy notwithstanding, your son's focus on education is what makes him an outlier (unfortunately). I sense that you know this, but like to argue for other reasons. Truth be told, I was known to sport some cornrows at the same time I was hitting the books (at that age). Nothing wrong with that.

uptownsteve said...

"Psycho-comedy notwithstanding, your son's focus on education is what makes him an outlier (unfortunately)."

Collier must I remind you that Howard University is a historically black college and has many black male students and thousands of black male alumni?

Jee-suz.

lincolnperry said...

@James C Collier...DISCLAIMER
Readers: Contrary to some opinion, I love black people and myself. The greater suffering of blacks at the hands of others gets far more attention than that which is self-inflicted.

Sometimes Mr Collier, we have to love black people more than they hate themselves. Gotta agree with earlier poster, everyone aint going cross over into Canaan land.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Collier I'd say you ruffled some feathers AND I'd say you could rest your case too. Many of these posts have proved your point wildly beyond your own expectations.

Keep up the reality.

Opened Eyes said...

James,

Interesting incident. Odd reaction (on your part). "Acting white" indeed!

You wrote of these kids' SELF-IMPOSED limitations, and yet you wrote to uptownsteve that his pride for his son's accomplished is to be credited to good parenting:

With your urging, he has made choices that serve him, including where to invest his emotional capital for greatest return.

So, black-male limitations are self-imposed, but black-male success comes about because it's encouraged by others? Come now, you can't have it both ways.

I think your intellect subscribes to the fallacy of the "personal responsibility" mantra of white conservatives (who never of their own initiative utter the words and reality of "white privilege," unless to deny such realities exist). Nevertheless, the countervailing nature of reality -- of what holds many black people back, and of what pushes some lucky ones forward -- does sometimes poke through your own fantasized submission to white-framed constructions of a supposed social reality.

Anonymous said...

First of all, Mr. Collier can say whatever the hell he wants to say And to those blacks who are getting their prison bitch panties in a bunch, I say to you, "Grow up and get real." The truth is very difficult to swallow.

"lincolnperry" said it nicely; that it takes love to blacks on the right path. And by telling the truth, Mr. Collier is demonstrating the utmost love, not self-hate. Truth=love.

We "white people" call white racists out all the time, yet we don't get the flak that Mr. Collier is receiving in this blog.

The "exaggerated saunter" is a result of slave-era feet-dragging in protest to the slave owner.

Jeff

Anonymous said...

JCC, I am outraged that you are blaming the victim here!

The real problem I see here is the racist, patriarchal, white supremacist creation of crosswalk signals that enforce an oppressive false "Walk"/"Don't Walk" dichotomy designed to sow discord and wreak havoc in the black community.

The only solution is to adopt a more culturally inclusive system that represents the entire spectrum of street-crossing activity, from walking to meandering to Crip-walking.

uptownsteve said...

"First of all, Mr. Collier can say whatever the hell he wants to say And to those blacks who are getting their prison bitch panties in a bunch, I say to you, "Grow up and get real." The truth is very difficult to swallow."

And what exactly is "the truth" about us black folks according to you?

BTW, "anonymous" posters are cowards and pussies.

uptownsteve said...

Opened Eyes

"So, black-male limitations are self-imposed, but black-male success comes about because it's encouraged by others? Come now, you can't have it both ways.

I think your intellect subscribes to the fallacy of the "personal responsibility" mantra of white conservatives (who never of their own initiative utter the words and reality of "white privilege," unless to deny such realities exist). Nevertheless, the countervailing nature of reality -- of what holds many black people back, and of what pushes some lucky ones forward -- does sometimes poke through your own fantasized submission to white-framed constructions of a supposed social reality."

ON POINT.

Dan said...

First of all, English is not my first language, so forgive me for any grammar or spelling mistake that I may make.

@To the people criticizing Mr. Collier

Yes, we all know that racism is alive and it's taking its toll. Nevertheless, as Mr. Collier said, that's a topic that has been extensively covered in other sites.

I wonder why are so many black people here showing so much resistance to constructive self-criticism. Without self-criticism Western civilization would not have made it this far. It is necessary for any group/nation/culture/community in order to make progress. Are black-americans the exception? I don't think so.

I understand that you may not want to receive criticism from whites, as they will never be able to understand the black-american experience. But can't you people take some criticism from a fellow black?

And the whole "but the white kids do it too!" should not be used to excuse the bad behavior of kids from the black community. I've never seen a non-black parent excusing the bad behivior of his child on the grounds that "black kids do it too!".

Yes, the anger of the three black kids mentioned by Mr. Collider may be justified. Life may have not been fair to them, but that doesn't mean that what they were doing was right. As long as the black community keeps excusing bad behavior on the grounds that it is a result from "white opression", bad behaviour in the community will continue to happen.

Anonymous said...

uptownsteve: I said my name is Jeff. I don't have an account and I am not going to create one. It's Jeff. Jeff. Jeff. Got it?! And the what the hell is uptownsteve, if not anonymous? Is that even your real name? What's your last name you damn coward? What the hell is wrong with you? Uptown where?

The "truth" is that, at some point you are going to have make a decision to be a part of society or against it. Whether you like it or not, you are a part of American society. You have enough working against already you so, why would you undermine your own success? Whether you believe it or not, you have a choice. You really do. The truth is that descendants of African slaves have to work three times as hard to make it in this world. That is the truth. It ain't pretty and it ain't nice, but it is the truth. And you have to trust me that most whites out there are good, non-racist people and want nothing but positivity for African Americans. It's your choice to remain in this "mind-place".

To anon 12:43am

Racist crosswalks? That is crazy talk! If the little "walking man" was brown would you feel better? I know that slavery did a real doozy on people of African descent, but racist crosswalks? That is some paranoid doo doo. It's a damn shame. Slavery was so devastating that we got people here saying that a damn crosswalk is a racist construct.

I've got news for you! Move your ass or forever be in chains. Your new reality is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

uptownsteve said...

"The "truth" is that, at some point you are going to have make a decision to be a part of society or against it."

LMAO!!!!

You pathetic clown.

I come from at least 3 generations of black American men who have served this country in uniform.

I am a homeowner, a taxpayer and lawabiding citizen.

I guess your interpretation of "being a part of American society" is grinning in the faces of white bigots and never acknowledging anything resembling white supremacy."

Jeff buddy, your time is soon coming to an end and in your heart you know it.

Whites will soon be a numerical minority in America and we have a black President.

Guys like you don't call the plays anymore and you're scared to death about it.

So you better damn sure learn to live and deal in this country with people who not only look differently than you but who see things diametrically different than you.

Or YOU'RE the one whose gonna be hurting.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous uptownsteve: You are making a fundamental assumption that is inaccurate.

I KNOW that whites are on the way out. SO WHAT! Where I live we are already numerically minor. SO WHAT!

Whites will very soon not be in power anymore. Then what are you going to do? Are you going to enslave us again?

Ascend. But don't ascend to spite white people.

My comments about being a part of society COULD be directed at you, but I don't know you and it is not directed at you. My comment is directed toward those fools who drag their feet.

You are automatically assuming that I am racist and that I hate you and that I am a "white bigot". I am here to have a discussion, but you called me a coward, a pussy and a pathetic clown.

And don't threaten me!

You said: "So you better damn sure learn to live and deal in this country with people who not only look differently than you but who see things diametrically different than you."

You are, again, ASSUMING that I have some fundamental problem with non-whites. PREPOSTEROUS! How do you logically come to that conclusion.

I am NOT a bigot. I am NOT a racist. I DO NOT hate you. I am NOT a conservative. I DESPISE racism of ALL forms and am a well-educated man. You are NOT going to win this argument because your assumptions are fundamentally flawed.

Don't even tell me you are in Uptown Chicago.

James C. Collier said...

Reminder - Post Rules: No Profanity, Name-calling, or Gratuitous acts.

Anonymous said...

uptownsteve: I've done some homework on you and I've found that you have a problem with Black conservatives. A lot of what you've said is agreeable with me. But you just have to stoop to a childish level.

I, too, have served in the Armed Forces and fought for your right, my right and Mr. Collier's right to say whatever you/I/he please(s).

I came to this blog, not because I am a conservative, or a bigot, but because I am sick and tired of Blacks saying that they cannot possibly be racist. Blacks will not get away with beating up white people just because we are white and you're angry.

Just keep dragging your feet and we will just keep chugging along as we always have.

Oh...and it seems that you are not in Chicago after all. Yes, that's right, I know who you are now. You're scared and I don't blame you. But you need to back up and think before you speak/write.

Just remember something, I love you.

Jeff

downtownmartian said...

The whole arc of this conversation is rather humorous.

Uptownsteve is so offended by Collier calling out some wanna-be toughs that he left all reason and logic at the door in order to register his offense with slander and arguments by anecdote. Then he accused another commenter of being anonymous, the pot calling the kettle black. (Whups, hope he doesn't take offense to that either.) Now he goes all black-militant, because his people are taking over the country (um, not really) led by a (half) black prez! Where will his outrage take him next, as it worms around every logical barrier in its path? Lynch Whitey? And will he ever figure out that calling people racists on the internet doesn't win the argument, and makes him look stoopid?

It doesn't take a genius to see that MOST young black men are a real piece of work, and blindsteviewonder should be thanking Mr. Collier for addressing the problem as a friend to the community. If he wants to see what other, more adversarial people think, then maybe Collier can introduce him to some of his white-nationalist homie's (Dennis Mangan) online friends. We can really throw the popcorn on the microwave then. Race wars over the internet can be so fun and productive. Do any of us have jobs anymore? Or has the recession made us all rich with an abundance of leisure time? Must be really really swell to be part of that "talented tenth", mister!!

Anonymous said...

A quick google of "uptownsteve" reveals him to be an established comment troll.

uptownsteve said...

"It doesn't take a genius to see that MOST young black men are a real piece of work"

You on board with this Collier?

No evasions.

YES or NO?

uptownsteve said...

"Blacks will not get away with beating up white people just because we are white and you're angry."

You beat up any white folks lately Collier?

Why don't you stand up to these racists black man?

James C. Collier said...

Well, well, step out for a second and things heat up. As for my righteous indignation to comments on either side that I disagree with - hyperbole and generalization goes with the blog landscape. I chase those type of comments by others no more than I chase them with you, Steve. What I try to do is see the kernel of truth (if any) typically awashed in said verbal histrionics. Amid the back and forth is a discussion that needs to be had - let's try to keep it clean.

uptownsteve said...

Could you answer my question please?

uptownsteve said...

Nevermind James.

Sorry for my abrasive behavior, guys. It was not right, I just got a little steamed, and have acted foolish today.

I'll leave you all alone now.

uptownsteve said...

That was not my post above.

You allow impersonators too Collier?

As long as they're on the "team" I guess.

This site is so typical.

White righties and their black syncophants feel totally comfortable with venting their hate and fear of black people.

And when a black person like myself stands up to them they cry "victimhood."

Too funny.

uptownsteve said...

No, I'm the real uptownsteve.

I behaved poorly, tried to apologize, now some idiot wants to keep the drama flowing by posting under my name.

Anonymous cowards are all over the internet.

James C. Collier said...

We all are 'pieces of work', as I see it, with disparate impacts. I disagree with those who generalize, which is not the same as recognizing disproportion -e.g. all black men are violent versus black men act violently, in disproportion. The first assertion is false, while the second is sadly true.

James C. Collier said...

I am not-familiar with comment impersonation, and how to thwart it. Can someone fill me in?

uptownsteve said...

Thanks for clarifying your position, Collier.


I will read your whole blog and expect to learn much from it.

James C. Collier said...

Ok, Unfortunately I must shut down comments on this post and investigate this impersonating - steve's last comment is certainly bogus. What is the world coming too!