This suspect always fits the description

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

After three months of working for the News Herald, I have finally found a regular lunch spot.

I will refrain from saying what eatery it is that has caught my fancy, but I will say this; in this heat, an all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar is not only good eating but also smart eating.

Nevertheless, I was doing lunch the way I do most days, solo, and two white women came to eat and were seated two tables away.

As they got up to visit the salad bar, one of them paused, glanced over at me and went back to her table to retrieve what looked to be several dollars from her purse and tried to inconspicuously slide them in her pocket.

Let me explain something clearly, bigotry is not something that can be explained or understood, it can only be experienced.

Most people I know are not bigots, but quite many are indeed prejudiced, and that goes for blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics.

Comedians, especially black comedians, have made a living telling racially charged jokes.

The basic premise is that blacks have a right to address racial issues in jest, because of the understood suffering blacks endured in the early inception of our nation.

Most white people make every attempt to stay clear of racial jokes, at least in the company of blacks, for fear of being branded a racist and having to endure the public backlash of a liberal media.

Unfortunately, dodging racial tensions have become more difficult and important than the underlying process that allows for racial stereotypes to develop in the first place.

Did that woman really think that I was going to get up from my table where I was having lunch to go steal some piddling dollars from her purse?

For those of you who are accustomed to seeing me dressed like LL Cool J, on this particular day I was actually wearing slacks, a polo style shirt and brown oxfords.

I was also reading a book that I had borrowed from Thadd; a book written by a nationally known white sportscaster whose picture is on the cover.

So let me get this straight, this woman looks at a man having lunch, wearing slacks, shirt and shoes, reading a book with a white man on the cover, and she was afraid that I was going to steal from her?

Sure, but the question is why?

I understand this dynamic, sort of.

I like to think that I’m a smart enough person to know that the color of a person’s skin does not indicate anything except possibly the race of their parents.

In this week’s News Herald we’ve already run stories about a home invader, a bank robber, a road rage murderer and two wannabe drug kingpins, all of whom were described in part as &uot;a black male&uot;.

Again, I understand this dynamic, sort of.

I wonder however if instead of a ‘black male’ at the table, it was North Carolina House Speaker Jim Black and former state representative Michael Decker sitting there, would she have been concerned about either of them stealing from her?

From what I’ve been reading lately, she should’ve been.

The differences between people primarily lies in perception, and perception is based on a person’s knowledge.

If that knowledge is formed by years of academic study, good family values and interaction with varieties of people, then the perception of that person will probably be influenced by brainpower.

If that knowledge is passed down from other individuals whose perception was flawed due to their lack of intellectualism, then you’ll get what bigots of today have to offer.

So for the sake of creating a new perspective that doesn’t make articles like this appear controversial, let’s replace the word bigot with the word flawed, and let’s call non-bigots regular.

I’m accustomed to dealing with flawed people as much as I’m used to dealing with regular people.

I went to college in Nebraska, where blacks total only two percent of the state’s population.

Most of my career has been spent in management or administration where my minority status doubles as soon as I enter the building.

So what have I done to not be turned into flawed person?

I don’t know, it never seemed to occupy my mind long enough to even care. I just accept the fact that there are flawed people in the world who will dislike me for things that I have no control over.

The restaurant situation isn’t the only time in recent months that I’ve been obviously sized up and graded before I’ve even opened my mouth, but it is the one incident that has left the worse taste in mouth, because all I was doing was having lunch.