scaring white suburbanites case #337

Ok, I haven't documented all of the previous 336 times, but they're filed away in my head. Files that provide a glimpse of minority life (8%) in white American suburbia. Most cases are very mundane and uneventful. I've talked previously about getting tailed by cop cars for no reason. Or cashiers who silently stoneface us while smiling and chit-chatting up the caucasians before and after us. Nothing earth-shattering or revolution-worthy, just examples for studying subtle (and not-so-subtle) expressions of prejudices passed down from past generations like family heirlooms.

At my local WaWa convenience store, a middle aged white lady was about to exit through the same door I was entering. Upon seeing me, she changed directions and exited through a different door on the opposite side. Her next move would clue me in to her views on race. If she kept going in the same direction after exiting the door, then she might not be racist. Maybe a poor sense of direction or forgetful in locating her parked car...but not racist. Now, if she exits the door and turns around 180° to revert to her prior path (before seeing me), then she's a racist. Not only racist but fearful of sharing a door with a person of color. So, I watched her with an eagle eye weighing the meaning behind her next steps. And low and behold, she exits, pulls a 180° and heads in the original direction that was detoured by my unfamiliar presence. I actually grinned at myself and whispered "Goddammit" for even giving her the slightest benefit of the doubt. I looked at my clothes and felt respectable (not like it should matter). But maybe the darkness of night added to her sense of apprehension.

The next morning, I'm standing in line with my wife at the local post office. Its packed like sardines - especially with everyone hugging boxes of holiday gifts to send off. To my immediate left, a four-foot tall white haired old lady had her back to me, scribbling forms at the counter. Suddenly, she looked up in confusion - like she forgot something, turned around and almost crashed into me. Her eyes, set at my arm level, widened - surprised that someone was right behind her back. After preventing a crash, she looked relieved. "Oh, excuse me" was probably on the tip of her tongue. Then she looked up at my face. Her relaxed expression turned to horror. Eyes bugged out and mouth gaped. Like I was about to cut her. The progression of her facial expressions was amusing. In a matter of seconds, she went from confusion to surprise to relief to horror.

Again, I looked at my clothes and felt respectable (not like it should matter). And its not a nighttime in a dark alley...we're in a fluorescent bright post office. The old lady looks away from my face with horror subsiding. Her attention then goes to the person next to me - my wife. The old lady looks at my wife face and gives another fearful look. She didn't look like she feared for her life. More like, "Where on god's green earth am I? And who let these people in here?" Finally she regains her bearings and gets around us. Maybe she went home to pack her bags and relocate. Good luck finding a more white-washed suburb than this one, granny.


kiita said...


you have to wonder what underlies granny's fears. of course there's fear of the brown criminal/rapist/whatever but she just got more scared when she saw the wife.

on the one hand, it's not surprising. but still it's curious. what's the illogical logic of racism in that suburb that transcends christmas cheer --folks sending off packages-- and the post office's government/ community vibe?

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