Earlier this week, I was annoyed, was again, by the act of a young black man crossing the middle of the street in traffic. It's an irrational annoyance, but one I've harbored. It never occurred to me to think about this more closely or analyze why I might be annoyed.
That afternoon, I was fresh out of a social work meeting. Our social workers are a diverse bunch and that afternoon a spirited discussion about mistrust that many African Americans have of the medical community occurred. Tuskegee was brought up, something I still want to read more about, and the experiments that were done on African American servicemen.
Right after seeing that young man cross in the middle of traffic, I saw a young white man standing and waiting for the light. Tension I hadn't realized I'd been holding drained out of my body. See how easy it is, I thought, to follow the rules.
That thought was concious enough that I "heard" it and my brain went to Tuskegee. Suddenly I saw how the "rules" were made by and for people like myself and that white man at the stop light. When rules are in line with your cultural experience they are, of course, easy to follow and you often don't feel any discomfort.
But those young black men who cross in the middle of traffic...the rules in our society weren't made for them or by people like them. It doesn't make sense to them to go to the end of the block when they want to cross where it makes sense to them. I know that this is an exagerated example of how it is that discrimination may be experienced (and really, probably crossing at the light is just safter, in general...which might be another discussion for another time) but it will hopefully let me let go of some of my annoyance in the future.