Thursday, October 04, 2007


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.


Aravis said...

I feel this sort of annoyance with anyone who thinks that the rules don't apply to them. Oh, a minor thing here or there is fine, but those who truly think that they can do whatever they want... this drives me crazy to a degree which probably calls for closer examination.

P'tit-Loup said...

I think for rule governed folks, those who do not follow rules rub the wrong way. I'm a long time jay walker. Where I grew up it always made sense to do so, no one waits for the light, and no car would ever stop to let you go by!

I like your parallel Spin with the tuskegee experiment, and I am sure there are many more such experiences that we are unaware of. Buth then again, the one specific individual crossing the street that day may just be doing so to annoy others.

Cody Bones said...

When you say a young black man, the word that jumps out at me is young. Teenagers just do this sort of thing, they are stupid by every measure. I don't think you will see old black men, or old white men jaywalking like this. This is youthful behavior, no more no less. I did it, and my kids do it. I was yelled at by adults, and I yell at my kids. If they don't die, they eventually learn. I don't think that it goes any deeper than that. Hope your feeling better Spins