To start with, I want to post an odd etymological statement about the nature of words.
Racism = the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races
Sexism = the prejudice that members of one sex are intrinsically superior to members of other sex
Atheism = the prejudice that members of reality are intrinsically superior to imaginary, made up beings
Feminism = the prejudice that members of society who are femenine are intrinsically superior to members who are masculine
Ok, I'm being silly. But ...
Ok, settle down boys and girls. Uncle Easy is going to tell you about a story from his youth.
It was a surprisingly warm September night when Uncle Easy, then a young college sophmore, had a hankering for a Subway sandwich. He and an Egyptian friend headed out of the small southern city they were going to school in (Easy studying English and History and his Egyptian friend studying Religious Studies) to the Subway located on the edge of town. It was located at a gas station.
I parked my car along the side of the building and we headed around front to go inside. It was around 11:30 p.m.
Three youngish black men who were hanging around the front door leaned up from the walls and yelled something at my friend and I - we were approaching them to enter the building.
My friend said "Huh?" (Neither of us understood them.)
Two of them came towards me, bumping chests with mine. I said nothing, in shock.
The other began to punch and kick my friend, knocking him to the ground. I started to step back, so I could move around them. One produced a very very short pen knife and said "What you gonna do, white boy?"
I'm going to stop talking about the events now, they are bothering me far more than I thought they would, now 9 years later. Besides, that wasn't the story - that was the prologue.
The story here is what happened in the 9 years following. I'll tell it chronologically.
In High School, years before this event took place - you could probably call me race-ish-ist. I was dating a black girl, but I believed, genetically, that black people were more inclined (by n%) to be violent and or conniving. No stats, just anecdotes and observations. Embarrassing, in hindsight.
This event in college sent me reeling into far more dangerous mental territory. My theory, now proven by an act of unprovoked random violence by (of all the races in the world) a group of BLACKS, was cemented.
But what wasn't cemented was my actions. What do I do? What do I say? How do I deal with the "reality" that every thuggish-looking black guy is a potential attacker?
About 3 or 4 nights (it was always the nights that were worst) later, sleeping on my air mattress in my dorm, I, reenacting in my mind what I should've done, gripped the plastic of the mattress so hard that I ripped it, and my fingernails tore the flesh of my palm. I sat on the floor and looked at my bloody hand and cried for the first time since it happened.
This anger/pain lasted for a solid 2 years. Angry night-thoughts (because I wasn't asleep) would occur a few times a month.
For this period of time, I lived in complete fear. I started carrying a loaded shotgun in my car at all times. If I saw young black men at a place I wanted to go at night, I would keep driving. If I saw a black man on the street, I would turn the other way or cross the road.
Over time, I met more and more black men in my academic experience. I realized that the fact that these good people existed wasn't really consistent with racial views. So I started blaming culture. Young black men that fit that "culture" were my new targets. Thugs. Baggy pants, etc.
That stage lasted for the next year or so. Eventually, I had enough incidental contact with young, thuggish black men that I started to get cocky. I was older now, and had gone over how I'd deal with a confrontation like that time and time again in my head. I was prepared for someone to victimize me again.
I started to test fate. Often armed with a hidden knife, I'd take opportunities to engage these thuggish black men. But take care in what you're about to read.
I realize now that what I REALLY wanted was a "round 2" for that night in 2001. I wanted to be back there, but this time to defend myself.
I'm not a thug. If I went looking for a fight I'd be no better than they were.
No, I had to play the "victim" ... I had to wait until they had made the violent action before I could react. I could not provoke or insult. I was going to be the good guy.
So you know what this meant for my little "plan?" Engaging thuggish black men in honest, polite, everyday conversation. I went looking for vengeance and found catharsis.
Any intelligent reader of this blog won't wonder what happened next. After a couple years of talking to young thuggish black man after young thuggish black man - the men I had been cringing at and avoiding for the previous 3 years - I never got a chance to use my defensive tactics.
Hell, I never even got to the point of THINKING about using those tactics. What I found were mostly uneducated (but not always) poor young men who were living some tough lives. The were decent human beings. Sometimes they were filling up their baby-momma's cars with gas because she lost her job. Sometimes, they were waiting for the bus to drop off a job application. Sometimes they were having a shitty day because they spilled COFFEE ON THEIR SHIRT. No shit man, I can fucking relate.
And eventually I came to the realization: those guys who attacked us almost a decade ago weren't evil thuggish black men. They were people who did a bad thing.
After this realization (and at this point I REALLY thought I'd figured out this whole deal) I realized something wrong that I did that night.
I looked at the ground and gave them a wide berth as we walked towards the entrance. I didn't make eye contact, I kept away from them (as did my friend.)
Maybe I was the 30th white person to do that to them that night. Maybe I was the 10,000th white person to do that to them in their lifetime. Maybe I was the millionth.
As I look back, if as soon as I had walked around the building, I had smiled at them and said something like "How's it going guys? Having a good night?" that violence might not've happened.
If I'd treated them like human beings, instead of unstable animals, I might've been able to not only stop the violence that happened that night, but stopped some violence to someone else down the road.
Ok, boys and girls, story time is over. Make sure you brush your teeth and leave the toilet seat the way you found it. Now it's time for the adults to talk.
This is a very old post "Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced" that inspired this.
When I read that post, I instantly recognized the perspective of the afraid woman. It was exactly how I felt as I was psychologically recovering from my assault (and in case it isn't clear, what they did was wrong and I wouldn't hesitate to defend myself if it happened again and I DO think they should be arrested and charged, there is no excuse for violence). HOWEVER ...
What Phaedra Starling doesn't realize is that when she behaves in such a way, she is limiting her exposure to the vast, vast, vast majority of strangers who will never raper her and the vast majority of strangers who would never rape her. (notice, please that there is a difference - there is a possibility to come into contact with a rapist who does not rape you.)
This is all fine and dandy, but the real reason I wrote this is because of something I found on another feminist site (critical of Phaedra) that gave this statistic:
1 in 6 women will be the victim of a sexual assault in their lifetime.
Now I've heard that before, but only this post juxtaposed that with this one:
1 in 6 men will be the victim of a random violent assault in their lifetime.
Phaedra's example and I are the same. We're both the same afraid people going through life afraid of the cat in the box that we can't see.
We both thought the cat was alive far, far, far too often. And we ended up hurting people because of it.