|Young Whites Perpetuate Their Ancestors Racist Attitudes
5/8/2013 2:18:53 PM
By Barney Blakeney
The experience at the store the other day left me feeling weird.
A friend and I were in a local retail store making a purchase for his business. My friend needed assistance, but no attendant was around.
I’d noticed a young white guy, apparently in his 20s, standing nearby. I thought the guy was another customer (it turned out he was an off-duty employee). He wasn’t wearing a uniform. He walked up to us and said, “You boys need some help?”
Now, both my friend and I are in our 60s. People tell me I look younger, but I’m a 1952 baby. My friend sports a full beard that is all white. He’s one of those premature gray people. His head and face is white. neither of us, by any stretch of the imagination, can be considered boys.
I didn’t catch it. I’m not as thin-skinned as my friend. But when that kid called us boys, my friend burst out in disbelief.
“Boys!”, he exclaimed, “I know he didn’t just call us boys.” Then in answer to the young man’s question my friend retorted, “I want to make a purchase, But a man wants to make the purchase.”
I was still just standing there. The kid now directed his attention to my friend and sarcastically corrected himself, “Okay, can I help you men,” he said sarcastically and proceeded to address my friend as ‘sir’ from there on.
The kid assisted us and we walked away. But all the way to the checkout counter we went on about this kid calling us boys. An older Black guy, an employee in uniform, had picked up on what went down and went over to talk to the kid after we left him.
When we got to the car after checking out, the kid walked up behind us offering to help load the purchase onto my friend’s truck. He apologized for any offense saying he was new to the area and didn’t realize he had offended us until the old Black guy explained things to him.
My friend and I told the kid that we had grown up in this traditional southern community hearing white folks of any age refer to our parents as boys and girls no matter our ancestors’ age.
I admired the kid’s gumption. He could have let the whole thing drop after talking with the old Black employee. Instead, he walked out to the parking lot to make amends. I felt bad that I had suggested me and my friend take our offense to the kid’s supervisor.
I’m not disillusioned that the kid’s life will change as a result of that incident. Maybe he gained a little more sensitivity, maybe not.
What I gained from it was confirmation that a lot of young people, Black and white, still don’t get it. They either haven’t been taught, or haven’t learned the history that we need to take us to a better place. They don’t make the connect between what went down in the past and what we do today.
Every day I run into young white people who haven’t a clue about the socio-economic and political history that dictate how we act today. They have no sensitivity about the history that affords them the prominence they enjoy.
The term ‘entitlement’ today is a buzzword many associate with Black folks. But when it comes to entitlements, no other group in America enjoys as many entitlements as today’s youth, especially white youth.
I’m not surprised that a young white boy, some 40 years my junior, 60 years after my birth would so callously consider me, he would just assume it is okay to call me a boy. Professionalism be damned, the fact that my friend was making a purchase worth hundreds of dollars be damned. To that kid, we were just two Black guys.
A friend of mine recently sent me a copy of an editorial printed in the NAACP magazine, “The Crisis” in which editor-in-chief Jhabari Asim wrote about U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s remark in his 1857 brief in the Dred Scott vs. Sanford case. Taney said that Blacks were unfit to associate with whites in either social or political relations and that Blacks have no rights which a white man is bound to respect.
More than 60 years later, at my birth, that mentality still exists.
That’s what I lament when I see young white kids who will swear up and down they’re not racist. They had nothing to do with slavery in the past and don’t have anything against Black folks now.
They go to their entitlement schools, work at their entitlement jobs and live in their entitlement homes and communities with the self delusion that everything’s okay.
I fear that self-deception even more than their ancestors’ racism because it means they’re going to carry those attitudes into the future.