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  1. #1

    New Neighbor Problem: and I got called a racist!

    I'm white. The guy I had a confrontation with is black. There are several black forum members here on SSG, surely more, and I'll want to hear their opinion on this, as well as - and possibly more than - everyone else's. I'll continue.

    I'm a Star Trek fan. Consequently, that means I grew up hoping to see more of an evolved and colorblind society, and I have heroes like Captain Benjamin Sisko and Commander Tuvok. Star Wars fans have Lando Calrissian, Captain Panaka, Captain Typho, and most importantly Mace Windu - not to mention there's Blade the vampire hunter. I'm also a Democrat who understands that a colorblind society must be one in which further income equality between the races must be achieved to prevent crimes of relative deprivation (jealousy motivated). It would help prevent and abolish prejudice - which I think is different from racism.

    As I continue, I found that I am guilty of being prejudiced - maybe. Your opinions will be of interest to me. The only thing blacks I admire have to do with this is that I don't believe I'm a racist, "Archie Bunker," or Trent Lott - who I think has increased the racial tensions in this country quite a bit this past month...

    The situation.

    Background.

    This guy moved in to my apartment complex maybe about 9 months ago or sometime just slightly less than that.

    I first met him when he approached me in the parking lot as I was leaving my carport. In a voice that stutters - an indication he either stutters, or he was nervous about talking to me - he informed me that he noticed someone peaking into my truck windows during the middle of the night - and wanted to warn me that somebody was looking around. I told him I had an alarm on my truck - and it does not operate with a remote. You must have the key in the ignition to turn it off, or it will beep my horn until the battery dies. It came stock and I don't want the convenience of a remote alarm that might be on somebody else's frequency. Meanwhile, I suggested that our complex's video cameras would also catch anyone actually doing something to the vehicles in the carports. He said that the cameras were just for show, and they don't actually have them turned on any more so that they save power - or paying someone to monitor or tape whatever the cameras capture. I asked him how he knew so much. He told me that he works in the crime prevention business and provides security. I thought this might mean he's a rent-a-cop security guard. I only see him at home in the complex, usually late at night, and he's wearing sweats or something of that nature. The point being I've never seen him in uniform.

    He asked me for my phone numbers in case he saw anything else wrong in the parking lots. Having a public consulting business, I have no qualms about giving out business cards. I'm sure I provided him with one, thanked him, and was on my way.

    I did find his stuttering to be a little unnerving, and his actions as well. I've lived here 5 years, and this is the first time something like this has ever come up - about the parking, meeting a neighbor under these circumstances, etc.

    Why was he stuttering?

    1) he stutters, and it is a speech disability he suffers from, or social confidence he may lack.

    2) he has difficulty with strangers, or new white people he encounters if he is not used to that (there are parts of San Diego still pretty segregated, my immediate community is pretty mixed, but a white majority of college students is most predominant). This gentleman may be in his late 20's up to his 40's. It is hard for me to tell his age.

    3) He is nervous because he or someone he knows, was up to something and were interested in my truck's security, having my phone numbers, etc. This might be because there was a criminal persuasion operating there, and I also considered that there might've been an alternative 'orientation' operating there. I'm also straight, and not interested, but can relate to the fact that I've been nervous before talking to someone I liked - that being a girl in my case - but I'm sure it works that way for anybody of any orientation. I don't think he is interested in alternative relationships by my first impression, but I don't know him, and don't know many people of alternative lifestyles.

    I'm 100% sure he wanted to demostrate to me that he was being helpful and considerate of me as a neighbor, at the very least - no matter what the motivation.

    End of the first part of the story.



    The Confrontation:

    I woke up very early Saturday morning, like 4am, and started doing my laundry in the public laundry room because no one was using it at that time. My goal was to finish before Wal*Mart opened at 7, and make a morning toy run - and from there to Target at 8am, and TRU at 9:30. All the collectors would be out shopping - generally 8 or more at each store here - and if Padme from the Droid Factory was shipped to my stores, they would be sold out after the first 5 minutes the doors were open.

    I was leaving Target at 8:05 am when my cell phone rang. It was this neighbor. He said he found my phone in the laundry room.

    I have a cordless Panasonic phone for my home line, which has great range, and I sometimes carry it with me to the laundry room if I'm expecting a call I don't want to miss (business, a girl, etc.) But when doing wash from 5-7 am or so, why would I be carrying my phone? Who was going to call me? I had my cell on me in a pocket, and most of my SW collecting buddies would call me on that line - and only if they found something at their stores they hit. I totally did not remember carrying my phone on me to the washing room THAT early on a Saturday morning - and couldn't fathom a reason for it.

    My neighbor described the phone to me when we talked while I was leaving Target. It sounded like my phone by his description. I was concerned that this individual was involved in my affairs again, and I immediately thought of the security of my home - my cats and my Star Wars collection, which matter to me the most. I have little of value otherwise, plus my SW toys are loose, so they have no resale value anyway. Just the same, they are valuable to me - and my pets are irreplaceable! Yet I was wondering why this guy was nervously stuttering on the phone with me about this - how he knew it was MY phone left in the laundry room (it has a caller ID screen, but unlike a cell, it does not display my home number) and so I assume he had seen me doing laundry or leaving - and no body is really up that early on a Saturday around my place. I have insomnia problems - and a compulsive need to collect Star Wars toys at the only time in the morning you can get the new products before waiting into mid-February when the stores finally finish inventories and start receiving product again. I'd not thought about my neighbor much at all for some time now, but the worries I'd just related (pets and toys) were at the forefront of my mind, and so I told him I'd be home in 5 minutes and come and see the phone he'd found. On my way driving back, I'd remembered how he'd probably gotten my phone numbers (from me during that odd parking lot incident).

    Upon arriving, I first checked my apartment (it was unlocked) but nothing was amiss, and I could not find my cordless phone.

    Then I went down to my neighbors. He met me outside and gave me my phone and I thanked him, but asked him where he found it again - the laundry room. I told him that was impossible. I had no reason to take my phone down there.

    Then I was direct - I am a direct person. I asked him if he'd been in my apartment.

    He was miffed and asked "What?" I repeated the question. He exploded that it was such a racist thing to say and that he wanted nothing to do in my 'white-trash, stupid apartment.' He said he couldn't believe what a bigot I was, and that he was a cop and does not go around sneaking into people's apartments. He said I only thought that because he was black.

    He was not stuttering at all now, but yelling quite coherently for my benefit, his, and a few neighbors who stepped out to look at what the commotion was. A lot of F-words, that sort of thing.

    I said I was sorry I offended him, and that because he was black was not the reason - he continued to do most of the talking and told me to get out of his face - to get away from him - and that he'd never do me any favors again. He went back to his place and slammed his door.

    I went home, slowly, dazed and miffed at what had just happened.

    I didn't know if I looked out for my own interests. If I was prejudiced because he was black. If I would ever be able to repair the hurt feelings I caused - and I didn't like being called a racist, knowing (now hoping) that I was not. And I didn't know if I was going crazy or what?

    Guess what? I DID TAKE MY PHONE TO THE LAUNDRY ROOM. Some stuff hadn't dried all the way, and between Walmart and Target's opening (one is north of me, the other, east) I could come home on my way to the next store and take in my clean, now-dried clothes. I wanted to find out what time (if any special time) Toys R Us was opening, so I'd called the store to listen to their operating hours recording while I was bringing up the laundry. I DID LEAVE MY PHONE IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM.

    It is also possible that I left my door unlocked in my rush to put down towels, jeans, shirts - all in a bundle I couldn't see over - as fast as I could and get out the door again and over to Target before all the figures were bought out. I've done this before - just not too often - but I'd lost sleep (waking up at 4am) and was not operating at my best, to be sure.

    Now do I appologize again to this guy? How and when? I'm likely to see him around the complex every once in a while. Should I not let him make me feel guilty? Maybe he was up to something, isn't totally trustworthy, or is interested in me in a way I cannot be appreciative of?

    Finally, I am uncomfortable with the situation as other black guys have moved into my complex - maybe 5 - 7 in all - and because if I don't meet with any of them regularly, I can't recognize this neighbor for sure - and I know how that sounds: "all members of this or that race look alike." That's not true, but if I don't have more of a relationship built with someone, I can't recognize them - that's just me. Anyway, it is normal for me to say hello to people I come across - I think it's the correct way to treat strangers and not be so introverted or cold, and I'm especially sociable like that at home in the complex when you often see people one-on-one at the mailboxes, swimming pool, or the weightroom. I'm not especially looking forward to someone either ignoring me or grumbling "racist pig" or "Howdy Trent" when I pass. I don't need that on a good day, let alone a bad one.

    Was I right? Was I wrong? Should I offer more of an appology? How?

    What do you think? Am I prejudiced? Am I racist? What's up with this?
    BAD Pts Need: R5-C7 lf leg (x2), , R4-P44 right leg BAD Pts Offered For Trade: PM me - I have lots of parts now including BG-J38!. New Kyle Katarn is also available.

  2. #2
    You are not prejudiced or racist, in my opinion. I am not black, but I don't consider that racist. I would have asked the same question were I in your situation, no matter what the person's race was. I think you probably would have too, whether he was black or not. The man is simply overreacting, and it is VERY suspicious that he suddenly just...loses his stutter? Something was not right there. Here is my advice: Don't apologize to him unless he talks to you (In a civilized manner, of course. Don't even bother if he insults you more) Try not to make eye contact if you see him, just, as Han Solo would put it, "Fly casual". If you believe he has entered your room or if he shows signs of physical aggression, notify the police. You did nothing wrong, and I'm sure mostly everyone here will agree.
    "Ohnomyfriendthisisamistakeaterriblemistaketheyhav egonetoofarthisismadness!" -Count Dooku, AOTC

  3. #3
    At the time you were right to question him. You didn't remember leaving the phone out and your door was unlocked.

    You found out later you were wrong. I say the next time you see him try to explain and appoligize. If he doesn't accept. He is in the wrong.

    I have pulled my gun out of the case when someone I don't know comes to the door. Not that anyone has seen the gun. It is human nature to expect the worst out of people no matter what race.

    Just mine thoughts on the matter.
    Be not afraid of any man, no matter what his size. When danger threatens call on me, and I will equalize.

    19th century ad for Colt revolvers

    Be wary of the man who only has one gun...for he probley knows how to
    use it.

  4. #4
    From the sound of it, you would've said the same to anyone else. The evidence was there, and it's not like you really knew the guy, so don't try to apologize. If he starts in ever, set the record straight, if not just leave it be, it's likely to just start another comotion when you're trying to apologize.

    Definitely not racist sounding, from the evidence shown he was the most likely suspect because he just happened to be there at those times and such, doesn't matter if he was black, asian, white, martian or whatever.
    "Hokey packaging and ancient gimmicks are no match for good detail on your figure, kid."
    "I am a Klingot from Oklahoma in human boy form."
    "We came, we saw, we conquered... We, woke up!"

  5. #5
    Hmmm ...

    I think the most important thing here is not whether you are or aren't a racist. The term is in many ways fairly subjective ... in this case I would say, especially now, you are somewhat preoccupied with the "race" issue because of this incident. If you say your accusation wasn't racially motivated (you're the only one who truly knows that) then it has to be so. I would suggest that when you get a chance, you go over to his place, knock on the door and apologize just like you would for any other misunderstanding. Tell him that you're genuinely upset (as it seems you are) that he perceives you as a "racist" and though you may have been a little paranoid in general at the time ... you had no intention of coming off like a bigot. Just put it to him like you feel, say you're sorry if you seemed too blunt and if you offended him ... tell him you're genuinely concerned that he not feel uncomfortable around you. I would tell him that at the time you thought it more important to just come out and ask him ... rather than silently harbor any suspicions no matter how wrong they might have been.

    I think the "race" thing should try and find its way out of your mind. Whether you're a Democrat, who your black heroes are and how much you love of Star Trek isn't going to fix this situation. Spending too much time focusing on the "race" thing will just get in the way. If he was a white guy and you felt like something odd was happening ... you would have done the same thing right? Well, just tell him that and if he doesn't want to understand then simply say you're sorry you couldn't work it out and move on.

    And ... though I'm sure you know this and don't need anyone telling you ... next time take a few breaths before you accuse someone of ripping you off. If you didn't see it happen, then there's always the chance it didn't. Whether you accused him then or waited a half hour and asked him cautiously ... it would have made no difference.

    Good luck. You're not a bad guy (a nut like us all perhaps) ... try not to let it eat at you.

  6. #6
    Whoa, that was a looooooooong post. I don't usually do long posts, it took me about 20 minutes just to read all that !

    But don't wory about it Tycho. I don't think you are racist. If you were racist you'd probably know about it, and you even say yourself "I don't believe I'm a racist".

    To me it just seems like your paranoid. You have one argument with a black guy and think everyone is going to think you're a racist.

    If you thought he was being suspicious then you had a right to question him, he had no right to snap back at you like that. You probably would have questioned him no matter what his race was, it's got nothing to do with him being black.

    If you are feeling guilty about the whole thing, then I'd go up to him and explain to him. That will probably be the only way to ease your guilt.

    Hehehe, I don't mean to laugh but it all reminds me of a Father Ted episode. I don't know if you have it over there but it is funny. He puts a lampshade on his head and does an impression of a Chinese person, then discovers there are Chinese people standing at the window watching him. He then spends to entire episode trying to convince them that he is not a racist, but digs himself into a bigger hole.

    If you want to fix it all, then all you have to do is appologise, thats really all you can do. If he is a half descent person then he will understand and forgive you. If he doesn't forgive you, then forget about it. He may even be the racist one.

    Don't wory about it Tycho!
    PENDO!
    "You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you!" - Obi-Wan Kenobi
    "There's a gentleness about a total Star Wars geek that is sublime."- Rick McCallum
    My DVD Collection

  7. #7
    Eh, i got an idea. Just walk around your apartment complex eating a black and white cookie!!! Yet, the key to the black and white cookie, is to get the same amount of black and white in each bite. If people would just look to the cookie!!!

    Yet, racial harmony still alludes us.
    "Woke up at 9.55am. Soon as I woke up, I looked at Suzanne and she looked at me. I said, 'Did I tell you about the immune system?' Suzanne starting laughing, I said, 'it's amazing.' She said, 'Not now.'"

  8. #8
    Ebony....and Ivory...live together in perfect....harmony....
    "Roger Nasty Butler!"

  9. #9
    are you a racist? is he? who knows and who cares. i'm pretty much unconcerned, merely amused, by what others say, feel or think. what matters is what they Do. so let's focus on that.
    you were decisive, made a choice and found out it was the wrong one. you cast aspersions on the guy. even if it was an honest mistake and you didn't intend to wrong anyone, soul-searchin about why you did it ain't gonna change much, cuz what matters is they turned out to be unfounded. all his crime-prevention rap and stuttering one minute & shouting coherently the next indicate nothing for certain other than that paranoia-loving, dale-gribble-style social misfits come in all colors
    so what next? it happened, it's in the past and you can't undo it. but you can make up for it. i can't speak for that guy, but apologies pretty much count for nothing in my book. it's the easiest, most convenient thing in the world to offer mere words of contrition After crossing someone. one should rightfully feel shame afterwards but whether it's expressed to the other person doesn't really help them. Actions are what make a difference. so whether you apologize to him is your call, but i'd certainly Do something to make it up to him. if you can't think of what you might do, ask him. if your persistence doesn't open a line of communication, print up this reply (don't forget to use printer-friendly version to save paper ) & stick it on his door. it may not be entirely flattering but it is honest, and there ain't no fence-mending without trust. if there's still no response give it up, and endure your guilt & shame quietly like a man till it fades on its own
    but from his actions as you've described them i'd judge him to be gutsy, sensitive and a tad lonely. so if you have the guts to reach out to him (and you should if you were able to take the risk of being direct), i bet he'd have the guts to at least listen.
    let us know how it goes could this be the start of a bee-yoo-tee-ful friendship? well i don't know if you guys'd end up having any common interests or even Like each other much, but you'd certainly begin to trust one another. personally, trust is the foremost determinant of My friendships
    vt
    Last edited by vulcantouch; 12-30-2002 at 11:44 AM.

  10. #10
    Why the hell did you leave your place unlocked?
    I would have been more concerned with that question before asking people if they've been in there.


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