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...
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.
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?