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Shadow Men

Shadow Men

I think there is hardly a day that goes by that I am not reminded of the fact that I'm black. Starting at about age, thirteen I noticed that people (black and white) stopped returning my smiles and greetings on the street. I soon learned that this was fear and distrust because they feared that I might rob, or harm them in some way. Being young, this gave me a sense of power. As I grew older, I came to see this distrust as a handicap to overcome. This writing is an attempt to examine some of the causes of this distrust.

Some of the definitions for black include thoroughly sinister or evil, wicked, and connected with or invoking the supernatural especially the devil. Some negative compound words using black as a prefix are: Black art, Blackball, Black book, Black flag, Blackguard, Black hand, Blacklist, Black Magic, Black-mail, Black-market, Black Mass, and Black sheep. White on the other hand implies goodness, purity, and cleanliness.

Good guys wear white, bad guys wear black. We learn this from the media at an early age. In cartoons, the villains are usually darker than the heroes. In the movie, The Lion King Scar (the villain) is the darkest lion in the film and in Lion King II his pride is distinguished from Simba's (the hero of both films) pride by their darker hue. The same goes for the movie Aladdin, where the villain Jafar is much darker than any of the other characters. I believe that these images become strong subliminal messages that affect how whites see blacks and even how blacks see themselves.

The Christmas of 1963 (when African-Americans were colored-people) my Aunt Ruth gave my cousin Lavern a "Colored" Barbie. This was the first year that an ethnic Barbie (not one of her Friends) was produced. My other cousins (her brothers) teased her about how ugly and black that doll was to the point that Lavern refused to play with the doll. She played with her old dolls while poor "colored" Barbie sat under the tree in its box. Then it was stored away until she had outgrown playing with dolls.

Although millions of black men get up every morning to go to work to provide for their families, and spend their time doing the right thing, they go unnoticed. However, much attention is given to a minority of wrong doers. When a white man does wrong, we pay little or no attention to the fact that he is white. When Timothy McVeigh killed all those people in Oklahoma City, no one in this country developed a hatred for or fear of white men. But soon after the world trade tower disaster Muslim Americans were harassed and killed. If the terrorists had been African Muslims instead of Arab Muslims, I would have been mortally afraid for my family, black people in general, and myself.

When I first hear of a heinous crime, I quickly pray that there is not a black man involved. Once I was in a city when an unknown black man shot a policeman I was stopped in my car by the police three times in one week. The police also have questioned me when the only thing they would say about the man they were looking for was that he was a tall black man wearing jeans and a tee shirt.

I was visiting a white friend when his granddaughter (age 7 then) asked me "how come black men like to steal white children and kill them." Her grandfather and I assured her that her fears were groundless and that the lady on TV had lied to hide her own guilt. She had heard about the case of Susan Smith a Union, South Carolina, woman. She was jilted by her lover, who didn't care for her kids. She thought she could get him back if she got rid of the kids. So she belted her two boys in the backseat of her car and pushed it in a lake. Then she told police that a black man had hijacked her car and kidnapped her children at gunpoint. She helped the police draw a composite sketch of the man she claimed took her kids and pleaded for their safe return on national TV. About a week later, the truth came out but the truth evidently never reached the tender ears of my friend's granddaughter. I wonder how many young children never heard the truth ?

When we pick up a book and read it unless we are given some reason to believe otherwise we assume that all the characters are white. In addition, unless the title, cover or authors name indicates otherwise we assume the author is white. This concept also applies to real life here in America a generic person is white. Lawyers, scientist, and corporate CEOs are white men in our mind's eye and carjackers, drug pushers, and junkies are black men. If your grandmother was mugged by a white man you would say "some guy mugged grandma." You would feel no need to indicate that it was a white man unless you are giving a description of the man. .

There is a little scenario that I call " A nigger raped my sister syndrome" which goes like this.
A white woman is raped, her attacker is white. She is devastated it will be hard for her to trust men. Her friends and family are incensed at the man who did this. They want her attacker brought to justice. Some may join civic groups like neighborhood watch. With support from friends and family and hopefully some counseling, she should become whole and healthy

A white woman is raped, her attacker is black. She is devastated along with all the thing above she will fear black men she may develop a revulsion for black men. Some of her friends and family become incensed at black men some may join hate groups after realizing that what they have been saying about blacks has been right all along

There is a business adage that says if you give the customer great service and the product does all that's expected of it, the customer may tell one other person. However, if the product or service does not live up to the customer's expectations that customer will tell everyone she knows.
It is not news when the black doctor routinely saves lives because he is just doing what he is supposed to do. So day in and day out we live in the shadow of the highly visible few. Maybe we should all get together and hire a good public relations firm to revamp our image.

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