Sunday, March 3, 2013

Anger in the Snow

As I was thoroughly enjoying my walk through the new-fallen snow last week, I rounded a corner and came across a black man who seemed out of place in the scene.  He came too quickly from an set of townhouse driveways.  I said good morning, and he returned my greeting, but something was off.  As I walked on, I looked down the drive he'd come out of, and there on the ground was about 16' of copper line, freshly dropped, cut from the air-conditioner at the far end of the drive.

Instantly, I was furious.  I didn't stop immediately (a confrontation would have been risky, possibly dangerous, and the damage had been done), but continued a couple of dozen feet down the sidewalk, then stopped and turned back to look at him.  He was very carefully NOT watching me, totally absorbed in taking his scarf off and rewrapping his neck.  Once he finished, he crossed the street and left my field of vision.

I thought of calling 911, but discarded the thought immediately - I know the police can do little about property crimes at the best of times, and this was in the midst of a snowstorm.  They would have a hard time even getting to the street to file a report.  Seeing a gentleman shoveling out his truck at the other end of the block, I did the next best thing and walked down to let him know what had happened, so he could alert the neighborhood email list.  As I was pointing back down the street, telling him the story the black man came back, casually picked up his loot and again sauntered out of sight.

As I continued on with my week, I realized I was and am disproportionately angry at the black man.  He did $500 worth of damage so he could steal $30 worth of copper, for which he will receive $5 from the recycling center (if that).

Far worse, he ruined things for the young black men I work with each day.  They are good kids - they work and study hard and have every intention of being college-bound.  Because of 'that man', should they walk down that street acting like normal teens, doing normal teenage hijinks, they will be met with looks of suspicion and fear.  People will watch them go down the street, and the looks that follow them will be neither friendly nor welcoming.  That man perpetuated the worst of the stereotypes our young men are trying to break, and we are all worse off for it.


postscript:  Today at work I asked one of the black men there how he keeps from being angry with men like the one who stole the copper and ruin things for everyone with skin like him.  He had a two-word answer:  "I pray."  I will try to follow his path...

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