Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Good People Need To Combat Racism

Photo Credit: miss_millions
Chris Lahr recounts a telling personal experience on how he encountered prejudice on a simple trip to pick up a few postal packages:
"The sign on the front desk said that the proper I.D. was required. I showed the attendee my driver’s license and they proceeded to the warehouse in hunt for our packages. While we waited to the side, the next person in line (a young white man) handed his I.D. to the employee and stated that he was in the process of getting a new I.D. with his new address on it. The worker shrugged her shoulders and went on the hunt for his package.

Soon after our packages arrived, the third person in line (an African American man) showed his I.D. to a worker. The worker stated to the African American gentleman that she could not get his package because the address on his I.D. did not match the address on the package! Initially I did not know what was going because I was glued to the coverage of the Katrina tragedy on the TV behind the desk.
But as soon as the customer started showing a little anger, everyone took notice. In the midst of taking our packages to the van, things got heated between the customer and the worker; security was called. It should be noted that the African American man was able to describe exactly what was in the package (by the way, I had no idea what was in my packages), yet they still said that he would have to go home and get other proof of identification (which meant he would have to take public transportation to the other side of Philadelphia to get it).

It wasn’t until I began to reflect on the situation that I realized what had happened… The white man behind me and I had no problem getting our packages even though our addresses did not match the address on the box!! Yet the African American gentleman was forced to take public transportation back across town to find another form of I.D. There I was walking along in la la land, oblivious to the struggles of another human being. Did I stop and say something? Did I offer the man a ride across town? No, but I did get my packages.
So what can brown do for you, as the UPS slogan states? Well if you have white skin and the wrong I.D. they will be very accommodating, but if your skin is brown you better have the proper I.D. or you will need to take an extra trip across town. Looking back at this situation I see that I failed through my silence. I have played the scenario in my mind many times over since then and I can only hope that next time, I will move beyond silence to action. So what, if I’m a nice person or “I’m not the one who denied the man his package,” I was silent and I benefited from a system of advantage based on race. If we want to see real change in our society, the silence of the good people must stop."
To read Lahr's complete post please click here.

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