The Race Discussion is Alive in LA

I had a great interaction today. I was waiting at the bus stop when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey rich guy, got a penny?” I’m immediately confused, because I’m waiting at a bus stop (rich people raking the bus?) in a poor neighborhood with a (albeit nice looking) $5 T-shirt and shorts. Just for a quick background on my finances, the move to LA destroyed Caroline and my finances. We are doing ok now, but we won’t actually be back to a place where we can save money for another two months (it would only be one month, but my buddy David got us a really sweet deal on a cruise to the Bahamas, and life is too short, you know?). At which time, I plan to budget for monthly charity contributions as I think anyone who is capable should do.

Anyway, I ask this guy, “Why do you say that?”
He responds with, “you’re white.”
The only reaction I have is to tilt my head sideways and say, “Really?” in a tone that is more surprise than anything else. I never actually thought someone would ever come up to me and accuse me of being rich because I’m white. It’s like something in a movie or an SNL skit.

His his tone changed and he said, “Sorry, I didn’t want to be racist or anything. I’m from Michigan and that just how things are there.” I said I understood, and we got to talking about how he is new to the city and looking for work as a barber. He was collecting cans to try to scrape by. I said I was new to the city too. He asked me what I was doing, and I said I was getting a masters in education. We made fast friends and bumped knuckles. He gave me God’s blessings, which I returned to him. We wished each other luck. Hopefully I run into him again. He seemed like a great guy.

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4 thoughts on “The Race Discussion is Alive in LA

      1. Sorry, but this post reeks of whiteness and it’s very upsetting. Even rewording choice parts would make it better.

      2. Let’s talk about word choice. “Reeks of whiteness.” I appreciate your sensitivity to the subject, but you don’t know anything about me. To embody whiteness would be to look down at that gentleman, not befriend him as an equal. The point of this post is that he and I were able to overcome the massive cloud of racism over Los Angeles and become friends. I passed no judgment on him, and after he saw that, we bonded. I could tell he has probably been the victim of discrimination in the past, but this post was about overcoming judgment. I believe most people are just trying to get by in this world, and that two people shouldn’t be prohibited meaningful connection because of difference in status. This post shows that, and I take offense at your comment. The steps to overcoming racism and white entitlement start with people having the courage to talk about race in the streets and overcome judgment. That’s what he and I did, and I’m proud of that. I want more people to have the courage to talk about race issues openly in order to undo the damage of silence and active discrimination. I want white looking (I don’t identify as ‘white,’ by the way, even though I automatically receive that status in society) people like myself to take part in the race discussion rather than maintain unhealthy silence. We all live in this world together, and it’s time we start acting like it.

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