White folks need to get over this irrational fear

I went to Safeway in Lihue on the afternoon of Aug. 14. I parked about halfway between the store and Petco, and as I walked toward the store, I encountered a young white couple. I mention that they were white as it is germane to what follows.

There were three other people in front of me, all of us walking toward the store. I was the only black person. Again, this is germane to what follows.

The husband was loading groceries from the cart into their rental. The wife was constantly shifting her focus between me and the cart, with this look of near panic on her face. She was not looking at any of the three other people in front of me, she was looking directly at me, then down at the cart as if she was trying to figure out where something was, then back up at me. Multiple times. It was absolutely unmistakable.

Now, I guess it is possible that she saw this person with a beautiful brown color and was worried she hadn’t purchased the sunscreen she needed to try to ward off skin cancer while trying to emulate what comes naturally to some of us. I can understand her concern (not really). It’s possible this is what was going on, but I think all of us people with clear powers of discernment would find this highly unlikely. She was trying to figure out if her purse was secure.

I’ve had enough of this. I recently turned 50. For the past 30 of these years, I have been keenly aware of the level of irrational fear which seems to persist within many white people when they are out in public such that now, I don’t even feel comfortable in my own skin. Be it clutching at their purse, frantically grabbing the shopping cart carrying the purse, men positioning themselves so as to protect their virtuous white female conquest from the onslaught of rabid African sexuality, crossing to the other side of the street to avoid being close to the approaching “black man”… it is easily seen.

Even when I was a student at MIT, wearing MIT insignia with “MIT” emblazoned across my chest, carrying a ton of technical books, this irrational fear was always on display. My non-black fraternity brothers didn’t believe those of us who said we experienced this on a daily basis, so we had to prove it to them by having them walk several feet behind us to observe it for themselves.

There is nothing a black person can do in this society to be free of this nonsense … not even become president of the United States.

If you are so afraid of brown people that they can’t even walk nearby without you thinking they are going to do you harm, you need to barricade yourself in your home. I am tired of being made to feel as if I am a threat to society simply for being and having the audacity to think I can walk around. Your fear is irrational and foolish, and it adversely affects the lives of people who honestly want nothing to do with you. I’m tired of feeling uncomfortable walking into a store and trying to navigate through crowded aisles without inadvertently making contact with someone. I’m tired of going out of my way to try to give people wide berth. Get a grip on yourselves, or stay at home!

From this point forward, I will be making it a point to call out these people and embarrass them in public for acting like such fools — common sense doesn’t seem to be part of how these people moderate their behavior, so perhaps public shaming will.

We have seen what irrational behavior can do from the recent events in Charlottesville. It is well past time for everyone to denounce this. It has no place in a civilized society.

I can’t wait to read the comments justifying this kind of irrational white fear.

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Michael Mann is a resident of Lihue.

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