Yesterday on my shopping trip to my local Kroger’s store I encountered several black shoppers both in the store and in the parking lot. As I encountered each person I couldn’t help but wonder what they thought of me. As an old white man, did they think I was a right-wing bigot? A Tea Party racist? Segregationist? Of course, this all assumes that they actually gave thought to me at all.
Old white men form the foundation of today’s right-leaning Republican Party. If nothing else, surely I looked like a Republican. Gasp! If only they knew. If only I could have stopped and declared, “I’m not what you think I might be!” Yet, who does that?
As I watched the 3rd episode of “Many Rivers to Cross” on PBS last evening- the 5-part documentary on the history of black Americans- I could not help but recall my trip to Kroger’s earlier in the day. I wanted to re-live that shopping adventure and tell each black person I made eye contact with, “I’m NOT one of THOSE people!” Of course, I couldn’t; sadly we can’t redo history.
I wonder what my friend in Mississippi thinks as he walks the streets of his town. I further wonder what blacks think of him. An old white man in historic Jim Crow America.