By: Victor Anderson
Nearly 50 years later we are still feeling the ripples from the civil rights movement, but according to the film, Back to the Future, we should be extremely advanced by now. Sadly, life rarely reflects the perfection of cinema.
Even though the concept of equality is a simple one, it appears to be a word that not many people understand. The fact that this is still a huge issue is ludicrous.
Prejudices and stereotypes are often comical and playful topics amongst the youth of America because most of the kids telling the jokes don’t have to deal with these kinds of problems. They don’t get frightened looks from their peers when walking late on campus. They don’t have to deal with others mocking the accent of their immigrant relatives. If you are not a minority, you simply blend in—-that is unless you are surrounded by minorities in one particular instance.
The media doesn’t seem to help the cause either. Through television, films, magazines, advertisements and whatever else, people are becoming brainwashed into identifying others based on physical appearance and lumping them into whatever group that they feel one belongs in. People think that just because one person who looks a certain way is associated with a particular lifestyle that all people who look that way must be associated with it as well. Ultimately, that is ignorance and there is nothing blissful about being misinformed.
Here is the norm: straight, Caucasian and male. But if you simply splash some color on the skin it becomes a completely different story. Why is that? It is simply mind boggling that a mass majority of people on this planet haven’t realized that skin tone is absolutely irrelevant to the actual human being that you are. The word “race,” is totally unnecessary in terms of classifying people because the only race is the human one.
Unfortunately, the color of people’s skin isn’t the only divider of equality in this country. Being a female is also an issue and so is being anything but heterosexual. But the feminist movement and the LGBT movement is steadily on the rise to reach their goal of acceptance and equality.
These are problems that are currently on this writer’s mind because an incident concerning similar issues occurred to him. The night was April 12, 2013 and I was near Central Charlotte (I live in Charlotte, North Carolina). This is how I was dressed that night:
So, me and some buddies were in this part of town that is littered with bars, venues and restaurants. Our plan was to bar hop and to eventually get food. We went to a couple of places and ended up at a joint called The Blind Pig. The entire night I was dressed like I am above and I was equipped with my backpack—something I have with me often. It has my rhyme book in there, some novels just in case I get bored, writing utensils, condoms, rolling tobacco and other miscellaneous things. I’d rather have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.
Anyways, we end up leaving The Blind Pig to go get hot dogs. We soon return to meet with friends who were still there. We left again to get pastries at a bakery and returned once more. We were going to go in and get our peoples and leave to go to a party. I left my backpack in the car. We enter The Blind Pig and they’re gone, so we were about to leave. Suddenly, I get approached by a guy asking where my backpack is. I tells him that I don’t got it, it’s in the car.
“You gotta go,” he says. I was confused but luckily we were leaving anyway or so I thought.
I head outside and I thought the dudes I rode with were behind me but when I exit the bar and look back, they’re gone. I question if I should go back in because I had been kicked out (for no reason) but I couldn’t just stand there. I approach the door guy who originally stamped my hand to get in and let me and my buddies back in every time that we came back.
Then a small, sweaty man with glasses and beady eyes, the manager, walked up and stared at me. I kindly greeted him and he ignored me and told me I had to leave. Of course, I question him and he tells me that I look like a drug dealer. A goddamn drug dealer of all things. I ask him how and apparently it was the coat, hat and backpack I was wearing. Also, I was talking to people and being social. These are totally justified reasons to kick someone out of your establishment (sarcasm).
I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t and there was obviously no reasoning with him. I couldn’t go back in to get my friends, I had to leave and I was treated like he had actually caught me dealing drugs.
You see, we live in a mad world where things like this still happen to people. Was it because of my hair or my skin tone? I don’t know. But he had eyes on me the entire time I was there and I reaped the consequences for committing the crime of being myself.
And that’s the fucked up part about all of this judgmental nonsense. People are discriminating against other people based on aspects of their life that they have no control of. You can’t change who you are and you shouldn’t have to because you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s society that needs to get its head out of its abysmal ass.
You looked like a drug dealer or, at least, the combination of race (which, sadly in the case of Blacks, too often equate to culture), hair choice, clothing choice, and your carrying of a backpack where one would be uncommon fit the profile.
If you look like something, you’ll likely be treated as such. Deal with it or accept it because it’s not going to change.
You are the seed that fits the bill,
Murky with a weak will,
Just another cog marching up that industrial hill.
Even more so you’re narrow-minded,
It ain’t hard to find it,
So please take your backward ideals and rewind it.
Your comment provokes anger,
But more so frustration,
Because you’re the black smoke that damages our ventilation.
And you’re the corrupt suit with a corrupt crooked tie,
Every comment you make is simply based off a lie.
It’s a lie that says every black is a dealer,
Every Muslim is evil,
Every Gypsy’s a healer.
It’s a lie that says one face fits one race,
And one race fits the case,
Man that’s a fucking disgrace.
Go back to your corner, dark and deep in the shadow,
Hiding behind your screen,
You’re probably 13 and callow.
If you want to talk I’ll always be here,
But if you bring up hate,
It’s my rebuttal you’ll fear.
So before you comment again just know that you’re sick,
Twisted like mad cow your blog is a shtick.
And I don’t usually comment in anger or to hate,
I’m just following your example,
I came to this too late.
Considering drug dealers don’t all dress alike (and come in many shapes, sizes, and colors), you have obviously never met a real drug dealer before.
That or you are too stupid to breathe.
I’m a very small white girl and if I walked into a bar with a jacket, backpack and any kind of hair no one would question me at all. So really the guy was profiling hard and should have never kicked him out. I understand being cautious and suspicious briefly but since he never broke any rules, action shouldn’t have been taken.
My initial reaction to your comment is to ask, what does a drug dealer look like? The other reaction I have is wondering why should anyone in any sort of situation faced with prejudice and injustice “deal with it or accept it because it’s going to change?” Why should we ever just accept racism and ignorance? The only reason there has been any social movement in the past 50-60 years is because people weren’t willing to accept legalized segregation and racism that existed in the south, north, east, and west parts of this country. Are we just supposed to accept what happened to Trayvon Martin? If we just accept things we are buying into the inherently racist, status quo world we live in. I’m not feeling that.
Regardless of the description or stereotypical uniform you think I should be filed under, I should be treated like anybody else in this world. Just because a middle eastern dude with a beard passes me and resembles a man charged with terrorist crime doesn’t mean I think that they are harmful or even capable of doing such awful things. You, Jon Nolan, is what is wrong with America and I will kindly ask you to fuck off.
And I don’t know why it says that I’m anonymous, but it’s me, Victor Anderson who typed and stands behind the statement above.
“Filed under?” No exactly. But your appearance fits the common motif of the street dealer in many areas, my own included, especially packing a backpack at a club of some sort.
You’ve got to expect people in positions of risk not to past first appearances.
Face it, if you saw me in “rural clothing,” you’d expect me to be a redneck and take what actions you felt were in your best interest…because that’s the safe and sane thing to do.
This way of thinking is the exact thing Victor is speaking out against. It saddens me that you’re stuck with very old and very wrong ideals. Also, being a club owner is not a position of risk.
It’s a fairly rough world and the price of erroring on the side of “tolerance” can be quite high.
Take the club owner for example – he can get in a lot of trouble and even lose his license and business for letting drugs be dealt in his place.
Of course, none of will likely ever know if he’d react the same way if Victor showed up w/o the pack or with the pack but dressed differently.
None of that is any reason, however, for not being sad that this is how things have to be. We don’t have to- and probably should like it, but we have to accept it as the best way people have to protect themselves and their interests since we can’t see the future and we can’t read each others’ minds.
I find your acceptance of the status quo disheartening. The dialogue contained in this message feed is possible only because there were people in the generations previous to our own that weren’t willing to accept the society as it was/is. To a certain extent, I respect your attempt to read the world in as “honest” a way possible. I can’t discount your personal experience, because it is your truth. However, I feel that you are completely misguided in your interpretation of our world.
If everyone had accepted the status quo to be “safe”, there would be no unions, “McCarthyism would still be a thing, Legalized Jim Crowe would still be around, and women would not be able to vote.
There are forces that stand against the progress we seek. However, we will continue to challenge and hold society accountable as we seek to change our communities for the better. If we are complacent, what are we? If we leave this world worse off than before, what have we accomplished? Why is it not right to call into question the past, present, and future?
I don’t deny that progress is vital. I just don’t believe that thinking that you can do, say, or look however you want and not expect consequences is progress.
If you look “street,” you’ll be thought of as such and people take precautions if they don’t know you. If you dress neo-nazi or redneck, the equivalent will be true.
Times change and what is considered potentially threatening changes with them, but the underlying fact that people will- and have to make decisions based upon how others appear is not going to change.
It’s the backpack. Satchels, duffel bags, etc., basically anything that will fit an item larger than a laptop or a few notebooks will catch unwanted attention.
Plus, your self-photo makes you appear under the influence of something (probably the result of bar-hopping, but the possibilities are immense). Just an observation.
That is NOT how things “have” to be. Just because that is “how it is” doesn’t mean that is the way it HAS to be. I’ve met some vicious dogs in my time but I don’t assume every canine that I pass will attack me. You see what I’m tying to say? And who gives a fuck if I’m dressed the same as pushers that you’ve seen. Is every girl in a floral dress going to act the same way? Is every guy with a beard a lumberjack? These futile things do not define a person or their personality.
But I presume you consider the possibility of the dog attacking you and base your actions upon how threatening the dog appears. You’re sane and, judging by your writing, not near stupid.
The same holds true for people. Who gives a fuck if I’m dressed the same as pushers that you’ve seen? People who might be harmed if you turn out to be one, such as a club owner who would get screwed by the law if you’d actually arranged a drop while at his club and the police found out.
One’s appearance need not define a person or their personality but it’s the only indicator of such that is often available for people to judge from.
But here’s where your logic hits a snag. See, America more so than any country is under this case of paranoia and fear. “People who might be harmed…” You shouldn’t have that mindset. Instead you should be open. If you continue to look at people with the single thought of “will I be harmed?” then you’re falling into the American way of living with fear. You wanna know why there’s so much violence and unnecessary gun deaths in this country? It’s because of this very fear. You wanna know why Canadians and other countries like England have barely any gun crimes? It’s because they have open mindsets and aren’t paranoid each and everyday. Hell, Canadians don’t even lock their doors at night. What I’m trying to get at is that your way of thinking stems from the systematic view that we should look at everyone “as a threat” and that simply is not how one should live out ones life; there shouldn’t be an “us vs. them” mindset. In every one of your comments here you’ve mentioned some sort of potential “threat” and “harm,” and that in and of itself is flawed. If you go around living your life in fear because the threat of a casual human being around you might cause you harm, I am so very sorry.
I’m of age and I can drink as much as I want. But I hardly ever let alcohol get the best of me. Not in public at least.
Is jonolo a jiggalo? I’m down with being prejudice against jiggalo’s; also it’s unusual for bars to allow backpacks inside because people could bring in 5ths, ect and drink for free
Interesting topic. I think what I find most intriguing is the fact that there is no “right or wrong” on either side of the issue, but simply perception and acceptability. Both sides of this discourse have taken a very circulus in probando approach, which is understandable when an issue that is of pure social construct is the nexus. But I think what really needs to be of considerable focus is: the human’s externally influenced internalization of appearance based judgement and presumption. To build—to literally construct—certain ideas about why appearance matters.
Personally, as a bi-racial individual who gets flack from both “sides” of my race, I can relate to the story. This very interesting interaction that takes place because of not only the apparel I’m wearing, but the way it is worn. Walking in certain stores that are in more affluent neighborhoods than my own always provides an interesting social experiment to see who I can put fear into the most, just by carrying myself a certain way. I digress.
People make conclusions from appearance all the time. I myself fall victim to this very idiosyncratic perception of someone based solely on their appearance. This response we have developed is unfortunately, in my opinion, genetic. It is a purely sensory driven defense mechanism that was fundamentally developed to keep our dumber ancestors alive. As of late it has been, as I alluded to previously, modified to take in more information that is more less fed by media, social norms, and arguably the catalyst, religion.(But I’ll keep religion out of it for the sake of NOT starting any superfluous banter.)
So this would suggest that it, in fact, is natural to look at a person who is dressed a certain way that is socially understood to be potentially dangerous. Potential is the kicker here. But is this right? Or is it wrong? Or maybe its neither. And let’s be honest, its NOT natural. If Victor wore that same apparel in …Australia for instance, or lets make it a bit more extreme and drop him in a rural village in south western Indonesia. The reaction would absolutely not be the same. But there would be a reaction. We can all agree on that. In fact, lets bring him back to America and plop him on a public transit unit in his same town. Where, there just so happens to be a baby in a stroller slobbering, and being a baby. The baby in its purest form will look at him and make only one conclusion “That’s not my parent”. And most likely will smile at him. I’m sure we have all had several non-verbal interactions with infants. Its always enjoyable.
What I really want to advocate is not that there is ANY right or wrong when judging a person based on appearance. That the basis should not be right or wrong, or acceptance, or what have you. But it should be solely and utterly based on truth. That is to say, that it is not right or wrong to judge, but is there any truth value held in the mental conclusion made? Because the unnatural selection your mind has chosen really has to be rationalized and objectively surveyed, before you react. This is something our ancestors were far better at than we are
The unfortunate truth is that humans naturally congeal with those who are similar to them. Those who are the same, act the same, dress the same, react the same. Its a culture. Its unavoidable. And it is a characteristic of human nature that will maintain its ubiquity for as long as humans retain rational thought. This may seem like I’m leaning towards jonolan’s opinion. And there are cases were it may seem that I’m leaning toward the Victor’s stance. But what I’m inelegantly attempting, is to encompass both sides. It is not wrong or right to judge a person, because we are hard-wired to do so. Its the unnatural inaccuracies that we achieve thanks, in part, to “social normalcy”.
As a human who enjoys having as much self-control as possible, I am in NO way in the position to tell someone what they should think or feel. I may of course, try to guide them, very Socratically, to a more logical ideology. But never would explicitly tell them i think they are wrong, even if i do. Plus obscure cognitive manipulation is much more fun.
In the end I promote freedom of expression, speech, etc. So if a person wants to wear whatever, let him do it. Who am I to assume or judge. I know plenty of dangerous individuals, but they don’t look the part. and I know plenty of nice, kind, caring individuals who do not look the part.
I will say though, and my apologies to Victor, but the club owner or whoever he was, did have a justifiable reasoning in prohibiting your continued access to the club. It is a private business and that gives him quite a few rights. Especially his fundamental right of free thought. You may be able to bring up a First Amendment case but with Hudgens v. NLRB as precedent they would most likely rule in favor of the club owner. But…never know, depends on how conservative the court is. Not worth the time or cost though IMO.
This piece was a lifejacket that saved me from drowning.
This is Jerry the owner of the Blind Pig…when Victor came in he exhibited all of the behaviors of a drug dealer…came in alone…dressed in a heavy coat to hide things, bought no drinks at all, and talked to random people he did not know. As a bar owner we try to keep the bar free of drug slingers….Victor’s behavior was right in line with all of the other drug slingers we have thrown out before whether they be white or black. It’s clear now that he was mis-identified and we are sorry for that. But every Friday and Saturday we have 500 people come in to the bar and we try to look out for the bad guys. Victor was not a bad guy…but the way he unknowingly acted made us suspicious….think about if you had your life savings tied up in your business and you thought there was someone suspicious you would act on it. Victor was one of probably 35 black people in the bar and we did not kick all of them out so it wasn’t a race thing….we just though he looked suspicious and we clearly were wrong.
Look…we were wrong and mis-identified him and I am sorry. I would love to buy him a beer and apologize. We didn’t set out that night to hurt him but in this business it sometimes gets cloudy on whats right and whats not. So Victor call me at 704 560 6552 and let me make things right because I feel shitty about how it all worked out. Jerry