The President and First Lady seem to jump to conclusion that being mistaken for a valet or asked to get something off the shelf had to do with race.
I have news for them. Those types of things happen to me, too.
I’ve been asked to get coffee. I’ve been asked by fellow patrons of stores “Do you work here?” I’ve been mistaken for servers at restaurants. I’ve been asked by others for help.
I’ve noticed such things happen when my clothes reasonably matches with what the employees of the establishment are wearing. When I’ve been asked for help, I always assumed it’s because I looked like a nice, approachable guy who would be more than willing to help.
Maybe the First Lady was asked to take something off the shelf because she is taller than the person who was asking and looks like a nice person that would help someone out.
Perhaps the President was mistaken for a valet because what he was wearing more closely resembled what the valets were wearing than what guests were wearing.
It’s silly when we look at these events and see race as a factor.
It reminds me of a conversation I once had with a friend. We were discussing profiling, I believe, and I had made a similar comment as above that race was probably not even one of the key factors in such cases, maybe not even in the top 5 or 10.
Him: Oh? So, are you telling me if you were walking down a dark alley and ran into two black dudes you wouldn’t be concerned?
Me: Actually, that has happened to me on occasion and sometimes I was concerned and sometimes not.
Him: What do you mean?
Me: First, let me ask you something.
Me: Why did you ask me about ‘dudes’? Why didn’t you just say ‘people’? If it was just about race, ‘people’ would have been good. But, even you are admitting that there’s more at play than race.
Me: You’re saying that gender has something to do with it, too. Otherwise, you could have just said ‘people’.
Me: So, now back to your question. My answer is, it depends.
Him: On what?
Me: What are they wearing? How are they behaving?
Him: What do you mean?
Me: In fact, I have walked down lonely streets and encountered ‘black dudes’ on quite a few occasions and only on a few of those I have had concerns.
When they were dressed professionally or casually and behaving politely, I didn’t have any concerns. When they were dressed like bums and behaving politely, no concerns. Would you?
Him: Oh. I guess I can see that.
Me: I’ve walked down lonely streets before and have encountered people of all races who were dressed like thugs and behaving aggressively, like they were looking for trouble. I had concerns then.
Come to think of I’ve encountered such people who were dressed like thugs, but behaving politely and I was less concerned. So, maybe it wasn’t even the clothes, but the behavior.
So, while ‘what would you do on a lonely street’ is a popular example people like to use because they think it gets at one’s true racial biases, that example typically fails in the asking, but few people recognize that.
Him: I was following. Now you lost me.
Me: Again, you asked me about dudes. Not people. Not ladies. So, in the asking, you admitted — without knowing it (or maybe knowing it and you were just trying to bait me into an answer hoping I wouldn’t notice it) — that gender was a key factor. In fact, probably more of a factor than race. Because if race were the main factor, you wouldn’t have to specify dudes, at all.
I honestly can’t remember if I made any headway. But, he seemed to consider the train of thought.