Two news items in the last few days caught my attention. One was Obama’s “from the heart” message about sensing suspicion, hostility and fear as an African American. The other was Detroit’s decision to go bankrupt. It reminded me of an experience that links the two.
A few years ago Ann and I were returning from Quebec to western Canada through the States. That meant the Windsor Detroit crossing. Our exit ramp was closed off. Taking the next exit got us lost in a city we’d never been to before.
We turned in what appeared to be the right direction out of the city. But to drive through a city with streets of abandoned and derelict buildings is an eerie feeling—especially if you don’t know where you are, or how to get out of it.
We eventually found ourselves in a seedy looking neighbourhood. I pulled over to see if I had map that would help us find a way out. A black youth approached us. Our reaction? “O-oh! What does he want?” He knocked on the window. We lowered it part way. “Are you guys lost?” he asked.
He kindly gave us directions to the highway we needed and we were on our way. I wondered how my reaction would have differed if a white youth had approached us. Our apprehension would probably have grown with the number of dreadlocks on his head and rings in his face!
Clearly, we do profile people according to our past experience and the knowledge we have about them. But every individual is different, and we only find out by approaching each one as Christ would. We should know a clean white face may seem friendly, but is not a guarantee of safety.