My wife has begun a Gluten Free diet and so because of that, choosing meals and preparing them has become a whole new challenge.
Inevitably, we ran out of enough food to prepare anything for dinner, and of course, we didn't realize this until late in the evening. To her credit, she did try a gluten free pizza crust, but I can vouch for its disgustingness.
So, because we didn't want to spend the cost of gas to head to Harris Teeter (our equivalent of Publix, or as close as your can get) we headed to Food Lion right up the road. We drove up, parked, and walked toward the entrance. To the right of the entrance, there were three African American men and a White man sitting on some boxes outside the store.
I did what many privileged Americans do, tried not to make eye contact.
But I heard one of the guys scream "Hey Sir, I got a question!". I looked up and noticed that he was actually yelling toward a guy walking OUT of Food Lion. The guy immediately responded, "Sorry, I'm in a hurry".
To which the other guy responded. "Its just a second..." So the guy (probably good to mention that he was a young, white, college aged guy with his girlfriend) said, "Im in a hurry, but what?"
Now would be a proper time to explain that the guy sitting outside the Food Lion was what some refer to as...sketch. His friends didn't exactly look inviting and they were hanging out...outside a Food Lion.
So the (presumably homeless) guy responds by motioning toward himself and saying "come here!". You guessed it, the other guy wasn't budging. He just turned toward his car and repeated, "Sorry, I'm in a hurry". It was at this point that I became even more intrigued.
The (presumably homeless) guy said "Are you really that scared of me?" with a tone that would make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up. Allison ran toward the entrance.
I think they exchanged some more words and the college guy walked off.
As we were checking out, two of the men that were hanging outside were inside the store, by the door...eyes bloodshot. It was really clear that they were looking and waiting for someone to leave. The cashier didn't say a word to them.
As you can imagine, Allie and I picked our exit carefully. We checked out, headed straight toward the car and tried not to look around.
Listen, I try not to judge by race. I really consider myself to be one who gives as many people a chance as possible. I give thanks to my parents, family, and friends for raising me to give people the benefit of the doubt and "judge by the content of character rather than the color of skin".
However, I cannot blame the guy who walked away AT ALL. When placing myself in the same situation, I wouldn't have even looked up. Was he really that scared? I'm not sure. Was I that scared? Yes. Was it the color of his skin? Maybe. Was it where he was? Yes. Was it an alarming of a situation to begin with? Yes. Was it the fact that he said couldn't ask the question from a distance, that he needed the other guy to come closer? Most definitely.
It reminded me of this.
It had What Would You Do? written all over it.
I was fine with the situation until the guy asked "Are you really that scared?". He had no right to say that. Was he playing the race/homeless card? I thought so.
I thought to myself, what would my grandfather have done? My grandfather is a very kind and loving man, but he looks upon other groups of people who aren't like him...differently than perhaps you and I do. Is this the type of attitude that leads to the homeless being looked down upon? Is this the type of attitude that just reenforces racism? Is this the kind of attitude (that of the homeless man) that leads to terrible, dumb, stupid emails spreading virally? I think so.
Again, why couldn't he just ask his question from a distance?
It was a daunting experience, and I doubt that we will ever return to Food Lion because of it.
To add to the night, we had one more experience that just rounded it out. On the way home, we dropped by Wendy's because Food Lion had nothing Allie was interested in. The lady that took the drive-thru order, Hispanic who barely spoke English. Making the whole ordering process rather difficult. The man who gave us the food was from somewhere in the middle east with a rough accent that made it very hard to understand when he tried to explain something. Not to mention, we got off without straws or spoons.
I try very hard not to judge based on race. But situations like this make it hard. I mean, I can see where the extreme racists get it. It's not fair either. Its not fair to the country, it's not fair to the people, it's not fair to the culture.
People who are different than us scare us. People who make situations difficult just because they are trying and cant keep up make it frustrating. People who use the fact that they've been treated differently to be a martyr in a new situation make it darn near impossible.
I guess it has to call on us all a little more to try a little harder.