Thursday, August 8, 2013

Geographically Challenged

Perhaps Mr. Obama went AWOL from his high school geography classes to go "chooming" with his fellow stoners, but, whatever the reason, our president certainly lacks a basic grasp of the geography of the country over which he presides.

First he informed us that he has campaigned in "all 57 states," a pronouncement that startled the half of the population that realized the implications of the claim, and now he has located three east coast cities on the Gulf coast (relevant part starts at 2:55).
Sure, maybe he actually meant to insert the conjunction "and" in there between "the Gulf" and "places like" (as AP so helpfully did), and maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt on this, just like AP and the rest of the fair-minded liberal media would have given to George W. Bush or Sarah Palin. Or maybe Mr. Obama actually doesn't know how many states there are or the difference between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

That last possibility would at least explain a lot.


I walk for exercise and over the last couple of weeks my peregrinations have taken me through neighborhoods other than my own. In some of them houses are sparse and isolated. Others are standard residential communities, but over the previous month or so I've had several interesting experiences.

People have always turned and looked, of course. A strange man walking in a neighborhood in which he's not known draws special attention, but in one case a week ago a fellow drove his pickup truck slowly past me on a country road and gave me a thorough look-over as if trying to assess whether he recognized me. On another occasion a gentleman stopped his car to ask me if I was visiting someone in the neighborhood. On yet another evening a policeman stopped his cruiser and talked briefly with me, ostensibly to ask why I was out walking in the rain (it started raining about ten minutes before).

What should I think about these encounters? Should I be offended that these people were obviously checking to make sure I wasn't up to no good. Perhaps I should have felt uncomfortable with all this scrutiny, but I didn't. I was a strange man in a neighborhood where no one knew me, people were simply being alert, I was being "profiled," and I didn't blame them (except the guy in the pickup was a little weird). I might've done the same thing.

The neighborhoods were mostly white and so am I, so race had nothing to do with how the residents and the police acted, but suppose I had been black. What might I have thought? Obviously, if I were like many blacks who complain about racial profiling I would assume that the attention I was receiving was because I was black. I would relate to my friends how uncomfortable it was to be targeted because of my race, that I was committing the crime of WWB (Walking While Black) and what a terribly offensive thing racial profiling is. I would have assumed that the residents of the neighborhood were red-necked racists, that they had no business giving me the eye, that it was yet another insulting example of whites' irrational fear of blacks, and so on.

My point is that often blacks assume that any insult, any slight, any criticism they receive from a white person is because they're black when in fact that's simply not the case. A stranger walking through a neighborhood is going to elicit attention regardless of his color. It may be that a black man would draw more attention in an all-white neighborhood because he's more obviously a stranger, but to assume he draws the stares because he's black should be the last assumption in the string of possibilities.

We'll never heal our racial divisions in this country as long as we keep viewing everything that happens to us through the lens of race and as long as blacks continue to react to interracial encounters as though it's still 1940.