Yesterday at Verizon I was waited on by a young black man wearing dreads. He was really polite and nice to me. We laughed together about the hideous noise my phone was making. Certainly not the tough guy image the media portrays of young black men.
It occurred to me that one day he was a little boy who was loved and adored by his mommy, just like the 4-year old who sat on my lap Friday afternoon, a beautiful boy who played and giggled. I bet they even looked a little bit alike.
It made me look at Mr. Verizon with the dreads very differently.
We all have assumptions about one another. I hate to think that when my favorite little 4-year old grows up he may be defined, in many situations, by only his blackness. Will people lay all the stereotypes they carry with them on his shoulders, whenever he meets someone new? Will life on this planet still be more dangerous for him simply because he was born black?
Many will not think about the fact that he was once a little boy, just like theirs, who wanted to be held and played with, like every other child in the universe. Instead, they will fear him, they will immediately be on guard, they will think prejudiced thoughts.
If only we could all make an effort to be even kinder to those of a different race than we are to members of our own, then maybe we could solve this some day. Of course, sometimes we’re not nice to anyone at all. If only we could imagine one another as the children we all once were, cute and cuddly.
Maybe if we all wore buttons with our pictures on them. Knowing a fat woman was once young and beautiful might make people think twice. Seeing an old man in his youth, lots of hair and a grin, might make a difference. Remembering a noisy teenager was once a sweet baby could help even their parents.
If you meet a young black man on the street today, smile and think of him holding his mommy’s hand, giggling and being silly. And if you meet a middle-aged, bitchy, overweight woman, try to remember I used to be hot and thought coupon shopping was beneath me.