Barack Obama apparently deftly delivered another bullet to his foot with his recent comments about his "white grandmother." He called her a "typical white person" and the news commentators on radio and TV are lovin' it! The tone of their comments boils down to this: "How dare he, a black man running for president, use racial stereotypes when racial stereotypes have done so much to hurt civil rights?"
Well take it from a "typical white person", stereotypes or not, I can certainly understand his grandmother's fear of walking past certain people (be they white, black, Hispanic or other) on any street. Why? Simply because some of them are very different and different is, to many of us typical white people, not good — in fact it's scary sometimes.
To be clear here, I'm not talking about skin color (actually skin color has almost nothing to do with "racial" attitudes) and I'm not talking about people who I have previously met. I'm talking about that stranger whose mannerism, dress, and body language — in general terms, the way he or she presents him/her self — are so different from my own that it triggers a danger signal. Be honest, you've all seen them! They are the punks who walk down the street talking loud and giving everyone they see "the look" that says, "Hey, you better not be lookin' at me or I'll jump your a**." They are the bleary-eyed drunks and druggies who look like they are ready to do anything for another drink or fix; they are almost any young people who are travel in "packs", acting like they are the kings and queens of the sidewalk and YOU are on THEIR sidewalk.'
Am I a racist for thinking this or seeing people that way? Hell no! I'm just a typical person who happens to be white and who has been raised to behave a certain way and to expect people to behave a certain, non-threatening way. I'm sure that neither Barack's white grandmother nor I are the least bit intimidated by 95+% of the people we see on the street no matter what color they are. Perhaps if Barack's white grandmother spent more time in urban ghettos she would become accustomed to all the different manners of dress and behavior — perhaps if I spent more time there I would also be more comfortable with those who seem to go out of their way to look and act "different."