Novelist, comic book writer, and also comic book reviewer for www.BrokenFrontier.com, also website marketing coach for the Online Marketing Solutions company Push Traffic dot com. Incidentally, I am also the worst writer in the world.
So I went out to a local coffee shop to get work done, and instead was conscripted into walking a Korean lady to the metro in order to "protect her from the black man".
She hardly spoke a lick of English, but she could say "black man", and "following me" and "scared to leave" and "metro" and somehow, by intermittently speaking in hushed, harsh whispers and pointing with vaudevillian "inconspicuous" swoops of the arm at a tall and lanky black man sleeping in a chair somewhere behind us, it was revealed to me that she was of the emphatic belief that he was following her. I know secret service men that couldn't pull off so deft a tailing as sleeping and snoring and successfully keeping up with a short penguin-gaited highly-paranoiac Asian gal. But he'd apparently been at the same Metro stop as she, three days in a row, always there, just like she, always taking the same Metro (*gasp!*) Honestly, I don't even think that was true (I suspect they were different black men, but all tall and characteristically dressed and so deemed the same individual), but even if it was true, the dear little ajumma* didn't speak proper enough English (or, honestly, intelligence in any language) to allow me to point out that, based on her criteria for spotting a stalker, she was following them.
Still, just in case I was living in a casually stereotypical Hollywood Blockbuster, I didn't want to ignore the possibility of someone truly stalking a poor petite Korean ummu**, so I walked her to the Metro, "keeping my eye out" for the black man (which translated to any black men) who might sneaky-sneaky be following us. Surprise, surprise, the one in question remained vigilant in his napping, and all the rest were wrapped up in their own insanities.
Now, I know Koreatown blacks aren't the most sterling examples of ethnic potential the world over - they tend to be homeless, or extremely low-income, or plumb clinically off-kilter in the head, but this was my first dawning realization that my inherent white man's guilt, a thing which tends to rub off on most Americans no matter their ethnicity should they not be so cloistered in an area that allows them to cling to non-American traditionalist world views, was something that, for all its shamefaced existence, kept me from so throwback a behavior to another color of guy. Is guilt necessary for progress? Probably not: someone else once pointed out that it's merely that we have a history with blacks, more so than the Koreans, and the fact that our history is one of slave trade and viciously fought-for civil rights isn't as important as that we had a relationship with another people at all.
Exposure and interaction are the key elements. Here's hoping we can expose ourselves and interact in ways that aren't abusive, violent, demeaning, and/or demoralizing to another people. Likely we'd come to the same ends if we actually behaved ourselves: we'd still end up with a melting pot jamboree of differences, people coming together and staying together anyway. Wouldn't it be nice to have it without the regrets? --Dave B.
*auntie (older woman - not so polite) **mum (casual, polite enough)