The other day my friend and I were watching TV when we heard the news that six Muslims had been put off an airplane for praying.
Put off a plane for praying? What would happen in school board meetings in Bossier Parish if everyone were kicked out for praying? They wouldn't even be able to hold a meeting--no one would be there, except for me.
My friend cheered when he heard the news. "That's right," he said. "If I'd been on the plane I would have wanted them off too. I would have thought they were planning to bomb the plane."
I sat and stared at him quietly. I didn't know how I really felt about the situation. "Don't people of that faith pray seven times per day?" I asked him. He said it didn't matter. He'd be suspicious.
"I'm stereotyping," he yelled. "And I'm black. I know it's bad but the world is too messed up to take chances."
If put in the same situation as those folks on the plane, I hoped I wouldn't act that way. I hoped I'd be understanding. Cultured. Considerate. Compassionate. But would I?
My friend, who is terrified to travel to New York, thought it was no different than what some people do to him. When they see him on the street ladies clutch their purses and lock their doors. And, he's a businessman. But some folks still get scared when they see his tall, black, figure.
He said, "If you went to Walmart at night and saw six or seven black men with their pants hanging down, you'd park on the other end of the lot and go into the entrance furthest away from them. If you saw a bunch of praying Muslims hanging around a Walmart at night you'd park your car and go in with no thoughts about it.
"Change the situation," he said.
"If a group of black men had their pants sagging in an airport, you would keep it moving. You wouldn't worry about them. But if you saw a bunch of them hanging around an airport, praying you would start crying and get scared."
I told him I wouldn't do that.
He called me a liar.
Maybe I am. I don't know. But I'm going to try to not feel that way. It's not fair.
My grandmama says you can find out a person's true character when put in compromising situations. My friend would have flipped out if he were on that plane. I guess his character is that of a racist.
I sure hope mine isn't.