One day a child came up to me and told me someone was picking on him and calling him names. I asked him for a name but he didn’t know a name so I asked for a description and he told me the problem was wearing a blue jacket, blue jeans, a red stocking cap (all stocking caps were red then) tennis shoes, and had mittens on. I, aware that he had basically described every child on the playground, told him to return to playing and I would keep an eye on him.
Sure enough in a few minutes I watched my reported “victim” knock over another child who got up and retaliated by pushing him down. As I went over I noticed something that the complaining child had neglected to tell me. The reported offender was indeed wearing a blue jacket, blue jeans, a red stocking cap, tennis shoes, and had mittens on but it turns out that the child who was actually just defending himself was also African-American. As one of only two black children in the whole school he was certifiably identifiable.
Why had the original complaining student left that out of the description. Had the actual aggressor but self-described victim been fearful to use that part of the description due to sensitivity, was he truly color blind at that age, or was he pushing him down and attempting to get him in trouble because he was black? It is a question that I was unable to answer at that time but have pondered for years.
What sub-conscious blocks exist in our minds leading to hidden pathways that we then travel down as we deal with racism? What ingrained habits or perceptions guide our reactions without bothering to tell us that they even exist. I wonder.
This incident did have a positive side, as I happened to be watching, for once it was not the 2nd bad actor that got caught.