Conversations with Darryl and Tony

Darryl is one of my friends who lives in Chicago. I have been to Chicago, it seems like a nice place with a lot going on. According to the 2000 census, the demographics of Chicago are 32.4% Black, 31.7% White, 28.9% Hispanic/Latino, 5.4% Asian of a 2.8 million population.

We started off discussing Trump and his supporters in the forthcoming election, and Darryl (who is black) said that the support for Trump is revealing just how racist the white population of America is. I naively added my thoughts, which at the time had no statistical basis. I guessed (based solely on my experience of the views of my own white friends, family and acquaintances) that there are about 5% of the white population who are raving racists – willingly wishing harm, oppression and bad fortune on non-whites. I also guessed that of the remaining 95% many of them are not out and out racists, but people who know that racism happens but it does not register on their radar because it doesn’t affect them – it is somebody else’s problem. I used to be like this myself, blissfully unaware that as a white person I enjoy privileges that others do not, and I vaguely knew that there were injustices and issues, but it didn’t affect me, so I didn’t feel the need to stand up and say anything about it.

Also when your white social group contains many ‘mild’ racists – the kind of people who would never willingly harm a person based on skin colour, but blame the economic and criminal problems of the country on the non-white population, it’s easier to say nothing and go with the flow than it is to continually challenge them. I have challenged them in the recent past, and it is hard to change perceptions because they just accept what the media feeds them and do not actually look for the truth.

It’s really important to understand that the media have their own agenda and they will report in a biased manner to sway the population into believing whatever they want them to believe. The media is rarely questioned or brought to account, and if you are constantly being bombarded with gross exaggerations and lies, then you will believe the lies. If the government/media owners want mostly negative stories about black people reported and lots of positive stories about white people, then this is what happens and it is being fed to every household every day.

Darryl said that my guesses were way out and it was more likely that 95% of the white population are raving racists. He said that every day he says hello to white people who live in his apartment building and they ignore him and walk straight past. People sigh, roll their eyes, give him dirty looks. Nobody will hold a door open for him, women clutch their purse a bit tighter as he walks by. He hates going to restaurants because he has to wait to be served while white diners get served as a priority. I asked if there are ANY white people who are nice to him, and he said a few, but not many.

I mentioned this experience to another friend, Tony (also black), who used to live in Chicago and he agreed about the extent of blatant racism. Tony recounted a story where he had visited a branch of Olive Garden with his ex-wife. It took a while to get seated, but eventually they were served by a waiter who took an order for an appetizer. The salad was brought out and then the waiter disappeared and ignored them for the rest of the evening. Approximately an hour later another waiter asked if their main order had been taken, which it hadn’t, so the second waiter dealt with the order. At the end of the meal, Tony insisted that the tip should be given to the second waiter as the first waiter had neglected them. This caused a commotion and the manager was called, who then proceeded to treat Tony as if he had done something wrong, rather than treating him as a customer who had received appalling service. All three staff were white, Tony and his partner had a dreadful experience, yet they were being treated like an inconvenience rather than valued customers. This is not an isolated experience – it is generally how many black people are treated daily in Chicago.

It’s dawned on me before, but these conversations really hammered it home that I will never know what it feels like to be discriminated against like that every day. I feel sad and sorry that anybody has to live like that. It has to change.

I am now feeling really uneducated about the extent of the problem and would like to learn what others perceptions are regarding just how racist white people are. Do other Chicago inhabitants agree with Darryl and Tony that the vast majority of white Chicago residents have a racist mindset? Is it the same America-wide? How about other countries and cities ? Please discuss.

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