For a white guy I think I’m pretty aware when it comes to racial issues. In our urban utopias we like to think that racism is less of an issue when compared to the water-logged south. These thoughts are dangerous, and misleading. About two years ago I bought a house in a neighborhood just outside downtown Denver. Apparently back when the KKK was a roaring force in Denver around the turn of the century they established a race line. African-American people were only allowed to live north of 23rd Avenue and west of (roughly) York St. My house lay smack in the middle of this area.

Thankfully our world today has a little more justice, and there are no such limitations. However, due to that historical fact, the neighborhood is still predominantly black. Obviously I have no problem with this, I mean, I bought a house there, right? It didn’t take long to realize we weren’t really welcome. While there were plenty of people, regardless of race, who smiled and waved as we went for early evening walks, just as many people, predominately the African-American neighbors, would not only glare at us as we walked by, but continue to glare even after I smiled and waved at them (So much for taking initiative).

On the way to work this morning I was staring absently out the window (no, I wasn’t driving) and we drove past a young black girl who was jaywalking. We couldn’t see her as we approached, and we were nowhere near hitting her, but it just so happened that I made eye contact with her as she drifted past my field of vision. Her face contorted into a scowl and she proceeded to yell something offensive at me as we drove away. I couldn’t make out the words.

I was quite angry about this exchange. I vented to my wife about it quite a bit for the rest of the drive. Guaranteed, if this girl knew anything about me, that would have been a smile and a wave, not a heated exchange. Prejudice is not born of color, but of misunderstanding. What percentage of people make an honest attempt to understand and know someone regardless of first impressions? How do you break the ice with a neighbor who lives not more than fifty feet away from you, who through the course of two years has never offered anything more in greeting than an icy stare.

So what is my response to this treatment? First I feel anger, and then I feel guilt for my anger. If my neighbor were a middle class Caucasian male, I could happily feel angry at him all day. But because of race, I feel like I’m not allowed guilt. Who am I to be angry at people that have been discriminated against by people like me all their lives. Conclusion, I am a racist. A new racist. I am a racist because I am not able to treat others equally. I cannot express my feelings honestly for fear of appearing to be an old racist. Where is this stupid melting pot they kept promising us?