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Village Encounter

Last night I was studying the menu outside a restaurant and I felt a hand settle familiarly on my shoulder as someone walked behind me. The man attached to the hand stopped by my side after he'd passed me. He was black, and wore a dark sweatshirt with the hood up. He asked me for fifty cents.

When I apologetically declined (I prefer not to pull my wallet out in such circumstances: after dark, in Greenwich Village, alone except for the complete stranger with his hand on my shoulder) he replied, "so you want me to go to jail?"

That was unexpected, so I apologized again, and this time he calmly told me, "you see, that's why I hate white people." I went inside the restaurant to look at the menu.


Damn. That's one of those occasions when nothing actually *happened*, but it leaves you feeling terrible. But I hope you don't feel guilty; you're not obliged to hand out money to all comers, and if the guy "hates white people" he shouldn't be hitting them up in the first place.

Of course as soon as I walked away I thought of various things I might have said, the most obvious being:

1) "I would respond exactly the same way to a white person."
2) "You won't win people over by telling them you hate them."

I was too dumbfounded by the jail and white people remarks to think of these at the time :).

I don't feel especially guilty or bad over this. It's one of those nasty situations where you feel compelled to ignore another human being; urban environments sure present a lot of these :(.

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