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By Glenn Townes
Glenn.townes@njurbannews.com

A few weeks ago when I read the widely publicized story about an African American man named Chris Cooper bird watching in Central Park and being confronted by an angry white woman who called the police on him for videotaping her racist rant. Her colorful–pun intended–statements included, “I’m going to call the police and tell them that an African American man is threatening my life.” Cooper had asked the woman to put her rambunctious dog on a leash—per the law. As I watched the video, read and re-read some of the stories about it, I had a flashback to a remotely similar personal experience.

When I was in high school, I worked part time at a popular local fast food restaurant. I won’t divulge the name of the greasy spoon—other than to say it had the word “Burger” in its name. I worked at the joint with several former classmates, including one white female. One day, she told the manager that she, “Felt uncomfortable working with a black guy.” She also mentioned that she was afraid that I might be inappropriate with her while we were putting frozen hamburger patties on the grill.” The manager pulled me aside and told me the story. He laughed it off and dismissed the whole thing as stupid nonsense, which it was. I, however, did not laugh it off and avoided the classmate like the plague in school and at the restaurant. I never forgot the incident. Fast forward to my high school class reunion some 30 plus years later —the very first one I attended—and one of the first people I saw when I arrived at the nostalgic event was my former hash slinging classmate. She looked toward me,  I assume to speak, however, she saw the menacing scowl on my face and my body language that screamed, “Don’t you even think about coming over here and saying a word to me!” Fortunately, for her, she scurried past me without uttering a word.

When I saw Chris Cooper being confronted by the disgraced and subsequently fired former financial services banker during their encounter in Central Park last month, I thought about how white women have long been portrayed as the usually weepy and woe is me victim–especially when an African American man is involved.

The examples of this scenario are plentiful. There was the infamous case of Emmett Till—the 14 year-old African American boy that was brutally murdered by a gang of crazed white men in Mississippi for allegedly flirting with a white woman at a small grocery store in the 1950’s. In 2008,–some 50 years later, the woman admitted she had lied about various aspects of the encounter. Then there was the case last year of disgraced ex-Dallas cop Amber Guyger. The white female cop shot and killed an innocent and unarmed African American man while he ate ice cream in his apartment. She thought he was in her apartment even though his apartment was located on a different floor of the building. Guyger got sentenced to 10 years in prison—with the  likelihood of an early release after only a few years. Plenty of people thought she should have gotten a longer sentence. However, after watching her sob uncontrollably while on the witness stand, and periodically push or swing her pretty blond locks of hair out of her watery baby brown eyes, and considering the victim was an African American man, I wasn’t surprised by the minimum sentence. Now, we have yet another case of a—dare I say it–”A privileged white female threatening to pull the race card in her fairy tale complaint against an African American man.

Lastly, I know it’s been said that it’s unhealthy to hold a grudge and one should forgive, forget and move on—most of the time, I do. As for me and my former burger flipping class mate from 40 years ago—our high school reunion anniversary is rapidly approaching. I won’t be attending.

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