I was having a cup of coffee at the Whole Foods Cafe yesterday, sitting, facing the door, watching the people. Scanning. Scanning. Having emotional reactions to a business interaction that was transpiring between a man and a woman at a club table to my right. A Black couple walked in. I caught eyes with the woman. Instantly, she expressed a negative reaction, an almost imperceptible flinch that held in it what felt to me like some response to a perceived racism in that momentary glance. Her partner, without looking at her at anytime during this moment, instantly responded to her with an almost imperceptible comfort gesture, openess and a slight turning toward her, without breaking a step, as they continued on their way through the cafe into the store.
I was jarred. I was disturbed. I was emotionally shocked. I felt guilty. I wondered whether I had expressed something in that moment or whether she had an expectation upon that glance, which was simply reflected back.
I continued to people-watch, as I considered what had just happened. A white man, 35?, came through the door. He was tense, business-like. We locked eyes. His eyes glazed. He closed me out, deliberately ignored me. A sharp, little anger there, but passing, as he continued about his business. After that, I didn’t pay any attention to or notice him.
I felt vindicated. Apart from my internal reaction to that public business meeting, I was just sitting there, relaxed, next to the fireplace, looking at people, with no particular intent.
Life is a feedback loop, with stimulus-response usually contingent upon each other. We can see it in environmental science, the mother-child relationship, and quantum physics.
Conscious effort has to be made in ourselves to to allow the best interpretation of intent on the part of others.
This sounds ho-hum and easy, but, if we are smart, we are confronted with those opportunities, constantly, everyday and, often, it is not easy.
There is a long history of racial expectation ingrained in our DNA. Consciously changing our thoughts, our actions, our reactions is the only way to change the feedback loop between individuals, and eventually, groups of people, such as “races”.
There would be a sort of comfort, if we could go out each day with covered eyes.