In 1959, I was 13 years old and I had just started working in my father’s gifts and toy shop. The shop was located in West Philadelphia, a neighborhood that was probably 90 to 95% minorities, mostly black. Virtually all of my father’s customers were black, as were most of his employees. My father and I on the other hand or white. And it was great, we have wonderful relationships with our customers, our employees and people in the neighborhood. Go on, admit it, when you read my title you assumed I was referring to a middle class majority white neighborhood with a few cowed, token minorities widely separated enough so that they couldn’t get together and pool grievances.
Be that as it may, the four white folks–my dad, two other merchants, and me, though I was a part -time–in this neighborhood seemed to like it okay. One incident in particular stands out. A black teenager came in the store, noticed that my dad was busy, then suddenly grabbed something and ran out with it. About half an hour later he was dragged back into the store, by his ear no less, by his next door neighbor who was the Auntie on the block. What I mean by the Auntie is, she was home during the day while a lot of other parents worked, so she was kind of deputized by people in the neighborhood to watch out for the neighborhood kids, and given permission to intervene if they were doing wrong.
“How dare you steal from this man“, punctuated by a slap upside the head. “He’s always treated us right”, slap, “you apologize to him“, slap….Back in those days, we were too unwoke to realize that slapping a teenager upside the head will turn him into a violence-crazed drug addict, but not having easy access to either guns or drugs, he meekly apologized and eventually, my father hired him, and he became a reliable employee and very close to our family. We didn’t even recognize the microaggression in her use of the term “us” to denote people of her race, but maybe she’d get a pass today since her use of the word “us” is a microaggression against herself.
But not so for poor Aydene Militello of DeKalb. The 78-year-old Illinois woman is due in court on August 8 to face a hate-crime charge for allegedly telling a black woman during a road-rage argument that “You and your people need to take responsibility for your own actions.” It is punishable by one to three years in prison if she’s convicted. DeKalb County Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert signed a warrant Monday with $3,000 bond attached, and court records show that after Militello was arrested and booked into the jail, she promptly posted $300 bail to be released. “You people” is apparently more than a microaggression, it’s a “hate crime. Wow, no wonder race relations are so much better in 2018 than in 1959!