Inference often leads to error

November 10, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

Reaction to letters, phone calls and faxes to Greg Kane, the notorious B.R.U.T. (Black Racist Uncle Tom):

Dan Donavon, whose comments appeared in this column Wednesday, has a keen sense of the inferences people make. Human beings, when they make inferences, embrace instinctively the one that is least valid. Hence Donavon's concern when he read the following in my column.

"Dan Donavon, the business manager for Canaan [Discount Food Outlet] who said he has 15 years' experience at a meat director for Super Pride and Stop, Shop and Save, claimed freezing meat with expired sell-by dates is standard procedure for food stores. Some even put new sell-by stickers over the old ones, Donavon claimed."

But he was not, Donavon wants to make clear, referring to either Super Pride or Stop, Shop and Save.

"I respect [Super Pride owner] Oscar Smith and [Stop, Shop and Save] owner Henry Baines. Both have worked hard to get where they're at."

As if he were reading Donavon's mind, Smith called the day the column appeared.

"We don't operate that way," Smith said of covering old sell-by labels with new ones or freezing meat with expired sell-by dates. "That's not the way we do business."

That's common knowledge to anyone who's visited either store. Both are first-class operations with quality products. That's how Smith and Baines are able to stay in business.

The "rational discrimination" debate rages unabated. Philip Filner Owings Mills and Bruce Didier of Potomac have injected a new offense into the American body politic: thought crime. Writing about the Nov. 3 column in which I expressed disdain for a chicken-hearted white guy at an ATM machine whose stark terror of black men was holding me up from going about my business, the gentlemen had this to say: Didier: "Kane's reaction to this perceived slight is interesting. Immediately his thoughts turn to violence -- ('If I had been trying to rob him, he would have known it.') If this is the reaction of a man with a modicum of education and success, it does little to allay the apprehensions of whites to which Kane so vehemently objects."

Mr. Didier: I did not react to any "perceived slight." I reacted to being delayed. I couldn't give a tinker's damn what the character at the ATM thought of me, violent crime or black men in general. And since when do violent thoughts equal violent actions? When the thoughts emanate from the mind of a black man?

Filner had a similar reaction to this quote from the column concerning the same guy.

"Listen, pal, if I wanted to rob you, you'd have been straight up jacked by now. So hurry it up before I give you something to really be afraid about."

Filner's comments: "Mr. Kane, your testimony makes it abundantly clear that the man in front of you had very good instincts about you, because you were thinking [emphasis mine] aggressive, hateful thoughts about him, and very probably conveying those thoughts through your body language and other aspects of your demeanor. You are condemning people who exercise common-sense prudence and caution when they encounter strangers who fit the profile of people widely reported to act in violent criminal ways."

Ah, yes, I figured someone would read the phrase "give you something to be afraid about" and immediately conclude I meant something violent. I am, after all, a black man. But I was thinking along the lines of shouting "Boo!" or stripping naked and letting the man see my nude body, a sight more terrifying than getting robbed, believe me.

The bottom line is I committed no violence, gentlemen, in spite of what was going on in my mind. I'd say that puts me one up on those whites who are the majority of those cops arrest for aggravated assault and those white guys who've been charged with domestic violence who may be beating their wives even as you read this.

But let's discuss fear further. Using the "logic" of the "rational discriminators," every black driver in the country should be terrified when they get on the nation's streets and highways and see white drivers. Nearly 90 percent of those arrested for drunken driving are white, and a drunken driver will kill you just as dead as an armed robber will.

So if I were a "rational discriminator," I'd be afraid every time a white driver gets near me on the road. I'd be horrified when a white driver tailgated me (which, for reasons I have yet to understand, white drivers seem to do more frequently and for greater distances than black drivers).

But I'm not. I realize that those whites arrested for drunken driving are a small minority of white drivers. The majority of white drivers do indeed drive safely and soberly. When I see a white driver, I figure the overwhelming odds are that he or she is one of the good ones.

All I ask is that "rational discriminators" think the same way when they see a black man. The fact that they don't think an individual black man can be "one of the good ones" is proof positive that, deep down, "rational discriminators" don't really believe there are any good ones.

Pub Date: 11/10/96

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