Playing the race card at any opportunity

August 03, 2002|By GREGORY KANE

CHRISTINA Schappell is white. She'll be the first to admit it. She was born that way, but don't bust her chops about it, OK?

Sounds like a reasonable request. But this is America in the year 2002. Reasonable requests in the matter of race, for some folks, have all the appeal of fingernails being raked across a blackboard. Pray you never run into one of these characters. But Schappell says she did, two Fridays ago, as she and her boyfriend, Doug Mowbray, prepared to grab some vittles at a Mexican restaurant.

"The evening started fairly normal," Schappell recalled. Needing cash, she and her boyfriend drove up to a drive-through automated teller machine and waited while a black woman in front of them sat at the machine.

They waited. And waited. Two cars pulled up behind Schappell and her boyfriend. They soon left, figuring they had lives to lead.

"I can only assume she was filling out deposit slips, signing checks and balancing her checkbook," Schappell said. After a 5-minute wait, Schappell got out of her car, walked to the ATM the woman in front of them wasn't using and took out $40. That's when the chops-busting fest started.

"Patience is a virtue," the woman said to Schappell.

"You held up three people with something that should have been done before you came to the ATM," Schappell retorted.

"You're just upset [because] you can't hold us down anymore and put us in our place like you're used to," came the black woman's response.

"Get a life, lady," Schappell answered. "It's not about that."

Thus what started as a minor, non-ugly dispute about common courtesy became a matter of race. As if the black woman's assuming Schappell was a racist weren't enough, the coup de grace was delivered as Schappell walked back to her car.

"You're probably teaching your children to treat blacks the same way," the black woman said.

Can you dig what was happening here? A rude, discourteous woman was confronted for being so, then claimed she was the victim!

While heeding the caveat that we have only one side of this discussion, we can't rule out that it never happened. Racists -- black and white (and there are black racists, despite the con job pulled by members of the black intelligentsia who try to convince us there aren't) -- make such assumptions all the time.

Let me make it clearer: Assuming a white person is a racist because he or she is white is just as racist as a white person assuming someone black is lazy, stupid, criminal -- fill in any negative stereotype you want -- because that person is black.

There were other false assumptions the black woman made. Schappell isn't teaching her children anything. She doesn't have any. She's 23 years old and was born in 1978. By then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was 14 years old and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was 13 years old. Jim Crow and segregation had received serious beat-downs by the time Schappell and Mowbray -- he was born in 1977 -- came on the scene.

Some 23 years before Schappell's mom gave birth to her, a 14-year-old black boy named Emmett Till was brutally beaten and lynched in Mississippi. Eight years later, Medgar Evers, Mississippi's NAACP field secretary, took a fatal bullet to the back as he arrived at his Jackson home. Three months after that, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson -- all 14 -- and 11-year-old Denise McNair were killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala. All those acts were signals that blacks should stay in their place.

The notion that blacks should "stay in their place" was long passe by the time Schappell was growing up in Dundalk and attending high school with African-American schoolmates.

"Race has never been an issue for me," Schappell said from her Carney home yesterday morning. Apparently, some folks choose to make it one. There are black people in the year 2002 who will try to make Schappell and Mowbray and every white person in a 10,000-mile radius pay for more than 300 years of racial injustice they had nothing to do with.

It's a con game that some blacks whose motto should be "I am Negro, color me victim" play much too often. But because the woman who confronted Schappell was into assumptions, let's make some of our own.

We can assume that the woman is one of those African-Americans who insist blacks can't be racist. We can assume she's for reparations for slavery and wants whites like Schappell and Mowbray to pay, even though they were not only absent during slavery, they weren't even around for Jim Crow.

If she saw the woman again, Schappell said, "I would tell her I feel sorry for her and I wish she could be more open-minded. It's lonely and oppressive to be so closed-minded."

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