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What Happens When White Men Are Scared Of Black Men

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What Happens When White Men Are Scared Of Black Men

Chase Coleman - what happens when white men are scared

It happened because a white man was scared.

Chase Coleman was on a park road, probably lost and confused, having straggled far behind the pack — he’s a cross-country runner from Syracuse, N.Y. — when the white man got out of his car and shoved him. A witness said Chase flew back 10 feet and landed on his backside.

Because that white man was scared.

He had no reason to be. As described by witnesses in the Washington Post and on Syracuse.com, Chase is a gangly black kid, 15 years of age, who weighs about 130 pounds. The white man is said to be very tall and to weigh twice that.

But that white man was scared.

Fifty-seven-year-old Martin MacDonald told police he feared that Chase — on foot, unarmed, wearing a runner’s uniform with a number pinned to his chest — might mug MacDonald’s wife, who was in the car next to him. MacDonald was also incensed the boy did not respond to his commands to get out of the road.

But Chase has autism and is nearly nonverbal. He doesn’t respond to much of anything.

Except running. He’s not very good at it, often finishes last. But his mom says being on his high school track team is one of the few ways he has ever been able to participate with others, to connect to the world beyond his unknowable thoughts. He loves running.

Or did. Chase turned in his uniform after the Oct. 14 incident.

His mother sought a warrant to arrest her son’s attacker on a charge of harassment, which carries a maximum 15-day sentence. In an act of breathtaking moral obtuseness, a judge in Rochester, where this happened, turned her down. In a victory for systemic bigotry, the judge is African American. On Monday, police said their investigation was ongoing.

Which is all well and good. But try to picture some burly black man assaulting an autistic white boy. Try to conceive of authorities still hemming and hawing about it almost three weeks later. You can’t. Not even Stephen King has that much imagination.

How many times have black people bled because white men were scared? Of retribution or uprising. Of robbery or rape. Of social equality and the loss of place and prerogative. Of blackness itself.

Tamir Rice was shot and killed within two seconds because a white man was scared.

Trayvon Martin was stalked and killed because a white man was scared.

Levar Jones was shot while complying with a state trooper’s command because the trooper, a white man, was scared.

White men’s fear has long been the story of black people’s lives and deaths. It is a story told in spectacle lynchings and burning schoolhouses, in poll taxes and restrictive covenants.

Someone will say violent crime statistics justify a white man’s fear. They don’t. To the contrary, they warn that if you are fated to be victimized, the attacker will probably look a lot like you.

Someone else will say that not all white men are scared and that some actively fight against fear. This, of course, is true.

But what does that matter to Chase? How do you explain any of this to an indrawn boy who had been used to adults being kind to him? How do you tell him that he terrifies some people just by standing in a road, lost? How do you make him understand what can happen when white men are scared?

Consider that a man assaulted him, then justice betrayed him, and that our whole history suggests that it could have been much worse. Then ask yourself:

Who should be frightened of whom?

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

IMAGE: Via The Washington Post


Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 2, 2016

    This sort of story typifies an evolutionary process that’s been in the making over a millenia ago when human diversity began to take on different skin colors and facial features due to environmental necessity. The human species is primarily visually oriented and differences in appearances are the first things infants notice. Hair texture, skin color, facial features all inform us immediately about who stands before us. Maybe as a form of protection of human groups that banded together for protection from neighboring groups, visual cues helped provide a form of protection.
    But that was a mechanism required thousands of years ago. Other divisions would arise later, based on family affiliation, tribal affiliation, then religious, and more recently colorism/racialism.
    Other forms of distinctions would form, according to physical imperfections/deformities, class differences; nation building, a process jump-started with the notion of “Ummah” as inculcated by Muhammad, in which He was able to weld tribal factions into a confederacy based on a unity of tribes would arise, and would accelerate courtesy of human communities in Europe which benefited directly and indirectly from the spreading influence of Islam in southern Europe and on the Iberian Peninsula, reaching a culmination during the Age of Discovery. All the while these social changes were occurring, Religion was undergoing changes in synch via the paradigm of Progressive Revelation. Each Major Religion was the key impulse for a change in society, including setting standards for more sophisticated forms of communication and interactions, and helping to ignite bursts of creative and intellectual achievement.

    Yet, skin color remained a key arbiter and perceptions based on skin color and linkages with various human societies and notions of superiority, intellectual and physical, would help fuel a systematic hierarchy based on color as an index linked with a neural coding system defining the level of fear to be expressed.

    This neuro-circuit pathway can only be altered by an infusion of a higher, more mature, and more sophisticated sensibility to inform the brain, and the mind and “heart”. Which is the primary reason that Religion has been once again renewed; this time, the “Light” of Religion is called the Revelation of Baha’u’llah”, and the “lamp” is called the Baha’i Faith. No lasting solution to address the problem addressed in the article above can be achieved by the most noble sentiments of the greatest philosophical ideas of the greatest of mortal humans; nor can the lofty political legislation, jurisprudence, and most enlightened executive orders can achieve the solution needed.

    One can’t help but recall the deaths of thousands of black men and women lynched in a Christian nation, America. America long ago had begun to lose its connection to a large degree, and in critical areas, with its Christian values the moment the Pilgrims landed. Emmett Till, the 4 little girls in a church in Birmingham, Medgar Evers in Jackson, Miss., my hometown, Dr. Martin Luther King, and many others would lose their lives because their evolutionary paths required them to maintain their skin coloration.

    So, here we are, and we have to make some major changes in our “circuitry”, and in our knowledge of our unseen connection that transcends skin color, physical imperfections, gender, and facial/hair features. Humankind will continue to evolve, social changes will require new perceptions, and Religion will have to continue to be renewed to cope with the changes.

    1. dpaano November 4, 2016

      What’s really interesting is that it has been proven that the human race started in Africa and were black. We’ve grown from that into various skin colors, but the bottom line is that we ALL have African blood in our bodies!

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 4, 2016

        Unfortunately, many Americans and certain others around the world are convinced that the results of genomics and other aspects of science aren’t relevant. And therefore, they’ll persist in thinking that humans are fundamentally different because of skin color modifications, and are of different species consequently.

        1. PrecipitousDrop November 4, 2016

          If, by some miracle, the world’s population was convinced of common ancestors, some of us would still find damned good “reasons” to struggle with some different ones. Humans, loveable as we are most of the time, are inherently flawed. That’s why we evolve.

        2. dbtheonly November 4, 2016


          If you look at the pre-war South, you’ll see that different States had different qualifications for who could be enslaved. As I recall, North Carolina required three Black Grandparents, while Georgia only required one. If not for the seriousness of the issue, it would be laughable to see the struggles over how Black is Black.

          Equally there were great efforts put into determining how “African” one was by the color of one’s skin. Almost humorous.

          Then 100 years ago there were definitions of “Irish Race”, “Celtic Race”, “Latin Race”, “Slavic Race”, “Jewish Race”, and “Germanic Race”. Aside from the Japanese being defined as Aryan, nothing funny there too.

          I’m inclined to think there’s one race- human. Though PD’s probably right. We’d find some other reason to hate.

  2. PrecipitousDrop November 3, 2016

    What’s wrong with white men?
    Why can’t they ever take charge of themselves and get over acting like frightened preschoolers?
    We’ve got a thriving industry in boner pills. Why can’t we find effective remedies to stiffen wimpy spines?
    I am sick to death of homophobia, Islamophobia, and the ultimate insanity of “Stand Your Ground” laws.
    Oh, and any cop who kills an unarmed person — who hasn’t laid a finger on the cop — and reports that he or she “feared for my life” should expect to be fired on the spot; they’re no longer suited to the job. Let em find desk duty in some other civil service agency. After all, haven’t they been trained to use their tasers, or their batons?
    Grow UP white guys. Just grow the hell UP.

    1. Daniel Jones November 3, 2016

      Every time I read “stand your ground” I just play “The Readiness Is All” in the back of my mind.

      1. PrecipitousDrop November 3, 2016

        Crap, Danny.
        ANOTHER piece of racist drivel I could’ve live my whole and happy life without.
        Cowardice is the ultimate impotence, bed wetter.

        1. Daniel Jones November 4, 2016

          You missed the point.

          “The Readiness Is All” is a song used in-game in the game *Bioshock Infinite* as just that–racist drivel meant to warp young minds with malice aforethought by Comstock and his crew.

          The player, however, is by that time well acquainted by just how systematic the racism in Columbia is. The song is Elizabeth’s initiation into just how fucked up the Founder culture is.

          Likewise, I find Stand-Your-Ground laws as systematic lazy allowance of tragedy or bias-induced murder.

          1. PrecipitousDrop November 4, 2016

            Will wonders never cease.
            Had no idea. Not a gamer.
            The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, wrote the Stand-Your-Ground law and shopped it around to different states before Florida became the first to bite. Former Gov. Jeb Bush signed it into law.

  3. The lucky one November 3, 2016

    I think Pitts makes a good point but in this case I don’t believe the perp was scared. He is an ignorant bully who saw someone he could push around. Does anyone think this POS would have done that if the runner was 6’2″ 200 lbs?

    1. PrecipitousDrop November 3, 2016

      You’re absolutely right. But you know that.
      The jerk who assaulted the autistic boy just reverted to Chapter 1 of the Weenie Boy’s BIG Book of Weasel, and pulled out, “I was scared of the black guy. I mean, I was scared for my wife!” Pitts, bless him, called our attention to THAT, and I am forever grateful.

      1. The lucky one November 3, 2016

        Pitts is a good writer and very honest though i don’t always agree wit him which is fine. if i always agreed I wouldn’t find him as interesting. He’s one of the few columnists that i’m aware of that is worth the time to read. I dearly miss Molly Ivins.

        1. PrecipitousDrop November 3, 2016

          Aw, man!
          EVERYBODY misses Molly Ivins.

          1. The lucky one November 3, 2016


  4. Jon November 3, 2016

    Martin McDonald, 57 years of racism, bigotry, hatred, looking for a chance to put an autistic young black man in his place. How proud he and his wife must have been for his heroic effort. Confronting a much smaller teenager dressed in a runner’s uniform must have been the bravest thing McDonald has ever done in his life. Never flinching while facing an imminent violent attack, McDonald delivered his manly blow. Anybody else would have been arrested and jailed until bond was posted. There is no justice when people like McDonald and Trump are never held to answer for their crimes.

    1. dbtheonly November 4, 2016

      Be grateful Chase was only pushed down. He might have been shot.

      1. dpaano November 4, 2016

        So painfully true!

      2. Jon November 4, 2016

        True but still vile and disgusting.

  5. dpaano November 4, 2016

    This is a pretty sad commentary! It boggles my mind that this judge failed to take action against MacDonald! It’s pretty clear that he assaulted an innocent person who was just running with his track mates and whose only downfall was that he was an African American!!! Not sure why so many so-called “white men” are afraid of African Americans….seems it is the other way around!

    1. PrecipitousDrop November 4, 2016

      I dunno, dpaano. For feckless cowards like McDonald, one close brush with the justice system probably cured him of shoving kids for a while. Now he has a “record”, right? If he does it again, he won’t get a pass.

    2. dbtheonly November 4, 2016

      I’m guessing it might be a question of creditable evidence. The victim is mentally disabled, there are no other witnesses.

      But any time a news story has an absurd result, it’s sure the report leaves out some vital fact.

      1. PrecipitousDrop November 4, 2016

        There were witnesses, db.
        They were quoted in WaPo and Syracuse.com.

        1. dbtheonly November 4, 2016

          Fair enough. It’s still a question of what don’t we know.

          It strikes me as absurd to claim that an African-American Judge is a racist. The Judge had a good reason.

          1. PrecipitousDrop November 4, 2016

            Judges of every race are still human. In case you hadn’t noticed, sometimes we screw up. l

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