Travel tip: Sometimes its best to let the world know you're harmless
Leaving the U.S. is always bittersweet. While it’s hard to leave my country and family here, heading back home to my wife is something I’m ready for as a month away. It’s as my wife has said: When you are a couple from two different countries, there will always be one family you are forced to miss.
The travel itself is burdensome - a 24-hour trek across continents - but with experience, you gain some know-how on how to handle that. One part of the trip that will be easy enough for me is the pre-flight security aspect.
Sure, it’s somewhat annoying to stand in line, take off your shoes, etc., while a bunch of people in uniform mull around, but my skin tone seems to protect me from being bothered too much. When you’re white, random means random, which means very rarely will you be pulled aside for any extra patting down.
From what I’ve seen on several side trips around the U.S. this past month, however, the darker your skin, the more “random” equals “Sir, step over here, please.”
Such is the way it goes in the U.S., a multi-culture nation that seems to have no clue it is, in fact, multi-cultural. Of course, a recent side trip to Phoenix showed me that some darker-skinned Americans have fought back - subtly and with a touch of humor.
Waiting to go through the x-ray machine, I watched with some mirth as a man in front of me drew looks and some snickers - even from the security personnel - as his T-shirt stated in bold letters - Harmless Brown Man.
It was truly an interesting development. The man was treated respectfully, treated others the same and was ushered through sharing a chuckle about his shirt.
Which appears to be exactly what the makers of the shirt (and the “Harmless Black Man” shirt) are after. Here’s the “Manifesto” from Harmlessbrownman.com
When we say HARMLESS BLACK MAN or HARMLESS BROWN MAN, what do we mean?
Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean:
…It doesn’t mean powerless or weak.
…It doesn’t mean silent or indifferent.
To say “I am a HARMLESS BLACK MAN or HARMLESS BROWN MAN” simply means:
I am not a criminal.
I am not a terrorist.
I am not a menace to society.
I have nothing to gain from participating in a culture of fear.
Please see me as I see myself: as a peaceful, positive and empowered human being who wants more justice and harmony in the world.
If you are tired of being harassed or treated differently because of the color of your skin…
If you are tired of getting the “evil eye” from shopkeepers, law enforcement, or ignorant people in general…
If you are opposed to violence and believe that peaceful, constructive action is possible…
This shirt is for YOU.
In a land where being locked up and having the key tossed is a real possibility, protesting and humor can be a dangerous thing. Especially the darker your skin is. No one wants to be the next Bilal Hussein, after all.
So hats off to HBMan. Humor and ingenuity in face of unpleasant, if not outright dangerous circumstances is truly the American way and, outside of my family, what I miss most when I’m away from my home.
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