I have trouble remembering what people look like. Ask me someone's height or age, hair or eye color, and I'm at a loss. I'd be a terrible witness. But I remember what people care about, how they speak, what they give. At our PSM booth downtown, a younger-than-I-am woman came up and talked to me for a few minutes. She was from Michigan and thinking of moving to Portland. I couldn't have told you if she was rich or poor, blonde or brunette, fair or dark, tall or short, but two things made me remember her. First, she said she was a steel worker. Or welder? Or something like that -- something that was heavy, hard work and paid union wages. The other was that she left to get some cash -- I assumed she wanted to buy a brownie. She came back and handed me $100, and asked me to assure her that it would be used to directly feed people living on the street. I couldn't even tell you her name, and I feel guilty about that. But I think I'd know her if I ran into her again, not because I'd recognize her appearance, but because I'd remember her heart.
I once spent several hours on Amtrak, talking to my seatmate about everything -- politics, religion, money, societal ills, literature, you name it. He was about my age, dark (I would guess African American) with dreadlocks. I met him when he was uncomfortable leaving his bags long enough to buy a cup of coffee and I offered to watch his stuff for a few minutes. Later we found we had adjacent seats. A couple of stops before we reached Portland -- after about 15 hours of conversation -- the conductor came and kicked him off the train because he had stolen another passenger's ... something. A suitcase? A sleeping bag? I have no idea. I gave him my card in case he needed help finding resources once he got to Portland, but that was all I could do. I was afraid he might be arrested, but he gave the item back, assured me that he'd be fine, and went with the conductor.
While I'm writing this, a man named Paul called me. He happened by our booth one day and we got to talking, especially about mental healthy and specifically how excruciating depression can be. I gave him my card also, asking him to please phone anytime he just needed a real human to talk to. We missed each other a couple of times over the holidays and just had a pleasant catch-up. Again, I couldn't tell you what he looks like to save my life, and I don't know whether he's homeless or financially comfortable. All I know is that he plays guitar and loves the Beatles, and he sometimes says his name is Paul McCartney. And he's lonely. And he has a big heart.
My point is, I don't seek out people based on their ethnicity or financial standing or status of clothing. I talk to anyone and everyone who wants to talk. I might make a friend, I might receive a donation, I might be the only person acknowledging someone's humanity that day. I don't do it with any agenda and I don't behave differently based on some superficial judgment.
What does matter, though, is that when I was seeking an illustration of food being wasted while people go hungry, the one I used was the only one I could find. People don't draw pictures of people of color ignoring the needs of a poor white child. For one thing, our racial stereotypes are so ingrained that we don't realizing what we're doing. For another, people of color, in general, wouldn't behave that way. In general, anybody who has lived as or felt like a minority, whether because of their ethnicity or sexual orientation or financial status or living conditions, doesn't ignore the needs of others nearly as readily as those of us who have lived our whole lives in affluence.
I don't see racism as a problem other ethnic groups have to call themselves out about. Maybe they do and I just haven't witnessed it. But I can tell you for sure that I've felt apologetic to mankind for the way many white Americans treat people who are unlike them in any way. It's cruel and destructive. And now we have a presidential candidate who brings out these dark, cold thoughts and opinions among our already heartless, selfish, worst examples of humanity I've ever known. God help us all.
If anyone artistic would be interested in drawing something for our flyers that isn't polarizing in any way, I would be delighted to change our graphic, and will print something better on stickers to cover the image on our current stock of brochures until we can afford to have more printed. In the meantime, we have to live with the fact that many wealthy white people really are racist. And by golly, I'll write searing posts about my fellow whites before I'll ever pass judgment on anyone in need.