Last Thursday night, I was walking down a lonely street in Carson City just after dark.
I passed a middle-aged man who was shabbily dressed and was having a chat with himself. I guessed he was African American, or maybe Mexican or Cuban. No big thing – I was busy practicing a conversation I was going to have with an employee the next morning.
Maybe 15 yards after we passed, the stranger yelled out, “Hey! Hold on.”
I thought, Should I keep walking as if I didn’t hear him? Do I turn around and go toward him to find out what the big deal is?
Thinking back, my first emotion was fear. Did it have something to do with my age? Maybe I would have thought nothing of it if I were 30. Maybe it was because of his clothes or loud shout? Or maybe, just maybe, it was because his skin color was different from mine.
In any case, I turned around. I walked toward him. I didn’t smile. I think my hands may have been clenched at my sides.
As we got closer, the stranger said, “I’m sorry, buddy. I thought you were an old friend of mine.”
I grinned and replied, “Your friend must be a good-looking guy.”
I went my way, he went his. I can’t get the little encounter out of my mind. I have a colleague writing a Journal about unconscious bias. I think I better read it.