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Small Mistake Shouldn't Be Seen as Racism

April 27, 1990

Your premise that a black golfer, Roy, was mistaken for a car wash attendant (Family Life Column by Mike Spencer, April 5) because of some stereotyping plants the idea that blacks can suspect that all slights by people of other races are racially motivated. Wrong. People of all colors can be insensitive and oblivious to the feelings of others on any given day. Furthermore, being mistaken for someone working should not be a personal affront. Since our lifestyles and attire are so casual, it is frequently difficult to distinguish the servers from the served.

The hard-working, clean, pleasant, young people who work in our car wash in Laguna Hills are part of the self-supporting, taxpaying sector of our society. My husband and sons often man the gas pumps and vacuum and move cars, while my daughter has spent many hours at the cash register. Would you be offended to be mistaken for the owner of a multimillion-dollar establishment or just his employee? Would you know the difference?

To deny that racism exists is to deny truth. To attribute small slights, misunderstandings, unkindness and rudeness to racism fosters unhealthy paranoid attitudes in the minds of the recipients of such incidents. Most of these occurrences are as impersonal as being cut off by a truck on the freeway.

Roy was a victim of a racial slight only if he allowed himself to think he was. How insignificant the event was, and if that was the worst thing that happened to him, he had a pretty good day. He handled the situation correctly while you, on the other hand, would have created a potentially chaotic situation, and the business people trying to accommodate you would have born the brunt.

Your effort to teach us to be sensitive to racial differences was made at the expense of people who do not measure up to your standard of social equality. There is more than one kind of discrimination. You are making class distinctions to create your own "pecking order" and sense of worth. You would be more constructive (and democratic) to advocate that we respect all others, regardless of race or job status.

No one likes to be snubbed.

We all behave better if we're appreciated.

Perhaps you can be more aware of your own obvious propensity toward class consciousness and how that can lead to rude, overly aggressive behavior.

Carinel Stamos,

Villa Park

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