The bullshit racist crap that's so commonplace will not end in my lifetime. Case in point, an article in the Washington Post described a typical summer scenario: Jeff Gates is taking photographs of his two teenage daughters on the Cape May ferry and a man, claiming to work for the Department of Homeland Security, accuses Gates of engaging in sexual exploitation. (Gates and his wife are white, and his two adopted daughters are Asian.)
An ongoing family tradition on this annual vacation, Gates spends about 15 minutes taking photographs of his children. The two girls' excessive hugging and length of time in front of the lens inspired visions of rape, kidnapping, sex trafficking or God knows what else in the mind of this alleged DHS employee.
Totally engaged with the scene in front of me, I jumped when a man came up beside me and said to my daughters: "I would be remiss if I didn't ask if you were okay."
Gates upsets his eldest daughter because he has to explain to her that some random stranger thinks her father is a pervert and that man believes she is being taken advantage of.
Gates does a really good job of weighing the See Something Say Something mindset vs. being a perverted bigot. He doesn't have an answer to any of his questions, but he does seek out this guy to tell him he thinks what he did was bullshit.
I walked outside to where he was standing and calmly said: "Excuse me, sir, but you just embarrassed me in front of my children and strangers. And what you said was racist."
The man didn't seem at all fazed. He replied: "I work for the Department of Homeland Security. And let me give you some advice: You were standing there taking photos of them hugging for 15 minutes."
I see. So we didn't fit the mold of what he considered a typical American family, and he thought my picture-taking was excessive, possibly depraved. How long should family snapshots take? He thought he was qualified to judge. I told him I was a professional photographer and take lots of photos.
"My wife's a photographer," he said. "I understand."
"Then you should have known better," I replied.
He agreed to consider everything I had said. But he didn't sound very sincere. When I had questions about his observations, he deflected them, hoping to manage my reaction with simple apologies, except they weren't simple at all: He apologized; he criticized; and he apologized again.
Typical law enforcement. Sorry but not really.
The funny thing out of all of this is that someone believed a man on vacation with his daughters while taking photographs of them is abnormal in 2014. It's bad enough that marketing people are shocked that men do laundry or buy groceries. The standards and expectations are so disgustingly low that when men are actually, you know, doing normal activities like spending time with their children, far too many people jump to sexual or obnoxious conclusions. The answer can never be a man just doing what he's supposed to do!
Of course sex trafficking and exploitation are ongoing problems, but American families are rapidly changing. Mixed race individuals and families are growing in this country. Is seeing a white man with two younger Asian girls really that much of an anomaly today? Gates is right that if the races were switched, this incident wouldn't have happened.
I'm skeptical of this "good Samaritan's" claim that he even works for DHS. If that's true, then he's a shitty employee. Fifteen minutes of observation would have clued him in on demeanor, body language, and dialogue exchanged. (Surely one of the daughters would have called Gates "Dad" at some point?) Even if that weren't good enough, all he had to do was strike up a casual, non-confrontational conversation with Gates about the weather, his family, where they were going, etc.
I can see why Gates is still sore about it, but this alleged DHS guy was most definitely an asshole who really didn't understand what he did.