Regarding your Dec. 23 cover story, "The Right Profile": As a woman, I have long been frustrated at what ultimately amounts to a lack of freedom for women in our "free" country. It is difficult for me to move about alone and feel completely safe. I am amazed at those women who brave a hike in the woods alone, or who are fearless enough to walk alone at night. I cringe when my teenage daughter takes the dog out for a walk, trying to mask my worries that she will be harassed or attacked. …
Fairly recently it became clear to me that not only women, but also African-American men experience a similar lack of freedom in our society. Which is not to say that I was unaware of racism or racial profiling. It just had never clicked in my brain before that it is virtually impossible for an African-American male to experience the same freedom of movement that other men in our society enjoy.
My "aha moment" arrived a couple of years ago while I participated in a local Building Bridges session. Building Bridges of Asheville is a racial-dialogue group that offers nine-week sessions in the spring and fall to help people confront racism. One of our group's white-male participants was reminiscing about an experience he had as a young man hitchhiking around the country, to which one of the African-American male participants responded that he would never even consider trying to hitchhike, because surely he'd be arrested within minutes.
How obvious, yet how hidden from our dominant white culture's daily consciousness. The hard truth is that, just as I fear for my daughter taking a walk with the dog, each of my African-American friends and neighbors fears harassment and false accusation whenever they venture out — to the store, for a drive, to hike in a national park, and even in our liberal, "anything goes," downtown Asheville.
— Lael Gray