I always feel awkward when getting my hair cut. There is this sort of onus that falls upon you to have a discussion with the barber, with whom I spend a grand total of twenty minutes every couple of months. It is difficult to hash out common ground under those circumstances. However, most barbers are observant enough to know the difference between a talkative customer and a quiet one, so usually I don't have too much of a problem.
Normally I get my hair cut in Queens for obvious reasons, but because I am out on the Island today, I had to go to a different spot. The guy who was cutting my hair was new at that particular shop, and he was somewhat unfamiliar with the methods favored at that location. He did a very good job, though, so I'm not complaining about his trade.
No, what bothered me was that he was too young to learn that it isn't necessarily the right move to say just whatever to whomever. He found out I lived in Queens and we talked a bit about the differences between Queens and the Island. He then made the comment, "Not a lot of black people out here, though."
Naturally, my guard went up. "Well, it only seems like that because Long Island is actually one of the most segregated areas on the Eastern seaboard," I carefully replied. I then mentioned that the neighborhood I lived in was rather mixed.
"Some of them can be nasty, eh?" he asked.
Still trying to be diplomatic, I commented that there are nasty people of all races. We never got any further because the owner of the shop then interrupted to show him the proper way to use the chair. I think that he had heard where this was going and wanted to make sure that it didn't go there.
I really dislike it when people assume that I will have the same prevailing notions as they do, particularly when they are as divisive as these. And I'm sure if you questioned this kid, he'd tell you that he's not prejudiced in the slightest, but that there was this time when... and so on.
It's so embarrassing to be caucasian.