See No Evil

Let go of those colorblind assumptions

By Norris Burkes
March 2023

Not long ago I treated my daughter Brittney to lunch at Falafel & Shawarma Planet, a Mediterranean restaurant on Florin Road.

From behind the counter, the owner took our order and went back to prepare our food. The dining room was empty. We dawdled a moment to ogle the baklava display case.

The front door opened and a man walked up behind us.

“Don’t move,” the stranger told Brittney. “And don’t panic,” he whispered.

How could I not panic? I thought. We were alone with a “whispering mugger.”

I cautiously turned my head so I could describe him for police: light complexion African American male, 5-foot-6, average build, wearing athletic sweatpants and a jogging jacket.

Then I asked myself if I assumed him to be robber just because he was Black?

No, I decided. I don’t see color. I’m not prejudiced. That’s not me. I follow Martin Luther King Jr., who said people should “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Dana Brownlee, senior contributor at Forbes, highlights a problem with quoting the “I Have a Dream” speech to prove you “don’t see color.” She says, “It’s like right-handed people saying they don’t notice the trouble that left-handed people have with can openers, zippers and car cup holders.”

Brownlee says people of color hear three things when whites say, “I don’t see color.”

“Thank goodness I don’t have to think about race.”

“Please give me credit for not being racist.”

“I plan to do absolutely nothing to combat racism because I don’t see it.”

Suddenly, I was seeing color. With a local crime rate 167% above the national average, I was taking notes about color. I felt sure we’d be the next people who become crime victims in South Sacramento.

Expecting the man to demand my money or my life, I began to imagine how a newspaper might headline the story.
“Brave Columnist Wounded Saving Daughter From Bandit.”

The man interrupted my racially motivated thoughts to say, “It’s OK, I’ve got this. Just don’t move.”

Finally I heard what I’d missed. His command didn’t threaten. It calmly reassured.

“Ma’am,” he told Brittney. “There’s a wasp settled into your coat hood and I’m going to try to remove it.”

With that, he took a piece of cardboard and somehow coaxed the little creature onto it.

With the threat removed, my daughter and I gushed with gratitude.

Yet our hero wasn’t done amazing us.

He slow-walked the little stinger toward the door, but the flightless wasp fell off short of the exit, likely approaching the end of his 22-day average on earth.

If I had been the rescuer—and I assure you, I would not be—I’d neutralize the threat by stepping on it.

But not this man.

With uncommon gentleness toward a living thing, he scooped it back and set it safely outside the door.

Now a better headline would be, “Stranger Removes Threat While Cowardly Chaplain Cowers.”

I’ll close by reporting how much I paid for the gentleman’s take-away order for him and his wife, plus our own lunch.
Four meals, tip and tax came to $85.52, proving yet again how a dumb assumption can really cost us.

Norris Burkes can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:
@insidesacramento. Burkes is available for public speaking at civic organizations, places of worship, veterans groups and more. For details and fees, visit

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