You will be robbed. That’s a certainty.
You don’t live in Detroit (thank God), so I didn’t say “You will be robbed… multiple times… this week.” No, you live in a slight less dangerous area, which means that you won’t have to deal quite as often with petty theft (or the song “Heard It Through the Grapevine”). But you will be robbed at least once. Probably several times.
Perhaps someone will sneak into your house while you are upstairs sleeping.
You’ll argue that this one criminal is not representative of an entire group of people.
Perhaps someone will break your car window and steal some music-playing electronics that you literally bought the day before.
Perhaps someone will come up to you in a crowd, quietly stick the tip of a knife against your back, and whisper in your ear that if you don’t give him your wallet, he will thrust and twist.
However it plays out, someone will target you, steal from you, and leave you angrier than you’ve ever felt in your life. You. Will. Be. Pissed.
If you don’t see the robber, then you won’t have a face to direct your hate towards. You’ll start feeling paranoid that anyone around you—your acquaintances, the repair guy, your neighbor Ron—anyone could’ve been the criminal. When people smile at you on the street, you’ll subconsciously want to punch them in the neck.
When the criminal has no face, anyone can be the criminal, which will make you paranoid and irritable. No matter how much you tell yourself to calm down, you can’t. You can’t force yourself to listen to logic when you feel like this.
Even though you know people get robbed every day, you’ll feel as if you are the only victim in the world. And when someone comes up to you in a party and says, “Hey, I know how you feel. Someone took my blah-blah,” you’ll be nice and say, “Yeah. It sucks, right?” but deep down, you’ll want to punch him in the neck, too. At no point will you actually punch someone in the neck, but you’ll feel the urge. A lot.
Thankfully, these negative feelings will go away, only to reignite once someone else robs you. When it happens a second time, there’s an added component of self-blame (“Fool me once” and all that), but it’s otherwise exactly the same shit-cocktail of shit-emotions.
Now, all of that assumes that you never see the robber. If you do see the robber, you’ll have to face a very different situation. Namely, the mathematical probability is that this robber is going to be a minority. All your life, you’ve learned that racism is wrong and people are the same no matter their skin color. But as soon as some guy robs you, all of those lessons go out the window. At first, you’ll argue with yourself that there are plenty of reasons why minorities statistically commit more crimes than Caucasians. Institutional racism, etc. etc. You will keep telling yourself this.
You’ll argue that this one criminal is not representative of an entire group of people. You’ll think about all your minority friends who’ve always been awesome people. And then you’ll start feeling guilty that you’re listing off your minority friends as if you were filling a quota. You’ll start asking yourself if you’re turning into a racist.
And then, a few weeks after the robbery, you’ll pass some innocent black guy on the street, and you’ll instinctively put your hand against your wallet. As you walk away, you realize that you’ve never done that before. You’ll get this really weird feeling of guilt, and your earlier fears will be confirmed: you are a racist.
You’ll get a little philosophical about it, thinking to yourself that it’s only natural to be on guard around the kinds of people who have already stolen from you. This will calm you down, until you realize in a panic that what you just thought was perhaps the most racist thing that has ever crossed your mind.
And this stupid, effing robbery will start a chain reaction that eventually leads to you feeling guilty at how you’re processing your complex feelings. That guilt doesn’t really go away, and neither, it’s sad to say, does the racism. Unless, of course, you get robbed by a white person next time. Then you’ll start being afraid of poor people.