On Monday, July 21, I went to pick up a newspaper called The Capitol, a free monthly newspaper covering what passes for state government in Albany. It was located in one of those blue boxes not unlike those you'd find when one is buying a daily newspaper. Sitting on top of the pile of papers inside the container was an aluminum pan filled with what was meant to look like manure. At least, that's what I hoped, since I didn't bother studying it too closely. I took a copy of The Capitol, wrapped it around the pan, and threw it away in the nearest receptacle. But I needed to wash my hands right away, It was evident that the individual putting the pan in expected someone to reach in lazily and get this substance on his or her hand.
About three days later, I'm telling this story to a white male person of my acquaintance. I added that I wondered if the act was in any way racially motivated. I based it on two facts: 1) the cover story was about Barack Obama, or more correctly, which NY state legislators might become Presidential timber like former Illinois state legislator Obama did; 2) the box was located in front of a black-owned business. He said, "C'mon, that's a stretch", and I dropped it for a time. Later, though, I mentioned it again, and he wondered why. But a couple minutes later, he had an epiphany. "Oh, but why WAS that pan placed there?"
That was primarily what I was really trying to say; the thing was there for SOME reason, and curious librarian minds wanted to know if it was merely a random prank or something more significant.
Bringing up race - or the possibility of racism (or sexism or homophobia) is fraught with danger. Some will suggest that one is/I am looking through a prism of race; quite possibly true. Just mentioning race, some will suggest, IS the problem, a position that I do not ascribe to; the current presidential campaign suggests that does not work, at least not yet. Sometimes you have to talk about it anyway.