A gas pump encounter with racism

The last time you filled your gas tank, chances are good that you paid more than $3 a gallon. In Arizona, where I live, AAA reported on Jan. 27 that the statewide fuel average exceeded $3 a gallon for the first time in 27 months.

It’s often hard to pinpoint all the reasons for gas price surges, and most people scoff at any reason provided by the industry. Suspicions run high that companies arbitrarily pick convenient times to gouge people, like Memorial Day weekend, July 4 weekend and Labor Day weekend.

Right now, the industry is citing increased demand as the worldwide economy improves and unrest in Egypt that could spread to major oil-producing companies. Whatever the reasons, oil prices have increased by $30 a barrel since last summer and on Monday surged above $101 a barrel for the first time since 2008. It came as no surprise to me that I paid north of $3 when I filled up yesterday.

On the other side of the pump, an older man was filling his pickup truck. He watched the digits run up, and to release his growing agitation, he stroked his hand faster and faster through his unkempt, white beard. Finally he could contain himself no longer.

Looking around the pump, he fixed on me and said, “Three dollars for gasoline. Ridiculous. We just have to get that n****r out of the White House.”

I was done filling up, just telling the pump that no, I didn’t need a receipt. Living in Arizona, where we allow the carrying of concealed firearms without a permit, it never seems to be a good idea to get in a heated conversation with strangers. I simply told him that I remembered standing at the same pump in the summer of 2008 – pre-Obama – and paying more than $4 a gallon for gas. I said I didn’t think the White House had much control over gas prices, one way or the other.

“Well, all I know is we just have to get that n****r out of the White House.”

As I’ve said before, democracy works best when we have people who can think and work through issues rationally. The man at the pump has a right to vote, and he can vote how he wants for whatever reason he wants. My hope, though, is that most people who go to the polls do so with a better understanding of the issues and challenges we face, as well as a clear idea of why they’re casting their vote for the candidate of their choice. In my perfect world, the color of a person’s skin doesn’t enter into the equation at all.

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3 Responses to A gas pump encounter with racism

  1. Mary Kay Knief says:

    Thanks, Peter, for being so reasonable — and smart. Some people can’t be argued/discussed with and that man is one of them. He has simplified his life by finding one person to blame everything on.

    I’m proud to know you.


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