Has profiling gotten so crazy that a black man can't approach a white guy without announcing that he's not going to rob him?
OK, it's a stupid question but that's what happened last Friday afternoon as I walked down Adams in downtown Toledo with a steaming Kung Pao chicken carryout.
A slender middle-aged African-American man waved me down from across the street. As I've said before, while here and in Detroit, I've heard just about every line you could imagine from panhandlers. But this one flipped me out.
“I'm not trying to rob you,” he said, waving and jogging across the street. Then he said it again.
“What the bleep," I said. “What makes you think I thought you were trying to rob me?"
And what makes you think you could? I thought, as I put him on blast while reaching into my pocket, groping for a single.
When he got to me, he said he needed some money for food. Then he flipped up his T-shirt. “I don't have a gun,” he said.
"No kidding?" I said.
I had thought he was trying to demonstrate how hungry he was, but he was trying to show me he didn't have a gat in his waistband.
The man was frail and overcome by heat. And if he had money to buy a gun, he wouldn't be asking for quarters. He was the last man I would expect to rob anyone.
Maybe it was a class thing. He wore jeans and a T-shirt; I wore a suit and straw fedora. “You're profiling me, man,'' I said, half joking.
He asked again for some coin. Maybe experience made him feel he had to say what he did. Some people abuse panhandlers. (If you don't want to give, just keep walking.)
I was too hot and too late to try to figure it out. I gave him $2 and walked away, thinking it's a crazy world.