Jumping the shark on “racist” traffic signals

For the benefit of overseas readers, “jumping the shark” is an American phrase meaning that one’s taken something to an absurd extreme in an attempt to attract attention to it.  It seems appropriate to describe this article.

A few months back … I was walking with a friend, her daughter, and my twin sons. My friend is White and I’m not — something I’d never given a second thought until we reached a crosswalk. “Remember, honey,” she said to her daughter as we waited for the light to turn green, “we need to wait for the little White man to appear before we can cross the street.”

I realize that White people like to exert control over nearly everything everyone does, I thought, but since when did this literally include trying to cross the street? … as a Black dad, I was struck by the language at play. How is it possible that well into the 21st century, parents all over Manhattan — well-meaning, #BLM-marching parents — are teaching their children to ask “little White men” for permission to cross the street? And why doesn’t this seem to bother them?

. . .

… the “little man” is actually a little person, but that little person is still white. Right?

Close. It’s “lunar white,” according to the FHWA: a shade of white with yellow and grey accents that mimics the color of the moon. Lunar white wasn’t chosen because it sounds cool. According to FHWA research, the agency spokesperson says, moonlight offers “the peak sensitivity for the rod cells in the human retina.” In other words, our vision is predisposed to favoring the clarity and intensity of moonlight.

. . .

And there you have it: The government-approved origins of the “little White men” telling us to cross the street at corners across New York … I am now convinced that technology and necessity, rather than some anti-Black conspiracy, propelled the shift from verbal crosswalk cues to a lunar-white Walking Person. But my heart still sinks at the specter of teaching my sons to ask a White man for permission to do — well, anything. Because so much of the world already insists that we do.

. . .

… that little White man woke me up to the ways that language imparts power and privilege even upon the most banal necessities. And so, as I begin teaching my boys survival basics like riding a bike, waiting in line, and… yes… crossing the street, I’ll work hard to avoid phrases like “little White man.” Obviously “bright light person” rolls off the tongue far less mellifluously, but a bit of extra verbal labor is worth the price of not conceding our power to even one more little White man.

There’s more at the link.

I must admit, the first time I read that article, my blood boiled (figuratively speaking).  I was outraged.  How the hell could anybody be so utterly stupid as to equate a non-racial traffic signal with human racism?  The author appeared to be seeing everything through racist-tinged spectacles, so that he could no longer separate technology from the color of human skin.  I found that appalling.

On further reflection, I suppose if I was walking in that man’s shoes, I might see things differently.  If I’d been brought up in an environment where everything was seen in racial terms, where it was a staple of everyday life and never allowed to go unmentioned, perhaps I’d feel as he does.  I hope not . . . but I’m forced to admit the possibility.

I’ve certainly seen that sort of extremism often enough, in Africa and America, in men, women and children.  Speaking as a pastor and chaplain, I’m reminded of Matthew 15:11;  “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”  What we and others “feed” our kids, mentally and spiritually, can in fact determine what comes out of them for the rest of their lives – the way they live, speak, behave, react, whatever.  Racism has to be dealt with in that sense, for both the racist and the victim of racism.  If we see life, and each other, only through racial spectacles, we have no chance whatsoever of living a normal life.  For proof, look at most of the BLM activists currently creating mayhem on our streets.  They’re the fruit of that process.

Too many parents bring up their children in that sort of biased consciousness.  It’s the same fanaticism that we see in religious hard-liners.  I’ve heard too many Christian fundamentalists parrot Proverbs 22:6;  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Sadly, that’s sometimes been taken as Divine license for extremists to beat, starve and torture their kids to force them into compliance.  It usually results in those kids rejecting God and religion in all its forms as soon as they’re able to escape.  (That’s also why Palestinian TV shows programs to kids that encourage them to become “martyrs”, and show them how to wear suicide bombs beneath their clothing.  Same principle.  In effect, the producers of such programs are saying, “Allah wants them to do that!  We’re simply teaching them to obey His will!”)

I don’t think there’s an easy answer.  It’s too easy to adopt a preaching attitude – “If only people who believed X would live what they say they believe, we’d solve the problem in no time!”  There are an awful lot of gray areas to overcome, and if we haven’t been able to resolve them in all the centuries and millennia of human existence so far, we certainly won’t do so in our lifetimes.  I daresay our descendants, millennia hence, will continue to struggle with the same conundrums we face.

Nevertheless, I hope the author of that article can get over what I see as his excessive sensitivity to issues of race in everyday life.  I don’t for a moment imagine that the lady who told her kids to “wait for the little white man” meant it in racial terms.  Therefore, why take it as such?  Is this a case where racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder?




  1. The mysteries of God who alone chooses your parents, your ethnicity, your intelligence, your physical characteristics. It serves His loving purposes but is so often opaque to us, His creation

  2. It may take two to tango, but it only takes one to detect racism/sexism/xphobism/being American.

    Remember – these are your tax dollars at work in the schools. Starve the beast. Keep your kids and grandkids out of the Marxist reeducation camps.

  3. When I was younger and living in Santa Fe, I owned an older pickup truck. It had a gun rack in the rear window. The gun rack held a 30-30 and a single shot 16 gauge, Completely visible 24/7 and no one gave a damn. Hardly ever locked the truck up. That world is gone forever.

    I really liked that 30-30. A really run rifle.

  4. I question whether this actually happened. I am white, 75 years old and I have never heard anyone describe sign this way.

  5. Huh, and here I thought the walk signal was Green… Must be my colorblindness again!
    She COULD teach her kids to go when the signal says to, and take color or personhood out of the discussion instead of emphasizing race and maleness whenever she crosses the street…

    I plan to teach my kids to how to tell when it is safe to cross. DON'T just cross when the signal says to; always make sure it is safe to cross. That way you know what to do at all intersections, including those that (GASP!) don't have lights or crosswalk signals.

  6. There was a time when I had more black "friends" than any white person you've ever met. A function of the part of town I lived in as well as long sessions at City Park playing 1 wall.

    I have never seen such racism in a group of people like I did with blacks. Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING was evaluated through the lens of racial glasses. Jobs, dating, promotions, friends, business, social interaction of any sort…you name it. It happened or didn't happen the way they thought it should have gone down and it was because they are black.

    I was sick of it and this was in the 70s. Now? Take a guess.

  7. Maybe something could be made of the fact that the little traffic master is displayed wearing ciseuropean coat and trousers instead of cargo shorts or a dhoti.

  8. Does that mean when the red hand is up the American Indian is refusing permission to the African-American to cross. Asking for a friend.

  9. I'm in the same boat with Jonathan (above). Being colorblind as h***, until today, I thought the little man was green, although my crazy eyes couldn't really assign any color to him, he was just "on" or "off", oh well, you color-visioned people just don't understand.

    Growing up as an air force brat, all of us, black, brown, white, red, ran together. The leader of our pack was black (because his dad outranked all of our dads, that was kind'a the rule back then). I remember we would pool all our coins and buy a jumbo bottle of soda, sit and and pass it around. Guess who went first, guess further about who didn't give a tinker's d***. I learned all of the bigotry rules in high school, and of more of them at the university. "You can't go out with a black girl". Hell, I did.

    The author of that article is as sick as any bigot I know. Oh well, you color-visioned people just don't understand.

  10. Also growing up as an AF brat, I was taught to see the person.

    Shocked the heck out of me when I was discriminated against because of the color of my skin. Usually by people who were claiming I was racist.

    Almost got fired after attending a diversity class because I said I didn't see color first, but I saw fellow employees, then the uniforms telling me where they worked and not-uniforms which told me they worked in offices. No one, even the 'teacher' believed me, except for the bunch of redneck linemen in the room, who, apparently, were the least prejudiced and racist and bigoted ones in the room, well, besides me. All the other whites, mostly office proles and prolettes, parroted the 'muh diversity' mantra.

    It is a good thing that I never have to attend another mandatory diversity meeting. Well, I will if the Dem/Socialist/Marxist/Commies win.

  11. When you surround yourself with racists you will tend to see everything as racist. This is a failing of the individual to not see the truth before their eyes, and not an indication of us living in a racist culture.

  12. I attended my first diversity seminar way back in 1974 when I was in the Navy. It was required of *everyone* regardless of color or ethnicity because the USN went through some racial tensions a few years before on some of their larger ships. I was a submariner, and trust me, it was *never* an issue on any boat I was on. However, we still had to do the seminars.

    I remember that first one was run by a black Chief Petty Officer, who seemed to be a really nice guy. Regardless, of race, we had some really frank and open discussions. (The biggest topic was about busing, which was a big issue at that time.) Anyway, I actually enjoyed it.

    In my short USN career and then my life in corporate America since then, I have had to attend one of these sessions about every five years or so.

    They have gone way down-hill since. Now, they seem to be all about white-bashing generally, and white male bashing in particular. The other thing I noticed is that, starting with that first one back in 74, they have all been run by black males. Every. Single. One.

    When I go to these, I tend to maintain a low profile. However, the last one I attended, just before I retired, I decided to stick my neck out a bit and ask some questions that were on my mind: "Are there any diversity trainers who are not minority?" He said he knew of none. Indeed, all of the ones he knew were all black men. He said he didn't know why.

    I then asked him what his degree was in, thinking it would be something specialized like "Black Studies" or some such. Nope. He said he had a Masters in Business Administration. Lastly, I asked him why he chose to be a diversity trainer, and he answered: "Because I enjoy it. Once you get on top of it, it's easy and it's fun. I also get to travel a lot and see a lot of different places".

    So, there you have it for what it's worth. I retired last year so I hope I have attended my last one.

  13. Same sickness goes in how blacks see each other.. seems the darker they are, the more shit they take from lighter-toned individuals. I know some of the guys I worked with always wanted to hook up with the "Red Bone" girls….lighter complexion. Crazy.

  14. Oh good God damn. Stop with the philosophical bullshit.

    The figure is colored white. "Little white man". If the figure were blue she would say "little blue man".

    I grew up in Atlanta GA and have lived and worked around and for and with black people all my life, and vouch for what MMinLamesa said above, the overwhelming majority of black people filter *everything* through race. They obsess over race so they think white people do, too. That's why they and their useful idiot guilt-ridden white dipshit cohorts refuse to allow anyone to say, "I don't see color, I just see another person." They will not look beyond skin color and will not allow anyone else to do it.

    Their doing it doesn't mean the rest of us have to do it.

  15. As an artist will paint a picture of a used tin can and call it art, a writer will take something as hollow and fabricate a grand structure from the emptiness. In this example, it is not the mark of a brilliant wordsmith but the word-whore paid by the letter.


  16. what will they do when the symbol is amber? In these days of OrangeManBad, I can see the crisis of

    "wait until Trump gives you permission to cross the street"

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