We All Have Our Moments

I've received plenty of feedback about about today's column, in which sociologist Elijah Anderson explains the meaning of the provocative "Nigger Moment."

In his new book, The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life, Anderson described the moment as "acute disrespect based on race."

Some readers pointed out that African Americans often perpetrate those kind of moments toward each other (see violence in Chester). Others described their own moments when blacks victimized them through criminal acts.

"When I worked at a store in Northeast Philly, two young black males came in, took out guns, and said they'd blow my [expletive]white head off if I didn't open up the register and give them the money," one reader recalled. "And my wife, her moment came while she was a nurse at Temple Hospital and was called a white [expletive] by a patient who tried to grab her breasts and was rebuffed when she tried to change his dressing."

I guess we all have our moments.

But I think Anderson is writing less about criminal behavior and more about humilating slights. For African Americans, the moment occurs when others are too quick to make assumptions based on race, too quick to link a person to poverty or crime based on the color of his or her skin.

Anderson will speak about his book at the Free Library of Philadelphia Thursday evening at 7:30.