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Walk? Don’t Walk? An Overly Sensitive Liberal’s Dilemma

October 29th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  2 Comments

walk_dont_walk_signAs far as I can tell, it goes like this: Kids learn to walk around 1 year old. Then they refuse to walk for the next 6 to 12 months. Then, finally, they discover the joy in bipedal ambulation and want to run everywhere, often without holding your hand, often directly into busy streets.

Which is where Sasha is right now. Which means we’ve started to teach her about walk signs at intersections. Which brings up an unusual problem. Here’s a sample interaction at a crosswalk:

Me: Sasha, do you see the hand? The hand is red. When the hand is red, you stop.

Sasha [jumping in place]: Stop!

It’s what comes next that gives me pause:

Me: Sasha, there’s the man! The man is white. When you see the white man, go go go!

Sasha: Go go go!

Am I just being overly sensitive? Yes, probably. Still, it just sounds weird to hear these words coming out of my mouth, particularly if, you know, we happen to be standing at the edge of the projects. I mean, I’m all for inculcating fear of white authority figures in my child, but really, I’d prefer to be teaching her to read the old-school WALK/DON’T WALK signs from years gone by. (The New Yorker once covered this very subject.) Of course, my nostalgia’s pretty pointless—the city started switching over more than seven years ago.

So, I’m left with the only subtext I can find: Instead of wanting to teach kids to read, the Bloomberg administration wants kids to run when they see the white man. Way to go, Mayor Mike!


  1. Tim says:

    October 29th, 2010at 11:54 am(#)

    I have this same problem. Especially since when I’m walking, I’m generally the only white person doing so. “The white man tells you to go Stella.” Yes he does. Yes he does.
    And if we take off the white adjective, it sounds even worse. “You can walk, when the man tells you to… man.”

  2. Tim says:

    October 29th, 2010at 12:29 pm(#)

    We call him “the walking man.” He has his own James Taylor song.

    The fact that 87%* of the new Walk/Don’t Walk signs in New York City don’t function properly (simultaneously displaying both the walking man and “red hand”) has offered an opportunity for further learning: always check the traffic light as a back-up.

    *unofficial survey

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