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With reports of kidnappings across the nation and the recent sniper killings, I, like many other parents, wanted my child to have a safe but fun evening while trick-or-treating. I heard that the Eastern Hills Mall was giving out candy to the kids, and figured what could be safer than that.

On arrival, I was surprised to see the number of children there. I just hoped there was plenty of candy left to go around. While my child was eagerly off making his rounds, I walked up to a little eatery to buy myself a treat. While waiting in line, I overheard an employee telling a patron that the shop ran out of candy within a half-hour. The mall was not expecting so many children.

The patron told the employee that this is what happens when you allow public transportation from Buffalo to the malls. Then the patron turned around and saw me, an African-American woman, looking at him. After realizing the implications of his comments, he went on to say that the mall would have had just as many kids from Akron or Batavia if public transportation was available to the mall.

Let's say, for the record, that most of the minorities at the mall arrived by bus. Isn't that an economic plus all the way around? You spend money to catch the bus, therefore helping the NFTA. While at the mall you shop, helping the retail businesses. And those who are hungry utilize the food court or the surrounding eateries, adding money to the economy. The patron obviously didn't see it this way.

Every year, more and more African-American parents look to malls, churches or community centers to provide Halloween entertainment for their children. Many parents are afraid to let their children go trick-or-treating door-to-door.

The patron saw that many of the children at the mall were African-American, which is why it's so important for community centers and churches within the city limits to have Halloween parties, so our children can celebrate closer to home.

Was I to take the patron's comments as racist or fact? Is it racist or fact to say that since the majority of children trick-or-treating at the mall were minorities, they were the cause of the candy running out? Racist or fact that the majority who use public transportation are minorities, and that is how they arrived at the mall? Racist or fact that if public transportation from the surrounding suburbs were allowed to the mall, that the majority of kids would have been white? Racist or fact that the retail establishments only expected suburban kids to trick-or-treat, thereby underestimating the amount of candy to purchase?

I wondered if the patron had children and, if so, would those comments still have been made. You see, I am a '70s child. My generation was about freedom for all, let love live. People of all races united and fought the injustice of the Vietnam War and fought for rights of those who were denied them. I was brought up to believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause and that all people are created equal.

Am I being naive to the fact that people in this day and age remain bigots? You could even call me a fool to think that some people changed for the better after the 9/1 1 attacks.

My responses to the patron's comments are simple. Keeping children safe is a parent's No. 1 priority. That's why many parents came to the mall. We didn't have to worry about big kids snatching our children's candy bags, some sick individual giving out tainted candy, our children being kidnapped or being the target of a sniper or getting hit by a car while crossing a street to obtain a piece of candy.

It shouldn't have mattered whether the kids were from the inner city or the suburbs. What matters is that the children had fun - even if they received half the amount of candy.

GIMORI D. ROBINSON lives in Buffalo.

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