Texas Gov. Rick Perry likely didn’t know when he twice referred to Herman Cain as “brother” during Tuesday night’s debate that his attempt at easy camaraderie would set a lot of people’s nerves on edge.

But he did.

That’s because in the U.S. when a white man calls a black man “brother” and if they are not actually brothers (think adoption), or in a Greek-letter fraternity, or soldiers sharing a fighting position, indeed, if they are strangers or close to it, many a brotherized black man will immediately feel condescended to.

It may seem irrational. But, then, so is the notion that race based on skin color has intrinsic meaning. But that’s another, much larger issue.

It may also seem unfair to the white person who may be attempting nothing more than kindly outreach to a stranger. But life’s not fair.

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