Over the course of the last 48 hours . . .
Case study #1
The exterminator was spraying the baseboards in my living room yesterday when he inexplicably spewed poison of a different sort.
Always one to strike up a friendly conversation while he works, the bug man suddenly outed with this: “I mean, we’ve had a black president for the past eight years, what more do they want? They say they want equality, but if they want to be equal, then there should be a law that requires them to be educated.”
Case study #2
I’m minding my own business this morning when my duties draw me closer to a couple of co-workers who are having a conversation. As the range closes, it becomes apparent they are talking about Donald Trump and his proposed wall along the Mexican border.
These guys — these co-workers — know I grew up in Texas and lived there for many years, so when they notice that I’ve entered into their sphere, one says, “I hear there are not only a lot of Mexicans in Texas, but a lot of dumb Mexicans!”
I swallow hard and stare straight ahead before answering, “Are you talking about my three brothers-in law, or perhaps you’re referring to my godchild?”
Now maybe I’m naive, but I think most people would have backtracked a little at that point, but not this guy. Instead of apologizing, he changes tack, deciding his best course might be to denigrate ALL Texans instead of just the brown ones. “So how far do you have to go in Texas before the pavement stops and it’s all gravel roads?” he asks.
I walk away, steaming.
Folks, we have a huge racial problem in this country. It’s an old problem, but my sense of it is that we’ve actually taken a step backward from where we were a few years ago, and I think I know why. Trump, the presumptive presidential nominee of one of this country’s two major political parties, has made bigotry cool, and the virulent racists are coming out of the woodwork.
And it’s not just limited to one part of the country. I get the sense that many people living in the northeast feel smugly superior to those living in southern states, where racial problems are widely viewed to be more prevalent. But as someone who has lived in both places, let me tell you, I’ve heard more racist talk in my corner of New Jersey than I ever heard in Texas, and it’s getting worse.
Do the racists up here take one look at me, see a white guy of a certain age, and just assume it’s okay to let loose with their filth because I must be just like them? Or do they not even care who’s listening? Has Trump and his racist, misogynistic campaign made it très chic to be a bigot?
You people of color, I honestly don’t know how you put up with it. All I have to do is listen to it and it totally steams my clams. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have it actually directed at me. Just listening to it makes me feel unclean, and makes me want to tell you I’m sorry, even if it wasn’t me who did anything!
All I can really say is that it’s not just your problem, it’s OUR problem — America’s problem — and I have a hard time believing that it’s one bit better than it’s ever been. But maybe we should be thankful that the racists are gaining confidence. Maybe this gives those of us who don’t hate others because of the color of their skin a real opportunity.
And take a good close look at exactly what (and who) we’re dealing with.