The unmasking of America

brunette girl holding a white theatrical mask

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.

Unmask! Unmask!

And take a good close look at exactly what (and who) we’re dealing with.


Add yours →

  1. Amen, brother. Well put. Be sure to take photos when that burning cross shows up on your lawn.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Agree 100%! I’ve heard quite a bit of racist talk in the last few years and it has gotten worse lately. I love it when these ignoramuses (ignorami?) automatically assume you are one of them and spout their hateful rhetoric, thinking you will agree. Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” seems to translate into “Making Bigotry Cool Again”….

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Laura Weisman May 19, 2016 — 1:25 pm

    In a job I had between newspaper jobs in the late ’80s in Dallas, I worked with a racially diverse group working credit approvals (or denials, as the case may be) for Zales. There was one girl who looked a lot like me, who constantly sidled up to me in the lunch room with apparently nothing more on her mind than disparaging the black women who worked with us, using THAT word. I tried to stay away from her. I wanted to tell her how much I respected those hard-working women for taking 3-4 buses every day from south Dallas to get here, and for taking care of children on top of it. But I never managed to find the courage to tell her all that.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I understand completely. At work, you just want to get along because it can be a real Hell just getting the work done, and it’s that much worse if you’re not getting along with your co-workers. But there are times when I’m just not going to let something stand, and today was that day. Yes, I probably could have said even more, and maybe should have, but as angry as I was, I also realized that it was a lost cause. The guy is a fool, and nothing I say or do is going to change that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I generally try to stay out of political discussions, but I have to agree that Donald Trump is certainly not helping us heal our racial differences. Over the years, I have seen an easing of racism in my area and I had hoped that by the time my kids had kids of their own, things would have leveled off. Now it seems the hatred is increasing rather than lessening, and I can only attribute that to the current political atmosphere. It’s so easy to rile people up if you have the correct platform from which to do so and are the kind of person who’d rather cause trouble than smooth the troubled waters.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. And if, as looks likely, Hillary Clinton receives the Democratic nomination, get ready to write your column on the rise of misogyny. It’s happening already.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. OMG the things people say! And those comments have no place in a business environment. Sounds like your company needs to invest in workplace harassment training. That definitely qualifies as creating a hostile work environment and someone could sue over that! But mostly, I just feel sorry for people like that. It tells me they have a very limited worldview and have probably led very sheltered lives.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Stephanie. I actually thought about reporting it, but one thing that held me back was the thought that the guy is merely stupid and wasn’t directly targeting me. He didn’t know that I have Hispanic relatives, which doesn’t excuse the remarks, certainly, but makes it a little tougher to prove harassment. Hostile work environment though, yeah, I think that would qualify.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. To your point: “Johnson believes that Trump’s rise will motivate other white nationalists to express their views publicly. “You’ve got to realize that I’m out in the open and upfront, but a lot of people aren’t there yet,” he said. “Talk to me in eight months and more people will be out. Particularly if Donald Trump gets elected.”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A burning topic that scalds every corner of the world – I am glad that there are people like you who not only object but also talk about it openly. I often wish that people would just for a moment cross over to the other side and see what it’s actually like over there. And for starters, unmask the politicians who has no compunctions about playing man against man for the vote bank.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Thank the Lord for people like you and many others of us who value humanity! I’m not sure I would have been able to walk away – good for you. Unforutnately, it isn’t just America that has this problem. There are weasels like Trump, popping up all over the place. I guess the only way to combat the bigotry is for the good folk to be united and let their voices be heard. I’m sorry you were put in the position of finding it necessary to apologise on behalf of those idiots. Let’s hope the world wises up real soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Absolutely agree with you. Trump seems like the worst thing that could happen to America. I’m surprised- no I’m appalled that anybody supports him.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. You’re right at not retaliating even more harshly against your ignorant colleagues. I doubt that anything you say would’ve penetrated and you’d only be wasting your time since folks like them are a result of the true problem and not the problem itself. I fear for what will happen in America and the rest of the world if Trump wins. *shivers*


  12. Jennifer in Texas May 22, 2016 — 9:47 am

    I’ve experienced that too, as a white person, where people feel free to express some racial/ethnic bigotry. I just try not to go along with it, either by not laughing, or saying something subtly contradictory. But there are times when I did not challenge, either, I’m ashamed to say. Not because of agreement, but because of being a wimp at that moment in time. Thank you for standing up for Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Texas at that moment in your job recently! We all gotta stand up! Now I will go back to my gravel, cow patties, and steer wrestling.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I like this article a lot and agree with the position that it’s our place to stand in defense of one another when we see injustice. We have to be a voice for one another.

    Liked by 1 person

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