Friday, January 18, 2008

Beloved


I was reading a blog called It's Not Easy Being Queen the other day when I came across a post about the writer’s experiences of racism.

It reminded me of a night I spent in Bradford, England in 1988.

I was doing my final year of college at Leeds University and one winter night I went out clubbing with three guys who were friends of a friend.

At the end of the night, one of them, a guy called Simon, was making racist jokes that were incredibly offensive.

I asked him to stop and told him that what he was saying was upsetting me.

I’ll never forget the way that all three of their heads tilted sideways simultaneously as if they were canine synchronized swimmers possessed by a mad curiosity.

After a long silence one of them finally said,

“Why is it so upsetting to YOU?”

Another followed up with,


“Are YOU part black?"




As if I would have to be black to be offended by racist jokes.

As MLK Day approaches, I'm reminded of Dr. King's idea of the beloved community.

How far we’ve come, how far we still have to go...


I hope that all these years later Simon has found enough peace with himself to ease his need to take down others.


52 comments:

Don Mills Diva said...

I hope so too.

Janet said...

My girlfriend is in an interracial marriage. I was shocked when she told me that people sometimes stare at them in public. Here. In this multi-cultural city with three institutions of higher learning.

Seriously? It's ridiculously outrageous.

we_be_toys said...

Wow, that someone would wonder why a racist statement would be offnsive, even if you weren't of the "race" that was being slammed. Hello? Ever heard of "love one another" as a way of life?
Good post - very timely!

Edge said...

I think we have a long way to go too. I do believe we will always be a little prejudiced just because we like being around people like ourselves. Isn't that understandable.

What I do think is that the impetus of the change needs to happen not only just on whites, but on every race. For example, I'm tired of being blamed for slavery. I never owned a slave, I think it's wrong and I haven't met any current slaves.

Conversly, there are some African Americans who will look at me as a white male and blame me for the injustices. They've never been a slave.

A slave is the Philipino girl who has been bought and sold as a sex slave to Saudi Arabia or Qatar or wherever. She can't get in her Escalade and drive home like the dude hassling me.

It's a touchy subject with me because I'm a white male whose had some reverse discrimination issued out on him. Sorry for the rant.

~Jef

flutter said...

It's amazing to me. I get my hackles all raised when people use derogatory words for gay people in my presence and invariably the response is " Why do you care, are you gay?"

No, I am human. So are gay people.

So are we all, so let's try not to be idiots to eachother.

Craze said...

Wow, how stupid huh? Here, here, I raise my drink to free racism.

Heather B. said...

Is that the look you gave him? I hope it was accompanied by the finger.

I'm so tired of people being complete shit heads and really there's nothing more to say.

Rachel said...

I read that same post and was so moved by it.
What ignorance those 'friends' showed. Ugh.
Fabulous post.
So far yet to go...

Mrs. Fussy Fussypants said...

Just 30 years ago Jessica was born a poor black child......

I think not!

Love the look.

Shannon said...

I have a story about my little friend who was 5 years old and I was the same age. She was black, and I invited her into my neigborhood (we met randomly somehow) and some older kids took her into an alley, pushed her up against the apartment building wall, and told her if they ever saw her near me or in their neighborhood again, they would beat her and kill her.

I was terrified at the time, but to this day I'm sorry that I didn't fight harder to help her.

So when I hear people say things or act a certain way, I stick up for the ones who are being picked on. My little way to make ammends to my friend.

Redneck Mommy said...

Sadly, I've encountered too many Simons for my liking.

I hope that my children won't meet near as many.

Catizhere said...

Amazing isn't it? Not in a good way either. That we as a people, cannot look past the color of our skin realize that we are all the same inside.

I saw a billboard yesterday that said "Stroke Targets Color" If your blood is RED, you could be at risk.

Jamie said...

Well said, well said. It is tough being here in the south. Racial tensions are so high, especially where we live.

mamatulip said...

It's a well-known saying, but it's true: Do unto others...

mothergoosemouse said...

"Why is it so upsetting to YOU?"

Why was it NOT so upsetting to him? What on earth made him think his words weren't hurtful, no matter who heard them? That's what I'd like to know.

slouching mom said...

Ugh.

How hateful.

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

He probably thought you were black because of your savage tan.

Or he was just a raging asshole. But one of those two things.

Lisa said...

I grew up with alot of people who thought that way. Thankfully, times see to be changing -- at least in that small town. But like you said... So far to go yet.

Patience said...

Sadly, I think racism (or sexism or anything other ism) will be with us always. Intolerable but that's the ways it is. Hopefully, someday, we will grow past it, but as long as there are people, there will be people who hate.

ewe are here said...

Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.

I don't understand some people.

I hope he's grown up since then.

Jennifer said...

I am hopeful that evolution will take care of the Simons in this world. I need to have that hope.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Isn't it weird how some people just don't get it?
I hate that. I'm so glad you sad something. I would have had to as well.
I hope you have other better memories of the UK. :(

Miz UV said...

Great pic! I was at a thingie last week where the local ADL leader was speaking. One of his points was that if you don't want people to make slurs against your group, don't make them against others. Kind of a DUR! moment, but some people still need to hear it. This was focused at 14 year olds, but even so . . .

Lisa Milton said...

I wish I could say I've never been in that kind of situation. I've been in shock before, freaked out and I never know what to say.

Because how do you argue with hate and ignorance? It's crazy...

Loralee Choate said...

I seriously do not understand people who think that this is funny.

Do NOT.

But then, I do NOT understand racism. At.ALL.

Avery Gray said...

It's sad that we can't all treat each other with dignity and respect. What a wonderful world it would be...

Jerseygirl89 said...

I have been in that situation so many times I can't even count. And every time it makes me want to bang my head against a wall and throw things. Thank you for making your story inspirational instead of frustrating.

Holly said...

Great post. I hope that was the look you gave him too!

wornoutwoman said...

I hope so too. Racist comments to any race should not be tolerated. I'm glad you stood up for your fellow man. I was asked the same thing once, when I told someone not to make any prejudiced comments. They asked why it would bother me if I wasn't black, and I told them that I was 1/2 black. Although I'm not, I said it just in principle to make that person think. We're all the same on the inside, so what does it matter the color of skin?

kittenpie said...

Wow. And the fact that all three didn't get it... And that none of them were embarrassed for him... just wow.

The Domesticator said...

I must say... I am amazed this is even a topic of discussion for some people. Makes me sick...not just racism,but any form of intolerance and judgementalism.

Timely post, BTW...Thanks!!!

MsPrufrock said...

UK readers would probably disagree, but I find overt racism more likely to occur here (UK) than in the US. Obviously racism is racism, overt or covert, but I can't tell you how many times in my nearly 6 years in the UK I have been witness to astonishing racist conversations. I work at a university which has an extraordinarily diverse student population and I have been around others who have said the most shocking, offensive things. Hmph. Very sad.

Moondance said...

I do part of new employee orientation at my job. The part about how we are an equal opportunity employer and will not tolerate discrimination or harrassment.

Then, I carefully explain that, if you have to look around the room to make sure there are no female/disabled/black/jewish/gay/latino/whatever people who might be offended, by your words,then DO NOT utter them. Because racism (etc) is offensive to everyone, it keeps us all down.

Some people smile knowlingly at me. They get it. Some do the quizzical dog thing.

Julie Pippert said...

Bravo.

Respect and dignity. Use it.

Maureen said...

On Christmas Eve, we were at the SIL's place... her stepson, in his 20's, went into a tirade about a certain race. Most of the in-laws just sat in silence during it. I had enough though, and gave him a piece of my mind; letting him know clearly how racist he was being and that I wouldn't stand for any more of that kind of talk. He left the room while others thanked me for speaking up... and after a while he joined us again and behaved himself. I only wished that more people would stand up and tell others how wrong this is.

Omaha Mama said...

Love the face in that picture. Say what!

I taught a lesson today on MLK day and everything Dr. King did for civil rights. For my students we talk about how people with disabilities used to be treated and how special education was segregated. Suddenly it clicked and it wasn't so boring for them any more. I was thinking of those same topics you were today.

Have a good weekend.

carrie said...

Exactly.

SUEB0B said...

It ain't over. Just today I had to tell someone at work to quit emailing me racist jokes.

♥♥♥ A- Licious ♥♥♥ said...

let us hope he has.

i know what you mean.

i have had people say racist things to me (even just recently) because i have dated outside of my CULTURE all my dating life (i like to say CULTURE, we are all one race and that is human in my book)

if you ever look at my blog - you will see my son - he is mixed - his father is black.

my son has my fair skin so people (i hate to say it, but mainly white people i have noticed - don't notice) have said rude things not knowing in front of me (and him, thank God right now he is 16 months and doesn't KNOW) made racial comments.

it hurts me that people are STILL like this....but we have come a lot further and yes, we have far to go.

i guess this was kind of a random comment...but i used to get so angry and now - NOW for my son's sake - I just pray for these people who can for some reason only see "color" and not PEOPLE.

;o) Great post and DIG the pic!

Amy xoxoxox

PG said...

I ranted about Dr. King's legacy a bit on my on my way from work tonight

I called people out to do just what you did - speak up when something ugly is going down.

Watch Dr. King's speech, the whole thing. It's powerful.

Don't make it just another day off from work!

Liza's Eyeview said...

I hope so too.

And good for you for saying that it's upsetting you.

Now, are you really part black? - ha!
(just kidding ;)

mikster said...

It's amazing how insensitive people can be to racism. I think things are improving but there's still a ways to go.

mauniejames said...

I wish it were a thing of the past but we are in Florida for the winter and the difference between here and Massachusetts is amazing..
Not that Bostonions are truly evolved but it's a lot better then down here in the south..we stopped in Georgia on the way down...you would wonder if the civil war was still going on...peace to all

Jodi said...

i keep hoping things will change, even when they seem to get worse.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Too many of those types in my life, I'm afraid. Plain ignorance and stupidity. Unfortunately it's hard to teach a person to stop being so damn ignint.

BethGo said...

Yeah, I grew up with that my whole life. Everyone treated me like I was the one with the problem because I wasn't racist.

Is it prejudiced to say that I am intolerant of racists?

QT said...

There are a lot of Simons in my hood. Thay have learned I don't tolerate that kind of talk. Thanks for the timely post.

Kyla said...

I hope so, too. Unfortunately that isn't always the case.

I'm glad you spoke up. I think I'd probably be more likely to sit there with a vomit-like feeling in my gut. I'm not always as vocal as I should be.

AliBlahBlah said...

Great post, particularly interesting considering I grew up only 10 miles from Bradford/Bradistan - a town as you know with a HUGE race issue. As predicted, I do disagree with Ms. Prufrock's comment that racism is worse in the UK than over here - having been called 'the right kind of immigrant' in southern California more times than I care to remember. Race hate thrives all over, you just have to be on the other side to notice it. I loved your post because it illustrates so perfectly how people become so comfortable in 'sharing' their racist perspectives if they see you're the same colour as them - I applaud you for pointing out to their faces how hateful they were.

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

Queeny rocks.

Cherann said...

Good for you! Most people wouldn't stand up to them and say that racist jokes offend you simply because they are offensive.

Ruth Dynamite said...

This look of yours is better than the Church Lady.

"Hmmm...who could have inspired you to tell those racist jokes. Could it be...SATAN?"