A Couple of Christmas Drinks Sprinkled with Racism

(Two posts in three days about racism? What an ugly coincidence.)

So my neighbor invited me out for a "couple of Christmas drinks" and I should have known better as I have Christmas shopping to finish, but I accepted. My head is now pounding. The line of the night was: "You don't need to see Monty Python again after you've seen it a few hundred times."

I would amend that to "you don't need to hear Monty Python jokes again after ..."

While out drinking, one of the guys with us -- a Welsh gentleman I'll call Al -- told me stories about when he lived in the United States. Once he was at a wedding reception and there was a woman who was sitting by herself. She didn't look like she was having any fun, she wasn't chatting with others and she also wasn't dancing. She also had only one leg. As Al learned from her later, she lost the other one a few months before in a motorcycle accident. Al, knowing full well that she only had one leg, walked up to her and asked her to dance. She protested, insisting that she couldn't, to which he replied, "Come one, you can't be any worse than me. I've got two left feet."

That has to rate as the best or worst pickup line in history. I don't know which. They danced the rest of the night.

Despite that charming story, I have to confess that I don't like Al. You see, Al is black, which has nothing to do with why I dislike him, but has everything to do with the look of incredulity on his face when he said to me "you're calling me a racist?"

Well, yes, if you tell me that Jews are troublemakers, have been troublemakers throughout history, run the United States and used the US as a proxy to launch a war against Iraq, I'll cheerfully call you a racist. You want to speak frankly? So will I.

So I guess it got a bit tense in the bar as I sat there and called the black guy a racist -- and repeated it to make sure he heard me correctly -- but I have to say that I'm getting tired of this. I'm tired of the train conductor telling me that the British National Party (whites only, sorry) needs to be in charge. I'm tired of the Austrian woman telling me that this country needs to kick out the immigrants (but she and I are the "good kind"). And now I have a black guy spewing out racist bullshit? I wonder if the fact that I'm an American makes people feel like they can tell me the things they won't tell others, because many British people swear that racists are a very tiny minority here, but I keep hearing it. Or maybe there's an assumption that American's are more likely to be racist? Who knows?

Update: I forgot to mention the best part. When he realized he was offending me with his anti-Jewish tirade (side note: "semitic" doesn't mean the same as "Jewish"), he asked if I was Jewish. When I told him I wasn't, he said "Oh, then it's OK if I say this to you."

Uh, no it's not. I believe in freedom of speech but it still doesn't mean I want to listen to your bullshit.
  • Current Mood: disgusted
Racism IS tiring. But it's everywhere in the world. Only the manifestations change depending on where you are at a given moment. Some are easier to live with and some are not.

I live in a city where many people claim there is no racism in their country, or their province is racist, but the city itself is much less so.

It's not less so, it's just different. People in Chicoutimi, stare outright and don't know how to deal with you. People in Montreal will ignore you, or (for me this is worse) try to be "friendly" using overtures based on stereotypes they've seen in the media, heard from friends, etc., or suddenly turn off during a job interview when they realize the person they spoke to the phone isn't who they expected, but give you another reason later for rejection that is transparently untrue. After these people do this, they will later tell you, they don't "see color."

Related to this, some people will say, "Montreal sounds fine, at least no one is violently racist or physically threatening." Well, this is true, and I wouldn't want that. But compare me to my father, who hates the way people behave here, because he's rather have people just say to his face they don't like him, and leave it at that instead of doing this dance. People react differently to how these things manifest themselves.

And now I have a black guy spewing out racist bullshit?
This surprises you? He's just a person (maybe not a likable one). He's as capable of racism as anyone else. Emotionally, part of us want to say, "Oh no!! He should know better!" But, really, why should he? He is more likely to have less privilege in society being black, but he's still been raised in the same divisive environment. I used to get upset at someone gay saying something racist to me, or a feminist making homophobic remarks. When someone who has been marginalized makes divisive remarks, based around gender/sex, "race", or any type of difference, and they "should know better," I remind my self the racism, sexism, homophobia, etc, all work in tandem and intersect to make each prejudice stronger. Sexism and homophobia are quite strong in the black community. So racism within it is not going to be eliminated anytime too soon.

The jewish and black communities in North America have had cycles of great unity in overcoming obstacles and confrontation and mistrust. It is very strong on both ends. Growing up in a predominantly Jewish school, I was on the receiving end of a lot of negative experiences, mostly my friends' parents, and even though they felt they were being subtle, they were rather overt. And it did manifest itself a bit differently than how other people were doing things to set me apart. I can see how people would compartmentalize one group's manifestations of racism over another's based on what bothers them more.

However, the deep-seated anti-Semitism that has been propagated throughout many parts of the black community has many reasons, (but ultimately none of the racism is valid). I find I have to constantly pull up acquaintances, relatives, and when I was younger, even my parents. And yes, it's tiring. It's not easy, but I still do it. I know in my parents' case, because of the discussions my brother and I had with them, they don't censor themselves -- they think differently. It can't work this way for everybody, but if you don't say something there is no chance of change.

It's brave that you stand up for others. I respect this tremendously.

Sorry if this is a little all over the place. I don't talk about this subject much anymore.
I don't think it's all over the place. I think it's one of the most erudite comments I've received in my blog. Thank you. Of course, I've always appreciated the fact that you're one smart cookie (and the completely un-PC word "oreo" springs to my mind, but only because I think you probably know me well enough to appreciate how my sense of humor works -- I hope :).
Who-eo? I should kick your butt, just as an object lesson for people who don't get the joke.

YOU called said MY comment was erudite? Off to change my underwear...

That facade didn't last long
And of course I ruin an air of intelligence with a badly constructed sentence...
When I was in UK I came to realize that Europe, as a whole, (and really most of the rest of the world) is far more racist than the United States. It's basically still rather institutionalized there. The Scots hate the Brits, the Greeks hate the Turks, everybody hates immigrants. etc...
It's nice to realize that there ARE wonderful things about American culture and that whole 'melting pot' cliche.
Yeah, I've been seeing that too :( It's very distressing. I really do think this is one area where the USA has Europe beat, hands down.
The Scots *are* British. And no, they don't hate the English. There's a marked difference between gentle ribbing and outright hatred.

The real racism is that because American politicians are backward, some of the local colour think that all Americans must be equally backward and so would just love to hear the tales of Jewish conspiracies which they wouldn't dream of blurting out to a decent Englishman.
You're right about the Scots.
And I can only speak from my own experience, but when I was over there (now 10 years ago), what I experienced went far beyond 'gentle ribbing'. Even what you describe as 'gentle ribbing' is generally unacceptable here, unless you are already on very close terms with the subject. When one is subjected to it continuously it rapidly stops seeming very benign.
Can you give me that guy's name? It's a mitzvah to report such people to the Rabbi of Belief Correction...
I think everybody is a little rascist or prejudiced....I also think people don't realize they are....this includes myself....
I know I certainly am. It's very tough to get over what society imprints on us time and time again. Kudos to you for being willing to admit it.