Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"It's Not a Racist Thing..."

I was at the playground the other day, eavesdropping as I'm prone to do (be careful what you say around me), and I heard the following exchange between a mother (chicly dressed in an array of earthtones; Italian though currently residing in Manhattan with her chicly dressed American husband and their two small, chicly dressed children; visiting New Orleans for the Thanksgiving holiday to support the city and experience local cultcha) and a grandmother (belly ring and an abundant gold coiffe; a prime example of local cultcha):
Grandma: "So, where are you all staying?"

Mama (with a thick Italian accent): "In the French Quarter."

Grandma: "Oh, you might not want to go down there this weekend. It's the Bayou Classic, a big football game, and there'll be about fifty thousand black people down there, and they've all got guns. It's not a racist thing. It's just they're real enthusiastic. I work in the Quarter, but I won't work down there this weekend."

Mama (confused): "But... we sleep there."
I have two reactions when I hear such exchanges. On the one hand, the poor lady had the same poison poured in her ear when she was too young to know what's what, and in her messed-up way, she's just trying to offer a visitor some friendly advice. On the other hand, what the fu...? Stop saying that!*

Does anyone actually think they're a racist? The big R-line always seems to be drawn just beyond whatever not-racist territory the not-a-racist has staked out.

* It didn't help that the whole conversation occurred within earshot of her mixed-race granddaughter.


  1. I've noticed the "I'm not a racist" correlation, too, so much so that I've started saying, "I'm a racist," just to mix it up a bit. I teach high school and the kids love it. "Did you just say you're a racist?" "Yeah." "But-" and then we have to talk about it, which always ends up being really interesting.

    Damn, though, I hate it when garbage like that comes out of people's mouths. Keep up the good fight!

  2. Anonymous10:40 PM

    That is some ugly stuff. What's worse than overhearing that? When you are, somehow, horribly, IN the conversation with the guilty party. I find that happens to me more now that I live in The South.

    I think everyone is a racist. Me included. I agree with Cellar Door - once people admit it, we can have a much more interesting (and productive) discussion about race. Denying that you are part of the problem IS part of the problem.