Sunday, August 17, 2008
So a couple of weeks ago, I was invited by a good friend of mine to take part in a little pub trivia put on by a company called geeks who drink.
Like I said in my very first post, I know thing or two about a thing or two, and I enjoy searching the corners of my brain for some fact I learned in third grade in the quest for a free pitcher of beer. When it comes to bar trivia, I prefer trivia face off , but that's really neither here nor there.
We were nearing the end of the game, and for one of the questions the announcer said the name of a room and you had to say if the room was in Graceland or The White House. The first was the Raquetball room. Any guesses?
That one is Graceland.
The second one was the impetus for this post, The Jungle Room.
There were a group of white people behind me and while they were going over their answers, one of the guys said, "The Jungle Bunny room."
Hee hee ha ha ho ho.
For those of you that may not know, jungle bunny is an offensive term used to describe black people. On the one hand, I should be glad if there are people that have never heard that term. On the other hand, I should be not glad to know that I just heard some dude behind me at trivia use it. Even when I went to urban dictionary to find that link, I saw some disturbing entries that were being used for the definition.
There were two things that bothered me about the incident. Well, I guess three.
1. It's sad that there are people in the world that use racist terms. In public. Seriously, if this is the kind of -ish he says when a black person is right behind him , what, pray tell is he saying when he's in the comfort of his own home?
2. His friends said nothing. There was a chuckle or two, but silence from the rest. I'm going to go out on a limb and say one of them was thinking, "Dude, there's a black chick right behind you!" Some others may have thought it was clever. But from the silence, I'm going to guess that the majority were offended. The silent majority, that is.
White people, silence is not an effective strategy for dealing with these sorts of situations. It's not enough to talk about what a jackass the guy is/was when he's not around , you have to deal with it in the moment. If you think it's not funny, then say it's not funny. When you say nothing, he's just left thinking--" I guess no one heard my totally hilarious comment. It's ok, I'll get 'em with my next one." If we're really going to do something about the people who are still thinking like it's 1952, they can't be allowed to through life thinking that most people agree with them; which is what they think when no one calls them on it--
silence = consent.
3. The most important reason--what if this guy is a cop or a loan officer or a car salesmen or a hiring manager? Do you really think that a person that uses language like this really sees people as being equal and treats them as such professionally? This is when it starts to affect my life, and when it starts to affect my life is when I start to get pissed.
As always, I welcome your comments.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
So I'm reading this book from the Opposing Viewpoints series called Interracial America It's kind of an old book, but I don't know that the arguments would be any different if it had been written today. It's a collection of essays dealing with various aspects of race relations. It's funny because I read one article and agree with it, and then I'll read the next one that is saying the exact opposite and agree with that one too. The book has got me feeling like both sides of this issue need to take some steps toward the middle. You know the Truth and Reconciliation Project in South Africa?
I feel like white people need to accept a lot more truth, and people of color need to be open to a lot more reconciliation.
For hundreds of years, white people were given advantages at the expense of people of color. I'm talking about a direct connection: white people gained precisely because black, brown, red and yellow people lost.
At the same time here in 2008, I think most white people consider themselves basically good, and are disgusted by acts of overt racism that they see today. Most white people are not out to get people of color, and they're not plotting in meetings about how they can keep us down. So...how do we make peace with the past? How to we move forward in a meaningful way? Certainly not by just forgetting about it, because the remnants of the past are still with us today. But also not by just throwing it up in someone's face, so that all that they feel is guilty or defensive or scared. I don't know what the answer is, but you can bet I'm gonna keep thinking about it...