Monday, August 08, 2005

Racism: From South of Denver to DC

Sitting in the bar, enjoying my beer and rigatoni, some white countryboy/redneck comes in and we start talking sports, football, whatever. I don't care what color people are, nor what they dress like, nor whether or not they have a drawl, or if they're a countryboy and/or redneck - it's all fine by me, and it's none of my business who someone voted for. If someone seem like a decent person, I'll be nice to them.

This countryboy/redneck says he's from just south of Denver, Colorado. OK. He wanted to talk - I could tell he was a wingnut because he threw out a couple of Bush/Iraq feelers to which I didn't respond, choosing to keep the conversation civil, but whatever - I thought he was probably still basically a decent dude. He mentioned he was in town to bury his uncle's ashes at Arlington - his uncle had served in Vietnam - I was very polite.

He mentioned he flew out here on a plane and 25 Indians were getting on the plane with him. He says he didn't want to get on board with 'those monkeys' - because 'they all look the same to me, ya know?' - and two ladies behind him said, 'yeah - yeah'.

My blood boils, I feel sweat on my face leaping out of my pores, I envision 5-0 coming to the scene putting me in handcuffs and all I'm willing to say is my name and "I'm not talking until I see a lawyer."

So, to head off that scenario (I had just watched one of those 'evil city' shows - the one about Thomas Junta), I pick up my cellphone, make a couple of calls to occupy my time while I finish the rest of my rigatoni and beer, and pay the bill. The dude tries to talk some more - I don't look at him, give him one 'yeah' at what he says, and continue to look either at the sports on the tv or a blank stare straight ahead - the one you see some psycho do just before he loses it.

I'm not sure if I should give him a lecture before leaving the bar - "we don't go for that racist shit around here, redneck fuck!", or something similar, but as I'm getting up to walk out I see that he's now chatting with... a black guy. This is so typical, I think. People will say whatever to your face, but give them the opportunity - i.e. let them think they're talking to someone they can trust - and the real shit comes out. I decided I didn't want to mess up this black dude's night, too - so I let this redneck fuck ride. He got the point. But he won't learn, except maybe to be a bit more careful when he comes to the 'big' city.

I should have known something was up. During the course of our sports talk - only five or ten minutes - we got on the topic of Tiger, and how some dude (the name is Dan Rooney, apparently) in the new Sports Illustrated magazine is a pilot in Iraq, and how Dan beat Tiger five straight times in golf matches in college (this is the account provided to me by Mr. Racist Redneck Fuck). Dan thought he was going to be rich - at least as rich as Tiger, but instead, he played some shit little golf tour in the midwest, didn't make any money, and then joined the Air Force at age 27 - the upper age limit to become a pilot. I have no idea if Dan resented Tiger, but Mr. Racist Redneck sure did.

Mr. Racist Redneck was suffering from that same old conflation of several motivating factors (racism, economic frustration, etc.), misinformation, and ignorance that leads lots of people to fucked-up conclusions. Mr. Racist Redneck was implying that the pilot was better than Tiger - that he deserved to be rich, just like Tiger, because at the end of the day, just what was Tiger anyways, except a black guy who'd gotten beat by a white guy in college five times in a row?

I thought the dude was just harping on the 'all our armed forces personnel are gods' tip, but it went a lot deeper than that - it was 'all the good white men of America go off to fight our wars while all the undeserving blacks get to sit back here in America and play golf and get rich'.

As a white guy, I'm often privy to the dark side of the white American male. I have played the part of good 'ol boy before just to figure people out, but tonight I didn't try in the slightest. If this dude was a KKK member, I had no interest in finding out. Not sure what made him think he could trust I was a fellow racist. Maybe it was the remainder of my own southern drawl that made this fuck feel like he could say whatever he wanted. Or maybe he was feeling emboldened because I didn't smash his face into the bar after he dropped his pseudo-pro-Bush references. Tonight I was straight up city-slicker - about as city-slicker as DC gets, which is not much.

Lesson: If you are white, and you think that racism doesn't exist, or that it doesn't strongly influence almost every major policy decision made in America today (voting rights, health care, home finance, education, taxation, etc.), then do yourself and your country a favor and please, for the love of Xenu, PLEASE PULL YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS. Racism can be stopped, but not when Republicans refuse to believe that their own party appeals to and implicitly endorses the racism in voters with the Southern Strategy. This is the strategy that Ken Mehlman of the Republican National Committee just apologized for, to the NAACP.

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