Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Old folks and racism...

Last week we were at a dinner for an organization we are a part of, and our table was made up of a 60+ aged group... and Daddio and me (there were 7 people in total at our table). It's been my experience with grandparents that they will say what ever is on their mind without a whole lot of regard for the audience before them. Daddio and I've teased that due to their age they've earned the right to speak their mind!

I think I should preface this next section by saying I was/am perfectly aware that those at our table are from a different generation, a different time... a time of ignorance for lack of a better word, and certain phrases die hard... and certain parts of history aren't seen from an objective standpoint because it is part of their own past... jaded by their own personal or familial thoughts.

Alright fine print out of the way...

So there we sat trying to enjoy with somewhat rubbery food that was being served... sadly I don't think the restaurant was quite prepared to handle a large group, and I don't think the food was a good indication of their usual quality... anyway, and somehow one of the gentlemen at our table decided to tell us about the beer he was drinking. He related it back to a trip he had taken... and that's when things went downhill very quickly! What poured forth was a string of racial slurs against those of Hispanic descent... did I mention we were in a Mexican restaurant with several Hispanic servers... I wanted to crawl under the table... there was no way some of those on the wait staff didn't over hear what he was saying!

Several occasions Daddio and my eyes locked in complete shock as to what he was saying... I wish I could say it ended there... oh how I wish it would have ended there...

This same gentleman (using the term quite loosely now) went on to talk about slavery, the master/slave relationship (including that slaves where not mistreated, but instead were respected and treated like a member of the family), and the notion that the slaves were better off sold rather than being left alone in their native lands. I will not go further with his words because they are beyond what I am comfortable sharing!

The only real tangible way to describe his description of history is to say that his notion of that time was like those who don't believe in the holocaust (or that it was as extreme as it was).

SHOCK... that was the best way to describe our faces as we listened to him... and SILENCE. I think Daddio at one point said that "for the vast majority, what you're describing wasn't the case", but no one was listening to us... they were riveted with his account.

I've heard racial slurs before, I've been offended before, but this seemed deeper... this was my mother's heart that was offended and insulted for the birth relatives of my children... for MY children. In all honesty my fight/flight instinct took hold and I had to escape to the restroom for a breather while I recovered control over my tongue (thank you Mother Mary!!).

I related this story to a friend, and she asked if the man knew my children and maybe he wouldn't have said anything had he known that we were a family of color. I can't say he KNOWS them, but he's seen them many many times, at the very least could identify that they are not white... but in all honesty I really don't think the man realized how terribly racist and dehumanizing he was being. There is also one other explanation for people making racial comments with me there... they know our boys... those who know them don't SEE their race... they just see the boys (as it should be with all people), but will make a racial slur thinking that my boys wouldn't be included... it's strange but even my own family members have done this without even realizing how hurtful it is to me and one day to the boys (when they realize what is being said)!

What's the answer? On the way home from that event we talked about our own need to become more versed in historical accuracy so that when we respond we can make it far more real by using actual accounts... having names and dates, I personally think, makes things more real... and not an over arching generalization...

Good grief.......................

3 comments:

Bob said...

You are a beautiful person, and so is Daddio. Please, no excuses based on age or anything else. Best regards to you both.

Bob said...

I posted recently about a book I am reading called The Power of Positive Confrontation. You might want to check it out. It is a skill that not many of us have. I know I fall far short in this area, even when reading an excellent book on the subject!

MommaLlama said...

I think I need to read that book, Bob, we had another incident this weekend and I was left speechless! The boys were spending a few hours at my MIL house (we needed a date!) and they were riding scooters in front of her duplex (even though they were told to stay on her side)... when we arrived to pick them up there was an old man walking around the front of MIL house looking for her and the children. He wanted to know who those "smartalick-y little hispanic boys were who were making a terrible commotion and on his property"! There was definitely a tone in his very angry voice about the whole thing that left me very unsettled. And when we said they were our boys, his tone quickly changed to a nice old man who was simply worried about the boys safety. Yeah, sure!