Friday, July 15, 2005

Two Teeth and No Brains

I was just on the receiving end of the most racist remarks I've ever heard.

And here's the best part: They were delivered by an African-American woman. How do ya like them apples?

She was the cashier at the grocery store where I had The Bambina in the baby bjorn on my chest. As we were checking out, the cashier said, "So you adopted her, huh?" Yes I did. From China.

"Oh, China. You know, most people don't like those Asians, but I say as long as you got love to give you go on and give it."

I looked at her quizzically, because how do you respond to that? I then mustered up a, "Well, I can't imagine what's not to like about a baby."

Cashier: "Oh I don't mean the babies. I mean the others. You know them."

"I"m sorry I don't."

"The ones who got them attitudes. The little ones with the attitudes. So, how did your family take it? Her being an Asian. Were they upset?"

"They are thrilled as any grandparents would be!" I'm saying this with that tone of voice of "I have no idea what you are getting at, ma'am. I don't understand the premise of your question because the idea is so foreign to me."

But on she went, to The Question that all adoptive parents get at some point or another: "So--do you think you'll have your own someday?"

"I think one of my own is enough right now, thanks."

She even said, "You know, some people get such attitudes when you ask them questions but you're just answerin' like it's no big deal." To which I replied, "Well, what can you do. [stupid] People are people."

Little did she know that I walked out of there so f'ing angry that I was ready to ask to speak to a manager but just wanted to get my kid as far away from morons like her as possible, not to mention that it was almost nap time. So as I was putting the stuff in the car I was talking to The Bambina as if she could understand me: "Baby girl, mommy was polite to that woman in there because that woman was very stupid, and mommy knew that getting angry with her was not going make her smart. Mommy wasn't polite because anything that woman said was true. Okay?" Good rehearsal for the inevitable when Bambina can understand and feel minimized by what the Stupid Lady With (I'm not Kidding) Two Teeth is saying.

It's a tough call: get mad or be seen to be suffering fools who f with your kid. I thought about it all morning and decided that making a big stink to the cashier would, when my daughter is old enough to understand, give her the impression that she is something in my life that causes conflict. I guess there is no right answer..or is there? I do think I'm going to call the manager of the store now that the bambina is not with me to see the drama, just to alert him to the fact that his employees are making personal and inappropriate conversation with customers.

In a larger context, my experience today disproved the assertion (by the Nation of Islam and others) that African-Americans cannot be racist. She was as racist as it gets. So racist, in fact, that I'm certain that if I pointed out to her that her views of "those Asians" is racist, that she'd genuinely disagree on the grounds that Asians, in her opinion, have more power than her, so how can SHE be racist against a (real or imagined) more powerful group of people.

It's a thorny issue, and one I am a little bit hesitant to tackle for all the obvious reasons. But I know my daughter will face it, and so I have to think about it, for her benefit--and for our country's in general.


Anonymous said...

I don't get anyone who says ANY group of people aren't or can't be racist; anyone who is human (sad to say) is capable of pointless, ignorant hatred or bias. So, yeah, African Americans can be racist. Humanity rocks!

Sorry, was that too bitter? ;)

Miko said...

It's hard not to get upset at the stupid, but clearly she was stupid. And ill-mannered, but that's another story. I do despair sometimes when I realize that many, many people are running around making decisions (and raising children) with no greater mental resources than an IQ just a hair bove the borderline that warrants self-care.

Miko said...

Should have been 'permits self-care'.

E said...

And I should amend my statement about it being the "most racist thing" I'd ever heard. It was the most racist thing ever said to ME about my family. The most racist thing I ever heard was in Georgia when we were out with our friend who happens to be African-American. THAT was the most racist thing, that I won't reprint here, I have ever heard. I couldn't sleep that night thinking about it; he is from Alabama so he was sadly not that shocked or stunned. Big wake up for the white girl from the Northeast, lemme tell ya. Racism exists! Who knew?!

Raine said...

Dear Bambina:

It's not the colour of your skin, your eyes, or your hair that matters. But rather the colour of your heart. Many are charred black and unmoving. Some bleed red and throb for affection. Some are dipped in gold and pulse with vitality. Some are all three.

Momma will teach you about these things and more, so when you get old enough, listen to her well.

Vigilante said...

In my long life, I have never been on the receiving end of a blatant and unmistakably racist remark. I have been accompanied with people when they were the object of such remarks. It stung me then, but I am sure not as much as I imagine it stung my friends at the time. And I am equally at a loss to feel the depth of E's distress and anger.

Many times during my long life I have also been caught off guard, and had to confront myself, my feelings, and my attitudes towards others: were my words, actions, and thoughts fair toward another person? My recent brief stay in Jamaica occasioned my latest self-reassessment.

I feel we must never be complacent - and always vigilant - about our own behavior. This is true even more so now as profiling of folks of Middle Eastern descent is becoming semi-official policy.