As I’ve said before, I love me a good celebrity meltdown. And, yes, this is, in part, because it makes me feel as if I am smart and reasonably well brought up. And so it might not surprise you that I enjoy tumblrs such as White People Mad at Food Network.
Social media has given all of us a lot more chances to display our opinions on issues. As such, I enjoy the interesting dissection of Americans talking about race in some posts. They help me think and formulate my own ideas. And the raving maniacs also help me formulate my own ideas.
But am I any better? Well, I don’t use the n word, glamorize the antebellum South, or make racist, homophobic, or ethnic jokes. But that’s easy. What about the hard stuff?
What about the other night? I had dinner with a friend and a young friend of same friend. Friend and Young Friend grew up in the same place, a town that they both love, but that is wracked with class issues and is not exactly a place of racial enlightenment (although it’s remarkably gay friendly). Friend reminisced about his adventures working in a rough part of town. Young Friend then suddenly started talking about “them”. It was clear that by “them,” Young Friend meant black people. And then he said something about “knowing how to deal with them.”
Friend began to tell more stories, trying to steer Young Friend away from these dangerous waters. I was horrified, but I said nothing. As Friend and Young Friend continued to tell stories, I tried to think it through. I should maybe have called out Young Friend. But this was the first time I had met him and he was Friend’s friend. What would I have said? What would he have said in return? I trust Friend, and so I was in a reasonably safe space, but I didn’t know Young Friend or what he was like.
I’m not a person who can argue cohesively about these issues. Given time, I can break down why something is offensive, and can express how to keep it from happening again. But I also am a smoother-over. Young Friend was young and stupid, and I was trying to make him feel comfortable in my presence. I am a woman, more worldly than he is, and am a good fifteen-some years older than he. Also, Friend was taking me out for dinner in exchange for dog care (Downith, a really cute dog), so I didn’t want to ruin the dinner for Friend.
Friend and I talked about it the next day, and Friend said that he had given Young Friend a talking to. I’m still thinking about it.
When do speak up and when do you stay silent?