Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Oh help, help, help, help, help.

I've done either an incredibly brave thing or a very stupid thing - depending on which side of the issue you stand.
Today, while visiting Facebook, one of my "friends," who is actually a service-provider and I don't know her well, described her child's classmate as "the colored child."

The COLORED child. I actually got nauseous. What is this - 1965? Are we whipping out the fire hoses Thursday afternoon? Are we getting ready to hang signs up over the water coolers again?
In my mind, COLORED is a racial slur. An ethnic insult. A polite way to cover the word nigger.
With all the black host students who have lived in my home over the past decades, you can imagine we have had plenty of deep, meaningful discussions about the power of words.

I stood in my driveway as a child and sing-songed "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me." But that is such a lie - scientists have found that just hearing sentences about elderly people led research subjects to walk more slowly. In other research, individuals read words of 'loving kindness' showed increases in self-compassion, improved mood, and reduced anxiety.

But today, it was damn hard to look prejudice in the face.

And so I was faced with a choice. I could have skipped on down to any other message, watched a video, gone back to writing, and ignored the remark.
Or I could do what I believed was right and take a stand.

I confronted. I sent her a short message that said I found her choice of a racial slur unacceptable and could no longer be her friend. I then "un-friended" her.

I'll admit - it was hard to be a bit confrontational. Hard to call someone out like that.
And it had ramifications.
Several of her friends and relatives began bombarding me with FB messages.
Her husband telephoned me.

I asked him where I was supposed to draw the line? Should I get upset if my friend's child is called a faggot? How about when my son is called a dago or my daughter a squaw? Do I accept kike or queer or cracker or honkey? Do I only react when a label is pasted on someone I know? Or someone I love?

Advise me, dear friends. I'm not feeling like a brave activist tonight - in fact, these people have me feeling like I've done something wrong.


Dawn Fortune said...

Thank you. From the kid who got called "queer" at school as a child, then "dyke" on the street as an adult. Just, thank you.

Queenie said...

I wish I had been there when it happened, Dawn.

jenny said...

You are brave and kind...and I am proud to have you as my friend and mother.

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Lisa said...

I ABSOLUTELY think you did the right thing. My belief is that the only way to combat prejudice and racism in the world is to make the comment, take the stand, tell people in a kind and rational way that what they are saying is offensive and that people are HURT by them saying it. Each one, reach one. And while there were ripples in the pond from the stone you cast, I assure you that it will CHANGE people who are upset by it for the better. Or at least might make them THINK next time about how to address someone.

truewonder said...

You sent her a private message, between two grown woman. Obviously, she thinks like a child, speaks like one and is still treated as such by friends and loved ones. That's the shame here, that perhaps she'll never learn- never account for her lack of respect for all, especially children.
It seems sad the friends didn't see this as an opportunity to let her feel ashamed, instead- they try to shame you.
It's very difficult to do the right thing for the right reasons, it often leaves us standing on our own. Labors of love I call them-like cleaning out the chicken coop- nobody wants to do it, but it benefits the whole flock when it gets done.
Take care-

Diane said...

I find that some people use terms like that out of just plain ignorance rather than malice. I don't know her and her values or prejudices so I can't speak for her. It gets to be a balancing act of, is black person too strong, is Afro-American todays term? It's almost hard to speak any more having to weigh ones words carefully. I have to wonder if this woman has lived with "mixed" company before. When I visit my sister in Tennessee, there aren't any blacks in that area. It's a rarity to see someone of the "other" persuasion. Anyhow, not making excuses for this woman, but providing another side of reality for some people. They just don't know, having lived in an "isolated" world of their own making.

robinbeth said...

i can only emulate Jenny- You are brave and kind...and I am PROUD to have you as my friend and sister! Don't doubt yourself, I think you did the right thing.

Dana said...

Bravo! You did a brave and righteous thing!