Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jena

Several days ago, my friend Spencer wrote an excellent post about the wretched, shameful mess that has transpired in Jena, Louisiana. If you aren't familiar with the story - still unfolding - visit the Wikipedia link I've provided to give you some of the background. There is so much ugliness in what has happened, it sickens me. And it ain't over by a longshot.

Racism is alive and well in America, and Jena -- soon to be the site of a rally and march on September 20th - is another sad milestone in a road that we are still traveling down.

This morning, I was accused of racism. I was waiting for an elderly woman to finish backing in and out (and in and out) of a parking spot behind the urgent care clinic where I needed to go (whoo hoo -- more antibiotics and an inhaler for "She Who Breathes Like Darth Vader" here.) I simply wanted to park in the last remaining spot, just two down from where she continued to angle her boat of a vehicle. A guy waited behind me, impatiently, in his Lincoln Navigator. Finally, he drove up onto the sidewalk, bolted past me, honked at the old woman and took that last remaining spot.

He and his group of friends got out of the car, pointing at me and laughing. When I rolled down the window and yelled at the driver for being a total jerk, he spun on me and immediately accused me of yelling at him because he was black and I was racist. I was dumbfounded. Here was this affluent young suburban man with a car that cost more than what I make in a year, and when I call him on rude behavior, he whips out the racism card? WTF?

I yelled, "Uh, no, hon. I'm not racist, but you are an asshole!" I'm an equal opportunity loudmouth, folks. I don't care if you're black, white, or green -- you steal my parking space, you're a weasel.

At that point, the guy yelled at me, "Bitch, you got served!"

I started laughing. It was the only response I could summon. I couldn't help myself. I yelled back, "Omigod! Are you serious? Are you in a cheerleading movie?" (His friends laughed at *him* then.) I shook my head and gave up. I left the elderly woman to the angling of her boat and I found another spot up front after 15 minutes of waiting.

But thinking about it this afternoon made me angry. A young man bizarrely called "racism" in some weird kneejerk response to him being outed as a classless boob. It pisses me off when there are REAL situations of racism, like the terrifying, life-altering events in Jena, Louisiana happening. And I'm willing to bet, for every Jena that finds its way onto the Internet and into our homes as a 2-minute piece on the evening news (barely a blip in our short attention span American Idol culture) there are probably a half-dozen or more situations we'll never hear about. And lives will be damaged and lost -both immediately and slowly, incidiously.

And we'll never know.

Instead, we'll hear more about Britney looking fat (she didn't) or Kanye West having another temper tantrum at the VMAs. The important stuff, dontcha know.

And that's to our devastating, collective shame.

4 comments:

BeechwoodAve said...

How about this story...

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/17/education/17schools.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

Scary stuff that's getting little attention at best.

Beech

Madame M. said...

It's moments like those that can sometimes fuel actual racism. Good for you for standing up for yourself.

spencer said...

Great post. Not that there aren't varying degrees of racism, but this is why I don't cry it the way others do - you don't want to cheapen the impact of this level of bigotry.

I am surprised that the level of shock isn't greater. The systemic nature of the racism in Jena is shocking. It's really a town 50 years behind.

Real Live Lesbian said...

Truly sad stuff. Thanks for the link. I'd heard bits and pieces on the news but had no idea how scary it had all become.