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We’re All A Little Bit Racist

23 Jun

Do you know what I discovered?   Can we all agree that it is time for us to stop pretending, that since electing a black president, we are living in a post-racial era?  We’ve come a long way as a nation (hallelujah!), but between the virulent racist attacks against Cheerios recently for producing a commercial featuring an interracial family and the Paula Deen debacle, it is painfully clear that we’ve still got a long way to go because this shit is centuries old and layers deep.

Cheerios Meme

Little girl from Cheerios’ interracial family commercial

Personally, I would like to recommend a country-wide field trip to see the musical: Avenue Q.  We need only stay for the one song sung by the Asian character and then go immediately to our churches, synagogues, mosques, or therapists to repent of the fact that no one amongst us can afford to throw stones because we all live in glass houses which cover a history of saying racist things at one time or another about each other (either cluelessly or with full-blown hatred—yeah, I’m talking to you my ex-friend with your Tea Party bias who claims you don’t have a racist bone in your body, but who called a certain race “diaper heads” that you regularly work with and expected me to chuckle over it as if doing so gave us a common bond of disdain as your one black friend with your Tea Party bias).

“Everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes.

Doesn’t mean we go around committing hate crimes.

Look around and you will find no one’s really color blind.

Maybe it’s a fact we all should face

Everyone makes judgments based on race.”

By Lyricists: Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx from Avenue Q

You see, even though I despise what Paula Deen has been accused of, I’ve been wrestling with my own racist demons just this past few months.   Without making matters worse by naming the people group I’m currently having issues with, let’s just say that I have managed to rid myself of most of my prejudices (knocked out my bigotry toward white people by marrying one thirty-four years ago—nothing solves racial ignorance like getting to know, love, and understand the people you were stupid about in the first place).  But there is one race that drives me nuts and partially because I know they have horrid prejudices towards African-Americans of which I’m constantly running into.  Unfortunately, I’m very much in love with my white man so I can’t divorce him and marry one of them just to get over my budding racial ugliness.

Cant We all get along from shelersanon dot blogspot dot com

“Can’t we all just get along” from shelversanon.blogspot.com

The stereotype of the people group that I’m struggling with think I’m stupid, that my skin color is a curse from God, and that I’m going to rob their businesses on any given Sunday.  My stereotype of them is that they’re cheap; they hate black people, and many of them have bought up all the dry cleaners in America giving me no other tetrachloroethylene (dry-cleaning fluid) alternatives but theirs.  My stereotypes are trying to take anchor because I’ve had to change dry cleaners three times in the last ten years and I’m pissed.  The first dry cleaners lost my designer jacket and refused to pay up until I threatened to call the po-po, the second one shrank my silk blouse down to the size of a Barbie doll and refused to be accountable, telling me “it because you get fat—that why garment no fit” (oh, no she didn’t!), and the third one overcharged me four times the amount for a hemming job and hoped I wouldn’t notice (as if!).

I’m now on my fourth dry cleaner and in my effort to not let these ugly stereotype take up residence in my head and heart, I’ve gone out of my way to befriend the owners (a young couple) and their seamstress mother when I pick up WW’s shirts every week. It is working.  We engage in delightful chit-chat and the service they provide is excellent.  I’ve got no complaints.  In fact everything was great for 18 months until a new relative came to America and started working in the store.   I could tell by the way she greeted me, that she did not like black people.  She wouldn’t even look me in the eyes or speak to me even after my many effusive greetings.  I know that she can make eye-contact, smile, and speak English because she does so to the white customers who come in behind me. (I’ve tested my theory several times by sending WW in my place and she has been quite pleasant with him.)

After putting up with this ‘tude for three months, I confronted the new dry-cleaner assistant:  “What is your problem?  You are refusing to understand and follow my instructions, and you’re costing me time and money!  I keep getting my dry cleaning back with stains on them because you don’t mark them as per my instructions in the beginning. You skimp on the laundry marking tape.  Stop being so cheap with the god-damn laundry tape!”  At that point, she looked and me and rolled her eyes and said:  “No, you no understand; this is process—you get one tiny piece of sticky tape (about an eighth of an inch) for entire garment—no more for you!”  Then she said something in her language that could not have been good given the intensity, walked back to her station, and angrily sorted through clothes.

(Jesus, please help my sorry-ass.  I’m getting ready to declare war over sticky laundry-marking tape.)

There you have it—my own laundry soup-Nazi.  I suffer the same angst as Jerry Seinfeld and Elaine did in their soup-Nazi episodes every time I enter that dry cleaning establishment, and I’ve tried to solve the situation by still being nice as possible—plus I only go to the dry cleaners at the times of the day I know the owners will be there to wait on me.  They still treat me with great respect and give me plenty of laundry marking tape.  I’m making a choice to see my nemesis as a “one-off” rude person—no more representative of her race as a black person robbing her store is of mine.

***

But how am I to solve the problem I have with Paula Deen whom I really liked and was so proud of her accomplishments as a woman.  Oh Paula, Paula, Paula . . .

Paula Deen

PAULA DEEN’S ALLEGED‎ SINS: “For instance: admitting that she has used ‘the N word’ (in her and the lawyer’s  words)–‘of course,’ and probably on more than one occasion.   Defending telling racial and ethnic jokes: ‘it’s just what they are—they’re jokes.’  And wishing she could plan a “Southern plantation wedding” for her brother, with African American servers in the part of antebellum slaves. (Deen reportedly didn’t go through with that idea because, you know, ‘the media’ would have twisted it into something. Those media!  Always turning folks’ innocent plantation-slave parties into something racist!*)”—By James Poniewozik||Less Than Accidental Racist: Why Paula Deen’s Comments Insult Her Fans Too||Times Entertainment

*PAULA DEEN’S ALLEGED COMMENT ABOUT THE PLANTATION WEDDING: “Well what I would really like is a bunch of little n!**ers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around,” the lawsuit claims Deen said. “Now that would be a true southern wedding, wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.”—by breakingbrown.com

Racism Subtle

…then again sometimes it is not!

I am discovering (surprisingly so) that I think The Food Network jumped the gun by firing Paula Deen without letting the court case play out until the end.  My husband, who is white, thinks they didn’t fire her fast enough.  WW says:

“In this day and age, whether you’re twenty or ninety, you should have gotten the memo, and you should know the answer as to whether to use the ‘N’ word or not.  (And don’t get me started on Hollywood, comics, rappers/hip-hoppers—because they don’t get a pass for artistic license in my book.)  Given the disdain, contempt, and degradation associated with that word, I think it should be eradicated from our vocabulary—period!)  If I were on the board of directors of The Food Network, I’d have no choice but to fire her butter-laden ass.  Anyway, she has already used up two strikes with me by hiding the fact that her recipes allegedly caused her Type II Diabetes while still peddling her recipes of butter on butter topped off by butter.”by “WW” Tomczyk

Cake and Eat it too

Cartoonist: Mike Luckovich

***

I am also discovering that I think we should forgive Paula Deen because she has repented (albeit, extremely clumsily) and “to err is human, to forgive, divine.”  And even though I don’t consider myself to be a racist, I know that I fall short of the glory of God to love my neighbors as myself on a consistent basis, and I’m really, really trying!  Can you imagine how many trip-wires this old woman, who still thinks the Civil War was the “war of Northern aggression,” must be stumbling over?  I don’t mean that Paula shouldn’t suffer the consequences.  We all have to take responsibility for our actions.  I suggest that the Food Network and other corporations suspend Paula for a season until she understands that she was supposed to be representing the “new South” and part of her charm was to comfort us with her fatty-ass foods while letting go of the shitty hatred cloaked in cluelessness and racial stupidity (Don’t you just love Paula’s alleged answer as to the reasoning for using the ‘N’ word throughout the years:  “. . . it was sometimes used with affection”please Paula, don’t love me so much, you’re killing me!”).

Next, I’d make Paula go on Oprah and let Oprah act as our national conscience and walk her over spiritual “hot coals” like she did to James Frey for lying to her.  (By the way, this is how I know that Paula knows that her use of the ‘N’ word is wrong:  she never used it publicly about Oprah and to Oprah and Oprah’s best friend, Gail, when they visited Paula at her home and helped make Paula and her enterprise a household word.  I know this because Oprah and Gail would have bitch-slapped Paula into the 7th level of Dante’s Inferno and we’d all be saying—“Paula?  Paula who?” right now.)  Finally, after due season, I’d let her return to her TV show(s) with new low-calorie recipes and a new serving up of southern charm and grace without hidden ugliness.  We all have a God-given destiny, Paula, and part of it is to spread the true love of God around like thick butter on homemade biscuits but not spread the sins of our fathers.   This is your wake-up call, girlfriend.

Racism's antidote

“A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.”—John Stuart Mill

“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”—Bell Hooks

“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.”—Thomas Fuller

REFERENCES:

http://entertainment.time.com/2013/06/20/less-than-accidental-racist-why-paula-deens-comments-insult-her-fans-too/

http://www.deadline.com/2013/06/nyt-food-network-wont-renew-paula-deens-contract-after-racial-slur-dilemma/

http://breakingbrown.com/2013/06/remember-when-oprah-visited-paula-deen-and-deen-put-her-in-the-guest-house-out-back-video/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 
20 Comments

Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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20 responses to “We’re All A Little Bit Racist

  1. sondramsmith

    June 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Bravo, Bravo, Bravo!!!!

    When my boys were young, I took them to a Science Museum. There was an exhibit of snakes, and of course they wanted to pick them up look at them and then hand the snake to me. I wanted no part of it. The person in charge looked at me and said, “why do you hate snakes”? I had no real answer, just that I did. He responded back, ” that is because you are prejudice against snakes, if you understood them you wouldn’t be.” That exchange changed my perspective on so many levels. We all have our prejudices, we all make judgments. It is truly in the what we do with those prejudices and judgments that matters. It was my ignorance, not the fault of the snake caused me to dislike them.

     
    • etomczyk

      June 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      Sondra. I love that story about the snake. I am definitely “racist” against snakes and believe every stereotypical thing ever written about them. 🙂 Great comment! Thanks for reading my story and leaving such a great anecdote. xoxox E

       
  2. composerinthegarden

    June 23, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    The funny thing is how hard it is to see one’s own biases; it takes a lot of work to go there and then embrace a change. I think your husband is right about Paula Dean; somehow, I wasn’t surprised about her racism – I worked in the South for years and heard it all. Nor was I surprised that she developed diabetes from her diet – anyone that WAS surprised just isn’t paying attention to life as lived in the real world. Sigh. I wish we could just get past all of this – does an entire generation have to die off to make that happen? Give me the lion and the lamb, er… zebra 🙂

     
    • etomczyk

      June 25, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      Lynn: Yeah, it is so hard to see one’s own heart. I really wrestle with that all of the time. Funny thing about Paula is that I’ve always admired her success (I love it when women, especially, can create something from nothing in the effort to take care of their families), but I’ve never eaten her food because I have Celiac Disease. I even walked past her restaurant on a trip to Savannah but knew I’d never survive her food. As to getting past the racism in our midst, I don’t think we ever will. Alas, it is in the heart of man. Remember the horrendous Rwanda genocide between the Tutsis (tall with Anglican noses) and the Hutus (short with portabella like noses)? Both trips were African and lived together in peace 600 years ago, but you would never know it given their recent history. This spirit is everywhere, unfortunately. Thanks for stopping by. I always love your comments. E

       
  3. Valentine Logar

    June 23, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    I am walking right beside you, with my knowing I am sometimes filled with my own demons. I wrestle and ask my lips to stay buttoned tight when I feel enraged when yet another job is lost, another contract disappears, another male from a different nation refuses to meet my eye or shake my hand because he feels insulted to be in the same room with me or in an inferior professional position to me. I wrestle with my demons daily when someone tells me my rates must come down because they can easily hire an H1B to do what I do for half the price.

    Is my prejudice unreasonable? Is it based on ignorance? Is it based on fear? Oddly, no it is based on other things, but it is directed incorrectly.

    This reminds me why I wrestle with the demons and why I must continue to do so. Thanks

     
    • etomczyk

      June 26, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Val. That is the point. We must all wrestle with our demons on a continual basis or they will consume us. That is the best we can do. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

       
  4. becomingcliche

    June 23, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    I had no idea about the Cheerios thing. Good heavens, America! What century are we living in?

    I don’t know what to think about the Paula Deen thing. On one hand, I feel like she represents so many things that are wrong with our world – the unhealthy diet, and now the racism. I wanted her to get fired, but I have my own prejudices as well.

     
    • etomczyk

      June 26, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      BC: Yep, like life the Paula Deen thing is messy and it is getting messier. It’s like watching a train wreck. I hope she learns from it. I am more concerned about her attitude that she thought a plantation theme replete with “little n!**ers” was a viable option for her brother’s wedding. Really? Can she be that clueless?

       
      • becomingcliche

        June 27, 2013 at 7:01 am

        I keep asking myself that question. What part of that seemed acceptable to her?!

         
  5. Elyse

    June 23, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    What a great post, Eleanor. We all have our prejudices.

    When I was a kid, my parents used the “n” word. In my ignorance, I did too. But I learned.

    When my sister died, my dad and I were driving to meet my niece and her boyfriend, whom we had not met. I was shocked to see her arrive with an incredibly handsome black man. I didn’t know what to say to my dad. But he surprised me. He fell for Carlos. They became great friends. My dad had grown in the same way and during the same years as I did. It still makes me proud to think of it.

     
  6. eurobrat

    June 23, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    We are all biologically programmed to be tribal to some degree. The question is, can we transcend that biological programming and evolve further from here? Hopefully we don’t continue to spend our time as humans hitting each other on the head with clubs, literally and figuratively 😉

     
    • etomczyk

      June 26, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      Eurobrat: Definitely believe we as humans can overcome our tribalism but it will take constant vigilance and a full-on embrace of humility–caring about the needs and feelings of others above our own. I’ll keep trying! 🙂

       
      • eurobrat

        June 26, 2013 at 11:14 pm

        Me too!

         
  7. Frank

    June 24, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Amen E-Tom … Amen!

    A lot going on here. First of all, forgiveness is one tough challenge. While many love to ask for it, few seem willing to grant it – so a tip of the cap to you.

    Secondly, oh my my to those who claim not to be racists but act and talk to the contrary.

    Great post!

     
    • etomczyk

      June 27, 2013 at 12:01 am

      Thanks Frank. So appreciate your support of this post. As the week drags on, this thing with Paula Deen has become fascinating to watch. I actually feel sorry for her. I hope it becomes a teaching moment for her and for us all. Take care.

       
  8. Kirsten

    June 30, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    ET, I thought of y’all when that Cheerios story was in the headlines… thanks for telling your story and making all of us just a little less narrow-minded every week. 🙂

     
  9. talesfromthemotherland

    July 2, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Very interesting post E. I agree with pretty much every word, and share your feelings about recent events. Also interesting, as I found myself giving a lot of thought to racism, while away in Barbados. Writing about it was harder than I imagined… it’s a touchy subject, because (I agree) it is still with us, regardless of progress and contemporary views. I plan to write more, soon, as the trip stirred up a lot of thoughts… we are on a similar thread!

     
  10. Hudson Howl

    July 3, 2013 at 12:35 am

    ‘E’ I had to read through this a few times, not so much to understand it, as it is a reoccurring and just theme with you, one you explored from different angles on other occasions depending on what is going down yonder over d’rrrr; this one however feels different to me. Lynn wrote, ‘I wish we could just get past all of this’. I do believe, this post more than previous is a departure for you towards just that -a way to get past all of this. I would imagine with this post there was a constant back an forth dialogue happening with yourself. A hard one to write, though with a affirmative conclusion. In the end, this offers a way for everyone to get pass ‘all of this’. We all need to look with in and at ourselves on a continuous basis to go beyond the stink we all live in.

    The thing about racism today, that has me contemplating, worried and perplexed, is that the beast is not necessarily racism directed towards white to black, black to white nor to all the various groups, religious or other, societal different, even high class vs low class etc etc. The beast of today is a bit of chameleon. The Paula Deans are easily recognizable, but the Beast of present is iniquitously stealth with ubiquitous influential. You get a glimpse every so often of it in the form of intolerance due ignorance when it sees it’s reflection as that of fear. So fearful is the Beast it goes underground and it goes deep like a well crafted computer virus that we don’t even know it exists. Whose to say, your two nice dry-cleaner persons are any more or less infected by the virus than the overt one. There is no way of know with any certainty. What we can do is identify, quarantine and eradicate the beast within first. It would be nice if the dam thing would just die off as Lynn mentioned but it has been going on since the ‘light of man’ seen his shadow and feared it.

     
    • etomczyk

      July 3, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      Hudson. You slay me! Your comments are a religious journey to me. You are so right that my “nice dry-cleaner persons” could be infected by the racism virus. That’s something I can’t control, but I can control my heart and how it responds to them and their aunt. “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates?? Thank you for contributing thought-provoking comments that add to my writing in a very deep way. You’re the best!

       
  11. Lindy Lee

    July 21, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    “Little bit racist” is a generous estimation. Don’t you think it will take us at least another 1,000 years to rise above & maybe not then?

     

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