Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The One About Racism and Criticism

This little gem lives on the back of Vanbo. I vehemently disagree with the current administration and I'm open and willing to discuss that with anyone who would like to. I do not shout my opinion from the rooftops, I do not carry a sign, I do not pass out leaflets. I have a fairly innocuous bumper sticker on the back of my "mom van".

I've formed my opinions by researching topics, I've read HR3200 and the Cap and Trade bill. I read articles everyday from both sides of the debate, and I do my best to consider both sides of any issue. If you ask me a question about a topic, I want to be the person who can not only comment on that topic, but explain "why" I stand in the place I do. I'm happy to listen and engage in any debate, comfortable in knowing that I stand where I do based on reason and logic.

With that in mind, I'm amazed at the reaction this little bumper sticker garners...

The first time it happened was in the Costco parking lot. I had the Eggroll in the cart and was just tossing the last of the purchases in the back of Vanbo, when a couple approached me and offered to take my cart. As I moved to take Eggroll from the cart's seat, the bumper sticker became fully visible.

"You don't like President Obama?" the woman queried.

"No, I'm not sure "like" has anything to do with it, I don't agree with his policies."

"You're just a racist!" the woman scolded. I gazed at the small Asian kid on my hip and then back to her. She stammered for a second before replying "You just don't like black people!"

Oddly enough, they took my cart anyway....

The next time it happened was in the parking lot of our local Wally World. Now I despise Wally World, but my optometrist is there and I love him...so I suffer... As I'm exiting Vanbo, I'm approached by two women. I hadn't even closed the door before I heard "You don't support our President?"

"I support the office of President, but I disagree with the agenda our current President is advocating."

"You're just a racist, you don't like our President because he's black."

"No" I sighed, "I don't agree with him because of his agenda, and I'm a conservative, not a racist"

"You think you're entitled to everything, driving your fancy car (really!?! a mom van is fancy?) and living in your happy little suburb...." There were other cries, but the next thing I remember is the sound of throat clearing and the giant loogie headed my way..

The loogie missed me, and I was out of words for the first time in a long time. The women sauntered away and I stood there for a moment in total disbelief. This is what we've become.

A few years ago, this would have ended differently. A few years ago, the above incident would have ended with the business end of my shoe, or perhaps a tire iron. It's different now, I'm older, wiser, and I have more to lose in this life. I won't rise to the bait.

The common thread in both of these incidences? Both times I (a white woman) was approached by people of color. After the second incident I texted a friend and told her what happened. I also asked if she thought what happened to me was a hate crime. She did, and she encouraged me to call the police. I passed. I had no wish to be on the side of any kind of race crime. Because it's not about that... It's about people's complete lack of civility, it's about people's inability to endure anyone else's opinion but their own. It's about the right to think or speak freely without fear of retribution.

That's right, I said fear. How are we, as a society, going to reach any kind of compromise if we attack one another for a thought or opinion? And how are we ever going to eliminate racisim, when that very kind of behavior encourages people to widen the gap, to cross the street, to ignore the other side. I don't consider myself a racist. Critic? Yes. Racist? No.

But I'm beginning to understand exactly how it happens....

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