Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Deviation from the Norm

Last night I was faced with a situation that really got under my skin. I'm not aggravated about it anymore, but there are still things I feel need to be said about what happened.

Every Friday night my boyfriend has a get-together at his place to unwind and play drinking games. M used to be in a fraternity here in Austin, and some of his friends from those days still drop by. I am well aware of who the stereotypical frat boys and sorority girls are, and I will say that while there are plenty of these types around, he associates with many others who have broken the mold. He, himself, does just that. However, there are a few who fall into that cliché casting: over-privileged, entitled, loud-mouthed, opinionated, sheltered (generally white) kids who know nothing of life beyond their segregated hometowns, college campuses, and good-ol'-boy ways.

I try not to associate with these people. I am civil, polite, and sometimes even friendly, but I choose not to seek them out for a reason. They are not the company I wish to keep. Because of the intimate setting of last night's gathering, and the attendance of just six people (myself included), it was nearly impossible to escape association with a couple for whom I don't much care.

This couple on multiple occasions has said things I flat-out disagree with and, at times, find offensive and/or repugnant. Things such as, "I'm more okay with black people than Hispanic people; she's the opposite. She really doesn't like black people that much." and "I only think blue-eyed, blonde-haired babies are cute. You know, Nazi babies." and "This girl showed up, and she was poor, but trying to dress like she wasn't. I mean, come on! You're poor! Stop pretending!" and many instances of the well-known "I'm not _______, but [insert offensive stereotype or assumption here]."

As a woman of mixed heritage who grew up with a lot of racism in my own family (white side making derogatory remarks about my black side), I get especially angry when I'm subjected to idiotic comments like the ones above. I realize I'm in the South now, but hasn't my generation started to move past this ridiculousness? Is my generation really not any more enlightened than their parents? How are we still failing this badly? We, as a society, have to do better. These two people are going to mate and eventually pop out children. Are these kids going to be just as narrow-minded and bigoted as their elitist parents? How can we fix this awful mess?

These two have a history of running their mouths unchecked because people don't want to cause a scene or make waves in an otherwise okay friendship. Not me. I have a very low tolerance for this kind of behavior. I spoke up yesterday from a place of emotion and anger after I had had enough of their self-indulgent and myopic musings. Naturally, it didn't go over well. These two are the types where calm and logic wouldn't haven't been effective anyway, but I'm disappointed in myself and my own reaction to the situation. I let my own past and baggage dictate how I responded. I'm not sorry for what I said (essentially that they were sheltered, arrogant, obnoxiously opinionated, and often said racist or borderline racist things), but I wish I had handled it better. I'm a better person than how I acted yesterday, and I want to admit my mistake.

I believe that speaking up is and always will be the right thing to do. I'm not sorry I said how I felt, but I wish I could have conducted myself with a little more class because I don't think I accomplished anything last night but to make them defensive. What good did I do for myself, their views, or anyone other minority they come across? None.

For now I'll let bygones be bygones, but in the future I hope I remember this lesson. And I hope you will, too.


l.b. said...

Any sentence that starts with, "I'm not _______, but" usually means that a person is racist/homophobic/sexist/class-ist, etc. Your reaction was hopefully a reality check to their stereotypical thinking, but it is always good to admit you could have handled it differently.

That Lady, There! said...

Possibly good fodder for a PNQ (or the structured interview) if handled correctly. If you do use this story, then make sure to have it reviewed by others FSO hopefuls (or even an FSO mentor).

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

I am proud of your reaction! And you should be proud, too. When people humiliate us, we often feel like WE humiliated ourselves. The more emotional we get the more we think we didn't act in a classy way. But the truth is quite the opposite: the louder you react the braver you are - and there is nothing more noble and cool than courage. I don't care if you yelled, cried, were drunk, called them names, threw a slipper at them or spilled your marinara sauce on their blue-eyed-blond-haired baby. You reacted - and THAT is the only important thing. You made them defensive, you say. Good! They know their values aren't accepted. They know you're of mixed heritage, they wanted to make you feel bad. They wanted to show you they had the guts to tell you in your face they thought they were better than you. Well, you had the guts and the right to tell them they sucked. If you're curious about who I am, I am a Caucasian lawyer and mother of two teenagers in my late 30s, recent immigrant from southeastern Europe.