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View Diary: Liberal Racism? Charlie Rangel was Wrong to Call the Tea Party a Bunch of "White Crackers" (228 comments)

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  •  Two reasons I avoid name-calling, in one story (6+ / 0-)

    Some years back, when I lived in TX, I went out for a hamburger with a guy who would superficially seem to fit the stereotype of white cracker/ tea-party conservative. Business owner, republican, white privileged guy.

    We ordered at the counter, from a very young African American girl, and my friend tried to pay with a $100 bill. She explained politely that the policy was not to accept bills larger than $20. My friend got very irate, and pointed out that this was legal tender, and didn't she know that. She glanced over her shoulder at an older man getting food ready, and repeated the policy, nervously and apologetically. I stepped in and said it's ok, I have a $20, and paid.

    My friend was still upset when we sat down, and was muttering about the ignorance of the kid. Now he did not use any racial slurs - if he had, I'd probably have walked out on him. But he was very contemptuous of her, and that she was being lazy, and unhelpful.

    I asked him to stop a moment, and think about this situation. How old, I asked him, did he think the girl was? Barely old enough to work legally, if that, he realized. He agreed that it was quite possibly her first job. And the guy behind her? Probably her boss, he thought. So how did he think a young person in first job, in front of her boss, should handle a customer asking her to do something against policy? (As a manager himself, he ought to have opinions, I said.)

    To my shock, he said, "You're right. I was unfair." He jumped up and went back to the counter. I restrained myself from running over to intervene, and watched from a distance. Gentle reader, he apologized to the young woman and commended her for doing a good job, and wished her well. He came back, pensive, and said he guessed he needed to rethink his attitudes. And he would try to do better.

    Two reasons I try to avoid name-calling:

    First, if I had jumped in and called him any names, I'd have closed the door to his little epiphany before it ever got started. Not everyone would follow through as he did - but the ones with the courage to stop and examine their own prejudices and try to do better - they are worth the effort.

    Second, had I assumed he was a hopeless racist, I'd have prejudged him in a way that I condemn in others, including him. We all carry with us the vestiges (or more) of the racist society where we grew up, one way or another. But name calling - the kind that says "you are hopeless and it's intrinsic in your being that you are beyond redemption" - is a failure on my part.  I'm trying hard to eradicate this kind of pre-judging from my own attitudes, even as I recognize actions and reactions, in myself and others, that I know need to be changed, and injustice that needs to be fought.

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