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I've seen a lot of things. Just in the last year, I witnessed an execution, the slow, oily death of almost a third of life in the gulf of Mexico, wrecked communities torn to shreds by a fierce tornado, and a room full of people agree with a man speaking to them who said we should repeal the 15th amendment. But I've never actually heard someone say "I'm a racist." Especially in the 21st-century in Jackson, Mississippi of all places.

More below the fold.

I live in the same city where the Freedom Riders helped end the segregation of public transportation.This is the same city where Medgar Evers made a name for himself as a cornerstone of the Civil Rights movement. This is the city where a united, grassroots effort stood up to Haley Barbour and the unjust imprisonment of the Scott Sisters, and didn't stop fighting until the sisters were freed. This is the city where black folks make up 61% of the population. I would have thought this was a city where people don't just blurt out "I'm a racist" to someone they just met.

My Saturday was going pretty well until mid-afternoon. I had just finished nude modeling for an art class at Millsaps College. Everyone there was kind, conversational and easy-going. In between 20-minute poses, we talked about politics. The room was full of progressives of all races. These were open-minded folks who fully believed in equality, inclusiveness and new experiences. For some odd reason, I was at ease in the center of a room full of strangers studying and drawing my naked body.

On the way to the studio, I saw a flyer someone had posted who was looking for a roommate. The rent was cheap and the name posted was Russian. I called her, told her I was interested in potentially living with her, and scheduled a time for us to meet after the drawing class. She sounded young, conversational and friendly over the phone. I was excited.

When I met her, I was stunned by her beauty. She was tall, blonde, graceful, well-spoken and flirtatious. We talked for a little while and learned about one another over coffee. I told her about hosting couchsurfers from all over the world, and she told me about how she's traveled all over from Russia to Kazakhstan, Dubai, Canada, Amsterdam, and all over the United States. She said English was her second language, but she could've fooled me; her accent was completely American, and she understood my fast native speech. She also knew French, and Russian is her native tongue. I was even more impressed when she told me she wasn't even 21 yet. We were hitting it off just fine- she met my eyes, laughed at my jokes, and told me she was ready for me to move in as soon as possible. Then, while I was telling her a story about a recent adventure with a friend of mine, I used the word "homeboy." She stopped me, confused.

"Home...boy? What's that?"

I laughed politely. "It means 'friend,' I explained to her. "Most of my friends are black, so I borrow their colloquialisms from time to time out of habit."

She looked down at her coffee and took a drag from her cigarette, not saying anything.

"What?" I asked her.

"Well...I'm a racist."

At first I thought she was making a bad joke, or poorly using sarcasm. I furrowed my brow.

"For real?"

"Yeah. Well, I didn't used to be until I moved to Jackson. I got along just fine with black people in New York and Virginia. But now, it's like I just want to order a pizza over the phone, and I can't even understand what they're saying. They're so uneducated, and ignorant. They just make me uncomfortable." She said, matter-of-factly.

I was so stunned by the ugliness of what she just said, and how she felt so comfortable saying it out loud in this town, in the year 2011, to someone she had just met ten minutes ago. I was amazed at someone so open about their racism, even decades after Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and countless others fought, protested, experienced persecution and brutality just so they could eat at the same restaurants and use the same bathrooms as white people.

After that remark, she wasn't beautiful anymore; she was repulsive. A cold feeling set in my gut. My heart hurt. I was suddenly aware of how chilly it was outside, and how much her cigarette smoke was stinging my nostrils and crawling down my nasal passages into my lungs as I breathed in. It actually made me physically ill to be around her. So I stood up and put on my coat.

"Where are you going?" She asked. "I haven't even told you where my place is yet."

"Sorry, but I'm not going to live with you," I said. "I don't have anything else to say to you."

As I walked away, I noticed she was looking down at the table, her cigarette still in her fingers. Her hand was quivering. I hope she was ashamed about what she had just said.

"Best of luck finding a roommate," I yelled back to her as I climbed into my car. She looked up at me, the surprise in her face still as fresh as it had been a moment ago. "And hey, open your mind a little bit."

With that, I pulled out and drove away. Looking at her in my rearview mirror, I noticed she was still looking down into her coffee with a stunned expression. I don't think she even noticed her cigarette was shedding ashes on the table.

I learned something today.

I learned that you can still be a world-traveling, college-educated, tri-lingual, entreprenurial, multi-faceted human being and still be just as clueless as the village idiot. I learned you can have a classy and beautiful appearance while harboring an ugly, hardened heart on the inside. I learned that someone can have a big brain filled with information and knowledge while keeping it closed off and unused. It doesn't matter who you are, where you came from, or what year it is- racism is still very much alive and prevalent. And we still need to come down on it as hard as we can whenever we encounter it, even if it's a family member, an elder, or a physically attractive well-traveled young woman.

I really do wish her the best of luck finding a new roommate. And I hope the only person she can find to live with her is a patient black woman willing to teach her to open her mind and set aside her prejudices.

Originally posted to Free Chicken and Beer on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 05:29 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yeah, yeah racists. (10+ / 0-)

    Lets talk about this nude modeling gig you got. Do you get cold?

    Your suggestion has only one flaw - it is logical and fair which seems to deny it Republican support. - Jay Inslee

    by psilocynic on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 05:35:55 PM PST

  •  You missed a chance to do some good (5+ / 0-)

    I'm not saying you should have roomed with the girl, but shutting down the conversation is not the best way to deal with things.

    You are following a pattern of public shaming, which has universally failed over the past several decades.  Here is the lesson you taught her.

    In the United States it is best to keep your racist thoughts to yourself.

    In no way did you challenge her belief structure.  If anything you left her feeling victimized for being honest.  You may end up changing her behavior in the future, but her belief system will remain intact.

    Never fear an open and honest debate, because your sensibilities are too fragile.  There are many more racists in Mississippi than that one girl, and they are unlikely to make their views known to you.

    •  I can't legitimize racism (19+ / 0-)

      ...Although I did think about sticking around and reminding her that a lot of my black friends are state legislators, and that she should come to the state capitol sometime and meet educated, well-spoken, smart, powerful black men and women. Or I could have invited her to a slam poetry reading at the art studio in the hood where young black men and women express their emotions through lyrical poetry, where I regularly perform, and am regularly the only white person there.

      But just being around her made me feel ill. I probably should have stuck around and tried to talk sense into her, but I had to leave right there.

      "God made us number one 'cause he loves us the best. Well maybe he should go bless someone else for awhile, give us a rest." -Ben Folds

      by Free Chicken and Beer on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 05:52:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You would have failed. (8+ / 0-)

        I am not of the school that you are can "talk them around".  

        Maybe some of them can change but it's not going to happen by just having a conversation.

        RIP Pike Miners We will never forget

        by GlowNZ on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:16:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe you should still do that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        malharden, StepLeftStepForward

        i think that since she isn't American she's probably more open to a context where she has less entreated experience.  After all this seems to be a localized issue if she didn't have a problem in new York or Virginia. This might be one case where the meeting with smart strong educated black people could change some attitudes.   Of course she might still have a massive gap with uneducated people but that's not really racist so much as a simple culture gap with people who happen to be black which is quite different

        Another fucking stupid,* sanctimonious purist for Obama. *What Rahm should have said

        by Guinho on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:39:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  She is literally ignorant (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AaronInSanDiego, malharden

        Which is what I described a racist as being to  my bi-racial children. She seems to be quick to learn, she was probably only repeating things some bigot said to her.
        I was a remarkable opportunity to educate someone who sounds intelligent enough to input new information and change her attitude and beliefs.

        If she looked as shocked as you said she did she probably was confused by your reaction.

        I think she needs to meet and associate with non bigots so she can learn the truth.

        Being openly honest as she was sounds like someone had been messing with her and told her something like "Oh, you're a bigot" as if it were a good thing or something.

        As an example, my ex, (black) worked with a new Cambodian immigrant in the 1970's.

        He taught him to say "Hey Ni**a" when he met a black person. One day it backfired bad and his friend said it to the wrong person and ended up hurt.

        I honestly think it would have been better to ask her where she had heard such things and explain to her the right and wrong of it.
        She did not grow up learning the history of where you live like you did.

        Perhaps it is not too late to contact her and talk, now that the shock has worn off a bit.

        Just an idea.

        I am glad you posted this because it shows a GOOD thing about America, De-segregation worked.

        Thank you

    •  Not necessarily fragile sensibilities (7+ / 0-)

      Sometimes some of us have better things to do with our time and energies, and sometimes the "victimized"-feeling prejudiced person just has to live with feeling victimized.

      Good that you have the time, patience, and inclination to try to persuade racists to reconsider. I gave up a long time ago, except when the person expressing racist views is a child.

      •  Preaching to a Choir (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp, Vtdblue

        May result in a devote congregation, but it is unlikely to grow very much.

        Getting a room full of progressives to agree that racial stereotypes are wrong is not very difficult.  The problem is that the number of progressives in that room will be the same as when you started.

        •  Still, we can't all be evangelicals on this (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          raincrow, Dr Teeth

          ALL the time.  I think people should make an effort, when they can, and don't blame anyone -- the diarist included -- for just walking away and not investing the time and energy with someone in whom she had no investment.  I think the bluntness of the Russian woman was culturally naive, though in some ways, as you note, refreshingly (if appallingly) blunt.  I do believe some people can be led to enlightenment and epiphanies -- some more slowly than others.

          But agreed with you that it's good to try to plant the seeds and cognitive dissonance -- again, when and if possible and productive, so that even if it's years later, some folks can come to recognize the errant logic and emotional perversity of their attitudes.

          [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbrai

          by Vtdblue on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:08:38 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  ya think maybe... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cwholcomb, blueoasis

    that someone who is so young and has travelled extensively, talks fluent English as a second language (without much accent) and understands French might be from a circle that is predisposed to such a mindset? My take on this person is that she isn't so much of a racist as she is naive, despite the extent of her youthful oyster.

    •  Her problem (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AaronInSanDiego, marina, cai
      While she may indeed be a racist, her problem stems from the fact that she moved to a new area and can't understand the local dialect. Failing to recognize that (and failing to have it pointed out to her that some regional accents are hard to understand even for native speakers), she has come to the conclusion that even though she had black friends in other places she lived, the fact that she can't understand them means that they are ignorant and she is now a racist.
  •  "Yes I am Racist" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In Yiddish this means ... "Yes Duvid. I will make you a dark rye".

  •  I just wish you had taken moment to say to her (5+ / 0-)

    " because you have a hard time understanding them or because they aren't schooled like you are, you hate them? You would refuse to help someone who is black if they needed it?

    She sounds naive. It would have been interesting to hear more.

    But, I have to give you credit. Many would have made an excuse to leave without letting her know.

    Yeah, I'm pitchfork mad like that.

    by lisastar on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:03:19 PM PST

  •  Wrong response, missed opportunity (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AaronInSanDiego, bevenro, Vtdblue

    The woman told you she'd gotten along just fine with black folks in New York and Virginia, but it's where you live that she decided she's a racist.  Somehow, I think her fluency in English did both of you a disservice.  What she was REALLY telling you was that she was uncomfortable.  She called herself a racist, but it seems to me she wasn't describing herself as a person who hates black people, which would be the American understanding.  Given the way she qualified the comment and referred to her inability to understand the speech of Jackson's black population and her sense of discomfort, she was trying to tell you that she thought the black people of Jackson might be beneath her on the social scale or possibly even intimidating to her because she can't understand them and may even fear them.  Her comments were more related to class than color.  She wasn't asking you to drop off her application to the KKK on your way out.  

    You missed a golden opportunity to open this woman's mind up to the rich culture of Jackson's black population.  You missed a golden opportunity to talk to her about dialect and the question of education and what it all means.  You missed the opportunity to introduce her to your black friends, which would have provided reassurance to her that they weren't uneducated discomfort-inducing strangers but your friends whom you value because they're good people who are fun to know.  You missed the opportunity to talk to her about what it means to be a racist and what it means to progress beyond that point.  You were so eager to rush to judgment - WHY so defensive? - that you didn't even question your reaction and ask yourself if it was possible that you misunderstood her intent.  In the process you did what someone else here has suggested; you taught her that expressing discomfort about race can result in instant hatred, so she'd better not say anything.  

    Frankly, I think your response to her was both over the top and very damaging and unnecessary.

    •  Nope (8+ / 0-)

      exactly the right response.

      RIP Pike Miners We will never forget

      by GlowNZ on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:15:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Interesting point that it might have been, in (4+ / 0-)

      part, a cultural/linguistic misinterpretation on both sides.  Still, can't blame the diarist for losing interest in the roommate situation, and cutting her losses on the conversation, at a minimum.  FWIW, there is a lot of racism in Russia, from all that I've seen.  

      [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbrai

      by Vtdblue on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:15:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, I studied Russian and Russian (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        walkshills, Vtdblue

        history and culture in college many, many years ago.  Don't remember much about the language, but remember quite a bit about Russian racial attitudes.

      •  I also deal quite a bit with people from (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        walkshills, Mariken, Vtdblue

        other countries, many of them who speak English perfectly but who still run into problems trying to express themselves in a way which won't be misinterpreted.  They're aware of their own fluency, but what they sometimes lack is context or that nuanced understanding you get by actually growing up in a culture.  

        •  You and me both. Even the most fluent (0+ / 0-)

          sometimes can't integrate or understand the full cultural/emotional context of otherwise literal terms.  Still, the Russian woman in question must have run into at least SOME context while living in the Northeast that would have made her less free with such a startling admission for most educated people (racist or not) in this country.  

          [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. JK Galbrai

          by Vtdblue on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 07:03:16 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's why I think she chose the wrong word (0+ / 0-)

            or rather, failed to understand what the word she chose would convey.  I don't think she understood how global and absolute a word like "racist" is to an American, and how charged with emotion coming from a country which celebrates the notion that all are created equal.  I noticed this when I lived overseas for a while in the 80s.  I was in West Africa and saw a pervasive, casual undercurrent of racism, but it was different somehow than American racism.  The French I knew were dismissive of Africans, not because they necessarily thought they as individuals were intellectually inferior or criminal or trying to see where the white women were at as your typical white American racist would see it.  Rather, they just felt their own culture was superior and the Africans among whom many of them worked or whom they employed were not worth even knowing.  We had Africans working for us, too.  We knew where they came from, what their names were, what tribe they were from, how many kids they had, etc., etc., even though they were servants.  Other Americans who were there could say the same and even those who had racist attitudes were remarkably defensive about it.  But the French and Norwegians and Russians and others we knew there could tell you nothing about the people working for them but their first names, their jobs, and their hours.  They were steadfastly disinterested in anything else about these people and casually racist toward them, leaving me with no sense they felt any shame or regret for their attitudes.  I think this Russian woman had no idea how emotionally charged the word "racist" is in American culture.  

    •  where you there? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CuriousBoston, cat genius

      PLEASE donate to a global children's PEACE project: Chalk 4 Peace

      by RumsfeldResign on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:30:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You don't have to (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AaronInSanDiego, mallyroyal

      hate black people to be racist.  I wish we would stop embracing this definition of racism.

      If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive. - Audre Lorde

      by princss6 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 07:18:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  why would only the black people (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      be beneath her if it was only about class?

      I've been to mississippi and the whites there sound every bit as foreign to my philly ear as the blacks.

      frankly I think you're giving the lady too much of a pass.  when someone shows you what they are, HEED THAT.

      I'm proven effective by clinical tests.

      by mallyroyal on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 08:16:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't know what to make of your diary... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, irishwitch, malharden, Mulkum

    "Yeah. Well, I didn't used to be until I moved to Jackson. I got along just fine with black people in New York and Virginia. But now, it's like I just want to order a pizza over the phone, and I can't even understand what they're saying. They're so uneducated, and ignorant. They just make me uncomfortable." She said, matter-of-factly.

    From your own comments, "I got along just fine with black people in New York and Virginia."

    I think you may have lost a teaching opportunity, or a nice place to live, or both. As an Asian-American, I have lived with out and out racist landlords, and it's been uncomfortable at times, when you apply to live with them,

    Q:Do you speak English?

    A: Well yes, I was an English major, until I switched to Chemistry...but it was Middle-to-Modern English, think Beowolf to Shakespere, but really it was English..."

    My point, and I do have one here, is that I don't know what turned your potential roommate off of "black people", but just shutting them down doesn't do any good.

    Not that I object to what you did, but maybe there was something more you could have done.

    It ain't supposed to make sense; it's faith. Faith is something that you believe that nobody in his right mind would believe.-Archie Bunker

    by MinistryOfLove on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:11:58 PM PST

  •  Its a good thing you found out sooner than later (5+ / 0-)

    I have a friend who knew Medgar Evers when he was younger. He was also a member of the notorious Mississippi Freedom Delegation to the 1964 Democratic Convention.

    Being an very early Obama supporter I tried to get him to support Obama too, but he refused to believe any Black Man had a real shot at becoming President. Of course later he became an ardent Obama supporter.

    Demand Filibuster Reform call your Senators at (202) 224-3121 -AND KEEP CALLING

    by Lefty Coaster on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:15:02 PM PST

  •  As a non-white businessman travelling (11+ / 0-)

    all over Europe, Africa, ME etc., and meeting with many white business people, I have found normally smart, knowledgeable and even friendly people to be innately racists. May be it's a cultural thingy.

    And no, I am neither interested in seeing their point of view nor educating them. They're adults, they can choose to grow up any time they want.

    One bitter fact is two bit hacks populate the third rate fourth estate who are truly the fifth columnists.

    by amk for obama on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:20:46 PM PST

  •  Having lived for 12 years in Arkansas, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, irishwitch, Lefty Coaster, mama jo

    I found that the people I couldn't understand the most were the white people.

    Dialect and bad dental hygiene will do that.

    And on another note, it sounds like she is very confused.  To equate dialect with education is also stereotypical against Southerners.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:21:11 PM PST

  •  how long has she been in the U.S.? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a lot of Europeans, experiencing life in the US for the first time, have a hell of a lot to learn.  

    a 19-year-old Russian?  I wonder if she actually has any idea if she's a racist or not.

    Should have tried to talk with her a bit--may have done her some good.

    •  maybe I'm wrong... (0+ / 0-)

      i'm seeing her as this naive kid from Russia who hasn't figured out how to adjust.

    •  She'd been in Jackson for 3 years... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bevenro, marina

      And is completing a four-year program. I would think after three years in a city where white people are the minority that she would have learned to overcome her prejudices and deal with them, or at least learn a little bit about the culture behind the city where she lives.

      I would have thought shed at least know better than to say such blatantly racist things in public, especially in such a black city like Jackson. I mean, where has she been all this time?

      Like I said, the bluntness of her statement shocked me to such a degree that it made me physically ill to be around her. I had to leave immediately. But I'll admit I overreacted a bit.

      "God made us number one 'cause he loves us the best. Well maybe he should go bless someone else for awhile, give us a rest." -Ben Folds

      by Free Chicken and Beer on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 04:10:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for sharing. (4+ / 0-)

    I understand your response and commend you for saying in no uncertain terms that racism is unacceptable to you. I also think some of the comments above saying that you missed an opportunity might be right - that it was a teachable moment.

    I wonder how she'd respond if you were to email her a link to this diary...? Maybe you should consider contacting her and asking her out to a poetry slam or the state capitol as you mentioned above. It would be interesting to know her reaction to your offer.

    Lastly, a big fat stereotype from my experience: I've found that Eastern Europeans are less tolerant of 'the other' than Western Europeans are. This is, in my estimation, due to their being closed off for so long and having practically homogenous populations.

  •  I grew up in the south, and I'm half jew, but (15+ / 0-)

    I "don't look jewish."  You would not BELIEVE the shit I have heard people say about jews and other minorities in my presence simply because they assume I'm "one of them."

    About a year ago, here in DC, a fellow colleague attempted to discuss her fucked up racist beliefs against jews and that...I kid you not, "the world would be better without them."  It was fun watching her squirm like a maggot when I told her I'm a jew.

    "Ruh roh Reorge!"

    "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

    by Apost8 on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:49:49 PM PST

    •  I had that experience recently (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I was in a meeting, and someone said they were "Jewed down" on some deal, and I just about lost it.  I said, "Do you realize what you just said?  Don't you EVER say that again.  EVER.  Not in my presence or anyone else's."

      The guy who said it turned about 15 shades of red and purple and started making excuses for it- didn't even think about it, was something said while he was growing up, common in his family, etc. etc.

      I told him I didn't care.  I told him I knew that he knew better otherwise he wouldn't be so embarrassed right now.  And that he should never assume that the people he's sitting with share his POV.  

      Of course, the others in the meeting never said a single peep, and just looked at the floor.  I hope they all learned a lesson that day.  

  •  I felt like I needed subtitles, for a time (8+ / 0-)

    when I lived in the South. And that was for the white folks. To my California ears, the black folks sounded just like the white ones only more so, in some cases. I couldn't understand either of them. In neither case did it inspire me to become a racist, or to declare myself one (being black myself it would have been a tad difficult anyway.)

    I think you probably did the right thing, especially if it was making you physically ill to be in her presence. It's possible that your reaction to her pronouncement caused her to think a bit - it sounds like it's not one she is used to encountering. Unless you are the first white person she made that sort of comment to, then the other ones either agreed with her or just let it slide. In which case, the fact that you guys got along so well together and initially liked each other, but that you were unwilling to stand for her views might provide her with the impetus to seek out more information or answers about what she thinks, or thinks she thinks anyway.

    You could, of course, have sat there and educated her, but I've found that that usually only works on the surface. Especially with educated people - most of whom at least know the basics and the outline of racism, race relations, and all that, if they are educated in the U.S. It's not until someone takes the initiative and educates themselves, though, that the lesson really takes deep hold, and they work to change themselves (in my experience, which does not cover everyone, etc.)

    A new world is not only possible, she is on her way. -A. Roy expedition

    by Nanette K on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 06:56:14 PM PST

  •  Racist or Just Culturally Bigotted? (5+ / 0-)

    If she can go back to getting along with blacks elsewhere, then her prejudice is against culture not race. It'd be like me writing off the Kentucky holler Scots-descended population but getting along fine with those who transplanted up north, or the Scots back in the UK.

    We really need to dig into the difference between actual race prejudice and race-related cultural prejudice.

    Remember in the 60's two of the first black TV and mainstream movie stars were Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby, both men distinctly black. That goes against some conventional wisdom about skin hue. But Cosby had a highly mainstream accent, Poitier's was lightly Caribbean, and both used mainstream vocabulary.

    That's culture not race, but since the culture is linked to race the result is racist experience and outcome for those blacks even if other blacks are seen as acceptable by the majority and are welcomed into the mainstream.

    But the best path forward from cultural prejudice could be quite a bit different, possibly a lot faster, than one from race prejudice.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 07:03:16 PM PST

  •  I have a SiL who adores Palin. (6+ / 0-)

    SHe is working on her dissertation for her doctorate in Gifted Education. She is well-educated  and reasonably well-read and she's traveled in America, but never lived more than an hour from where she went to high school--but she is probably the most ignorant and unpleasant human being I have ever met.  Being educated and successful don't automatically make you a decent person.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 07:04:50 PM PST

  •  asdf (4+ / 0-)

    courageous of you, wow...glad she got the message that it's really not OK to talk that way. Sticking around and discussing it, imo, would not have been a good idea. It needs to be clear - that is a disgusting thing to say.

    Donate to DFA, not DSCC/DCCC

    by grrr on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 07:06:44 PM PST

    •  or think nt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive. - Audre Lorde

      by princss6 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 07:25:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I do (0+ / 0-)

        consider it to be a disgusting way to think, but if a close friend who had already shown me that they were otherwise decent (as opposed to total stranger) confessed to say, homophobia, I would talk about it rather than shunning them.

        What I find remarkable is that this woman felt privileged to openly tell a complete stranger that an entire ethnicity deserved contempt. There was no ambivalence here, no apparent questioning in her mind as to the reasonableness of the statement.

        To me, it's like someone saying, "I've been thinking about robbing a convenience store some day." If a close friend said that, I would try to help them a. not do it and b. examine why. If a stranger said this, I'd leave.  

  •  This is sadly a Russian thing as well. (10+ / 0-)

    Russia has a huge, I mean huge, neo-fascist problem. Serious Nazi skinheads. Scores of foreign students, African, South Asian, anyone brown or tan have been attacked in broad daylight. Ironically, people from the Caucasus--Caucasians-- are called 'blacks'. And the Northerners of course hate them with a white hot hate.

    People don't care.  Folks are casually racist and anti-Semetic. I did some research in Russia in the late 90's (in a Russian prison! Oh boy). I am AA, this was the scariest place East of Mississippi I have ever been. 20 million Russian killed by the Nazi's and their youth, educated and blotto drunk alike are enamored with the fascists. It's frightening and tragic.

  •  I lived in what became a Russian neighborhood (0+ / 0-)

    for years when I lived in Los Angeles.  The only person they treated with any respect at all was the local mailman - and that only after they found out he spoke Russian.

  •  It's pretty much the norm in Russia. (4+ / 0-)

    I've heard worse. My mother was once mentioning to a woman recently arrived from Russia that she had seen an exceptionally beautiful African woman the other day, and the Russian responded with "How can you say that? They're all so ugly!" My mother was disgusted, of course, but she's lived here in the U.S. for a very long time and comes from the intelligentsia.

    Nobody is exempt, though. I once worked with a lovely, educated woman at a hospital (I was a Russian interpreter at the time) who told us that she just didn't get the whole racism thing; as an example of something she thought was completely innocuous and not racist at all, she told a joke about how black people's palms and soles of their feet are pink because they were on all fours when God painted them black. When the rest of us told her this was unacceptable, she said, "But why? They're just like children!"

    During the Soviet era, when I was a child, the Communists were very proud of their non-racist attitudes towards dark-skinned people; their idea of non-racism was to portray black people as innocent banana-eating natives who needed to be rescued from capitalist exploitation by noble Russians. In the literature I remember reading, anyway.

    I'm impressed that this woman you met is even aware of racism as a problem.

  •  I forgot to say that I disagree with your last (5+ / 0-)

    line, about the "patient black woman willing to teach her" and all that. I think most all, particularly older, folks of color have been that "patient teacher" from time to time, and it doesn't usually work unless the racist white person is already at least halfway there on their own. And even then it is iffy. Either they think of you as the "Good Negro" or some sort of exotic pet. Or they just resent you more, especially if some other black person offends them in some way (since, of course, all black people answer for and are responsible for all other black people in some minds.) In my experience. And it just adds increased stress to the patient teacher.

    Better for patient white folks to do the teaching or, as I mentioned before, better yet for people so inclined to work on teaching themselves.

    A new world is not only possible, she is on her way. -A. Roy expedition

    by Nanette K on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 08:40:27 PM PST

  •  Heck, anybody could have told you that. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And another thing about Russians: they are incredibly frank. They will usually tell you exactly what they think. I used to work with them, in Russia. No surprises in your diary for me.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Sat Jan 22, 2011 at 10:12:42 PM PST

  •  *CLAP CLAP CLAP* One thing though... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    princss6, cai, mallyroyal

    Smooth, very smooth. I love how you just walked away from that situation and in such a manner that she knew what she said was not approrpriate.

    One thing however is the "And I hope the only person she can find to live with her is a patient black woman willing to teach her to open her mind and set aside her prejudices." statement at the end.

    Sorry but it's not the jobs of blacks to teach white people how to find themselves and open their minds. You see things like this in the movies such as The Legends of Bagger Vance, or Guinan in Star Trek.

    I realize you're not advocating something so extreme (or impossible) but people who go down that road are usually the ones who wind up believing they've gotten past racism because "Some of my best friends are black". And they still don't get it. They've simply got their "Get out of racism accusation" card. Which as far as many are concerned absolves them of all racism now and forever.

    That woman needs to do some serious READING regarding black issues, history, and a healthy does of Tim Wise wouldn't be a bad start. As well as casual interaction with blacks. But she doesn't need the black female version of Mr.Miyagi showing her the way. That's been done to death.

    Sorry if I went on a rant but i loved your post.

  •  Thanks for sharing that story (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, princss6, mallyroyal

    this line "After that remark, she wasn't beautiful anymore; she was repulsive" said it all for me.  Beauty is about the content of a persons character.

    Tipped and rec'ed.

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 03:20:20 AM PST

  •  Thanks for the story (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Deoliver47, princss6

    Reminded me of a song by Stevie.

    Happens all to often unfortunately and even in the year 2011.

    As ThisIsMyTime was suspended if you're reading this it just means it isn't my time yet. Obama!

    by Adept2u on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 05:51:05 AM PST

  •  met a girl from the czech republic years ago (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    princss6, cai

    sounds very similar to the lady you met.

    difference is this girl actually hit on me (a black guy) and we had a physical relationship for a few months.  

    I remember during a stroll of ours through central park several people remarked on how nice we looked as a couple.  WHICH FLOORED ME.

    your story brought her to mind... musing on the differences between people.  oh yeah she did say her family would shit a brick if they'd known, especially her dad LOL so (shrug)

    re: public displays of racism... I've never ever had a person admit they were a racist in front of me and have never been called a racial slur... to my face.

    I'm proven effective by clinical tests.

    by mallyroyal on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 08:10:42 AM PST

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