After hearing talk about "Indians smell funny, drive badly, and are taking all our jobs" and "Mexicans don't come here to work, those welfare-cheating bastards" and having to deal with some misogynistic crap that was directed at me specifically, I thought things had calmed down.
(Incidentally, my Beloved Sister's Husband, who is from India, responded to the "taking all our jobs" comment with "Yep! And we're taking all your women, too!" Which is why we love him.)
It's been a quiet week at Sunnydale. Nobody was showing me pictures of redheaded models in positions that suggested that they'd been brutalized and pointing out that the model, like me, is a redhead. Nobody was talking particularly offensive stuff about whether the White House was still, you know, white, har de har de har. Nobody told one single rape joke. I relaxed.
Today one of the members of the Oppressed Minority showed me some of the funny, funny pictures on his iPhone. Most of 'em were of the Failblog variety--cars halfway off of docks ("Women drivers, har de har de har!") and cows in trees.
The last one he showed me was of a noose hanging in front of a hand-lettered sign that read "NIGGER SWING SET." (Yes, I used That Word. On purpose. Because the whole episode still feels like a kick in the gut.)
I'll give you a moment to get your jaw up off the floor.
Of all the offensive, brutally racist, entirely-inappropriate-for-any-situation things I've ever seen, this was right up there in the top, oh, one. I'm sure I've seen something worse, or heard something worse, but I can't call it to mind right at the moment*.
It shocked me so much that the anticipatory polite smile I was wearing for the next visual "joke" froze on my face for a moment before my jaw dropped (that's a weird feeling, by the way) and I said, rapidly, "Oh, no. No, no. That's not funny at all. What the hell. NO."
Because, really: What The Fuck Is Wrong With You, That This Is Funny?
I live in Texas. Our last lynching was in 1930, in a city called Sherman, up near the Oklahoma border. Well, our last "official" lynching--there have been plenty of people murdered in the years since by being, for instance, dragged behind trucks (remember that one?).
Our last lynching was well within the memory of a lot of the people that I work with on a daily basis. It was five years before my father was born. That puts it well inside my personal limit for "immediate experience". Yet you think that a picture of a noose combined with a racial slur and a reference to the murder of 551 black men (that's Texas' count) is funny.
This brings up two problems for me, one micro, one macro:
As I told my friend The Hurricane not too long ago, I'm not interested in changing these guys' hearts and minds--that's beyond me. All I want to do is to get them to shut the fuck up with their racist, misogynistic bullshit at work. There's only so much fighting one person can do against a cadre of ignorant people, and frankly, I'll call it out when I see it, but don't expect miracles.
If one of them does something jackholed, I can fight that one thing. I can resist, on a teeny-tiny scale, the sort of crap that they spew. After all, eventually this assignment will end and I'll be on the opposite side of the clock from them. Until then, it's worth a little discomfort to get them not to be threatening and horrible at work.
But the macro side of that problem is what disturbs me. These are three guys who are incredibly, incredibly privileged by virtue of being white, male, and middle-class.
They don't see that privilege, but again, unexamined privilege (though it drives me nuts) is a larger problem than I can solve in my one-woman consciousness-raising efforts.
What bugs me is the ignorance.
I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to help a person trapped in a burning car, regardless of that person's race. I've never seen any of them refuse an assignment based on the race, sex, or sexual orientation of a patient. They treat the black, Indian, and Hispanic folks we work with with as much respect as they treat me (yeah, I know). Yet they have this worldview that, I don't know, the only good Person-O'-Color is the POC I work with, or something. The rest of those brown people are no-good, thieving, border-busting scumbags, present company excepted.
And it makes me wonder what they *really* think. If you're enough of a bigot to think a lynching joke is hi-larious, how do you *really* see all these people you're working with?
Again, as long as they don't shove it in my face, or think that they can intimidate me by making thumbfingered references to violence against women, minorities, and liberals, I'm cool with calling out the bullshit one incident at a time.
In the bigger view, though, it makes me feel like standing with my back against a wall for the entirety of the shift, just because I don't know what these dudes are going to throw out next.
It also makes me want to cry out of frustration, because some people are just so stupid.
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*On second thought, I don't remember anything that's worse than that funny ho ho de har de har sign. I would continue to wrack my brain for something more awful, but honestly? I'm nauseated enough as it is.