Wednesday, October 15, 2008

*alabama, damn.

Outside my window right now, two cloud castoffs hang lazily in the sky, the only blights on an otherwise unadulterated sky. It's almost too bright to stare for long, though that could be the effect of the reflection of rows and rows of hateful fluorescent lights. There's a breeze—I can tell because the moving tree branches are mucking up my stupor. The weather report said it'd be "unseasonably warm" today, with a high stubbornly in the mid-80s. It's sort of perfect, really, the way fall marches in and faces summer like Jack Sprat would face a sumo wrestler—mismatched but idiotically optimistic.

And so I sit in my cubicle, happy to have more than 3 square feet to work in, happy to have WORK, happy to be close to my family and know that, should I trip over the mess that is taking hold of my house and hit my head on a dog bone, someone would notice I had gone awfully quiet before said dog had a chance to chew off one of my limbs to keep from starving.

I'm happy, here. But still, sometimes I loathe this state something fierce. I'm not myopic—I know that racism exists everywhere, and in many forms, but it's too nice a day to confront my rank idealism. I'm just tired. Tired of hearing otherwise intelligent people say stupid things. Tired of hearing otherwise stupid people say stupid things. Tired of hearing my coworker's stance on "Muslimism," or L Sis having to tell stories about her colleague's feelings about birth control methods used by "the blacks," or being stunned into silence by overhearing someone tell a tale about her friend who, when confronted by a man in the grocery store parking lot who asked how much her car cost, managed to blurt out, in her justified discomfort, the first thing that came to mind: "There's no way you could afford my car." Not "Go away," "Leave me alone," or (my personal favorite) the swift walk/run in the opposite direction. Just a statement on perceived socioeconomic status.

I'm not saying she should be judged too harshly—L Sis and I were recently approached in the Wal-Mart parking lot by an obvious scam artist (and not a good one. That was one convoluted lie) whose first words to us were, "I mean no harm." I'm pretty sure that falls under the category of If You Have to Say It ... —I just think it says something about where we are as a country and, specifically, a state.

Then, this morning, Gawker posted this:

The New York Times today runs five—five!—pieces on how many voters have somehow deduced that presidential candidate Barack Obama is a black man. Adam Nagourney reports that Hillary Clinton advisor Harold Ickes (he's also, it should be noted, a former Jesse Jackson aide) "routinely shaved off a point or two" from Obama's poll numbers to account for secret racistness. You can tell he was doing this during the primaries, right? Harold, people who won't vote for Obama because he's black aren't lying to pollsters. Because they sure as hell weren't lying to the Times reporters who went into the field to report on race.

And where do you suppose that "field" was? Check the dateline: Mobile, Alabama.

Tell me this doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth.

“He doesn’t come from the African-American perspective — he’s not of that tradition,” said Kimi Oaks, a prominent community volunteer in the Mobile area, with apparent approval. Ms. Oaks, along with about 15 others, had gathered after Sunday services at Mobile’s leading Methodist church to discuss the presidential campaign. “He’s not a product of any ghetto,” Ms. Oaks added.

A little further north, from Citronelle, Alabama:

“I’ve always been against the blacks,” said Mr. Rowell, who is in his 70s, recalling how he was arrested for throwing firecrackers in the black section of town. But now that he has three biracial grandchildren — “it was really rough on me” — he said he had “found out they were human beings, too.”

OK, so he's in his 70s. "They're human beings" versus ... I'm not sure what exactly ... is I guess? a step in the right direction?

But the best? That would be this guy.

He has the look of wild-eyed crazy and dumb, thanks to the slack jaw and the bloodshot eye. Here's what he has to say as he represents the people of our fair state in a respected national publication:

“He’s neither-nor,” said Ricky Thompson, a pipe fitter who works at a factory north of Mobile, while standing in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store just north of here. “He’s other. It’s in the Bible. Come as one. Don’t create other breeds.”


It is remarkable that Ricky can hold down a job when the only rule he has to follow after he steps out of bed is DON'T BE AN ASSHOLE, and he can't even keep that straight.

I know that this brand of ignorant douchery isn't specific to Alabama. But I do think there is a lesson to be learned here, and that lesson is threefold.

1. When you hear someone say something racist, speak up. Or, if you think you can't, employ the blank stare. It can be just as educational to let that idiocy reverberate. The longer it hangs in the stiff silence, the more uncomfortable the other person will become. Turnabout is fair play.

2. Keep your eyes peeled for stereotypes, whether they be the dangerous black man, the novelty gay, or the dumb Southerner.

3. Stay the hell out of Wal-Mart parking lots.

(Photo by James Edward Bates for The New York Times.)


Juarez Family says:
at: 3:47 PM said...

I hear ya sista. I'm surrounded by it. And wow where did you find all that crap - who ARE these people!

What's Next? says:
at: 5:12 PM said...

Sigh .......

at: 6:58 AM said...

One of your best posts. Now, please explain Joe The Plumber.....

K. says:
at: 1:07 PM said...

thank you.

joe the plumber is some guy i feel no sympathy for, nor relation to, because i've paid a plumber before. he's not exactly hurtin'.

kate says:
at: 7:50 PM said...

plumbers make more than I do. I've checked. they make more by far . . . maybe we should open a plumbing company . . . you in?

cringe-worthy post material. sorry i missed the story about the parking lot this am :(



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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.