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Thursday, October 13, 2005

RACE RELATIONS & PRETZEL SAMPLES



I had a difficult day at work. It happens. So, I decided to treat myself to the Food Court. ...stop making fun of me. I'm on a budget. Anyway, after I ate half of what I was served and drank a child's size Diet Coke (am quitting caf) I got up to leave and thought, "Hey, I deserve a real treat tonight!"

I allow myself one cookie a day and I normally enjoy my cookie sometime between 8 and 9 in the evening. However, tonight I decided I would have a half of one of those sugar-covered pretzels ---- AND a medium Diet Coke. I walked in and was greeted by a very happy older lady behind the counter. I placed my order. As she soaked the giant pretzel into a vat full of some oil-like substance which allows her to dip/roll my pretzel in sugar I noticed a large bowl of pretzels pieces which were serving as samples of all their various types of pretzel delights.

I heard some loud/obnoxious laughing and was pushed to the side while a group of cute pre-teen girls grabbed as many of the samples as possible and then ran out. One of them calling out, "Free pretzels!" Without even thinking I shrugged and sort of laughed. Whatever. But the nice older lady suddenly got a very angry look on her face. She walked back to the counter, my giant pretzel in hand, and asked "Are you OK?" I laughed and said I was fine and made some comment along the lines of 'o-those-crazy-kids' and the older pretzel lady leaned in to me and said --

"I am not racist, but ---"

OK, whenever someone says the "but" word in this context you know you're in for a contradiction or a de-confirmation of what they said before entering the "but" word. I particularly hate the use of "but" when mixed with words like "love" "care" "homophobic" "friend" or "racist"

"....but, it is ALWAYS the black ones who do that sort of thing!" (she said this in a sort of hushed but rushed way) --- then added, "I've told my boss it is all I can to not throw the plate at their tacky, nappy heads!"

At this point I should let you know that the older pretzel lady is a person of color.

If you've not already figured it out, I have trouble controling my mouth. Now, I seldom lose my cool. I never raise my voice and it takes a lot to make me mad at all. But, when something strikes me as being wrong, unfair or mean --- I have trouble not speaking out about it. ...and tonight, as I took my pretzel from the angry older lady behind the counter was no exception.

So, without any hesitation or thought I said, "I am not trying to upset you, but that is racist."

"I am a black woman! How can I be a racist!! And, child I did not march with my friends in the 60's for little assholes like that to act the rude fool!"

"That is so cool that you marched! I agree, but anger and intolerance isn't the answer. And, you know, racism surfaces on all levels. I don't mean to imply you're a bad person. I think we are all a bit racist. It's sad, but I think it is true. Anyone who tells you they aren't at all racist are not being totally honest with themselves or you. I am a uber-liberal yet I am sure I have racist attitudes that I don't even realize. I hate that, but I am sure I do. We all do. When I catch it in myself thinking I do my best to stop it."

"Well, the white, mexican and asian kids don't do that sort of shit when they come in here!"

"But, just to so easily associate a generalization like that to ethnic background or skin color is inherently racist. Even if you feel it to be true, you have to see that. And, these kids are our future. And, they are just kids -- if what they do bothers you maybe you should try to deal with it using humor. Call back to them and tell them to enjoy the free pretzels. Next time they come in try talking to them. You never know, you could make a difference. Personally, I don't think what they did had anything to do with the color of their skin. I think they enjoy getting a reaction out of you. They are just kids out being loud and having fun. And, I find it hard to believe you've never seen a white or asian kid not do something similar."

"Well, maybe you're right. You sound like my grandbaby. She goes to school in San Diego. I'm sorry if I offended you."

"You didn't offend me, but that was racist. You and I need to do whatever we can to get people to treat each other with respect and dignity. Equality --- that's why you were marching, right? Kids love to rebel -- regardless of race. And, you know, life is too damn short to let some cute little girls being silly get you upset. And, for the record, I thought they were adorable --- and, they had great hair!"

The older lady laughed and asked me what uber-liberal meant. I told her. She laughed again and told me to have a great night.

I ate half my pretzel as I walked home. Tossed the other half into a garbage can and finished off my "healthy" soda. And, I wondered to myself, "Why did I just do that?"

I came home and jotted down the conversation and now transcribe it for your reading "pleasure"

...all I wanted was a sugar-coated pretzel and a giant tub of Diet Coke. I never meant to preach to an over-worked and under paid senior citizen who has been dealing with the public all day. iBook in my lap and a cup of hot tea near by, Elton John is singing about Mars being a bad place to raise kids and tomorrow is Friday!

9 Comments:

Blogger joe said...

you know what matt? you're uber-sweet. like the pretzel. and I don't have anything against sweet pretzels, BUT, I think they're kinda wacky. :)

9:09 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

I say things things like that on a daily basis, but I think I'm being sacrastic....hmmm, maybe that needs some looking into. I mean, every time I see a black guy with his hand out trying to get a taxi, I say to my friends (assuming I'm with friends) 'that guy's not getting a cab'. Then laughter.

Guess I'm going to hell (^_^)V

3:33 AM  
Blogger Underling said...

Matt, your stories always make me smile. I can see you getting into it with the elderly pretzel lady...I think it's awesome that you'll open your mouth and talk back. I'd probably keep my outh shut and just let the anger stew inside me.

6:15 AM  
Blogger GrooveTheory said...

I'm always PC when I speak. I guess it's my nature. But, that was really well said Matt. Beautiful!

I think this is the 2nd blog I saw today that is "racial profiling" inspired. Bizarre.

6:47 AM  
Blogger g8s said...

Matt, I think you said that because "you and I need to do whatever we can to get people to treat each other with respect and dignity." And I also think you said that because "you never know, you could make a difference."

My guess is that you make a difference more often than you realize.

7:04 AM  
Blogger Madley said...

Wow, you've got cojones!

I'm usually good about being cool in public, but hey, you should see the stuff that comes out of some of my scripted "characters" -- they're not comin' from nowhere.

Thanks for the story -- TGIF!

PS Take a look at Rick's blog ;)

2:56 PM  
Blogger Miss Marisol said...

matt, darling...you are one of the good ones in the world.

i wish i had your cool patience in situations like that.

1:31 PM  
Blogger thomas said...

I wasn't going to comment on this, not because I don't love you-- you know better-- but because I have nothing relevant to say. But I can safely say that you are too cute for “getting involved”. Only you would have said something. I would have just gotten my pretzel and moved on. Of course I hear hateful things every day so I don't think of it so much. And I am very tolerant of other people's crappiness and racial unhealthiness. If you have 18 crazy people yelling at you all day that the “black man designed racial intolerance,” you begin not to be so surprised when it happens in real life.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Karyn said...

Matty,
You got some brass ones. Not just for standing up for your principles and delving into the scary waters of the racial divide, but for acknowledging that most people have some racist leanings whether they want to admit it or not. Were that there were more like you! Were that *I* were more like you!! xoxo

6:21 AM  

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