Thursday, May 26, 2011

20/20 hindsight

My (white) friend was at a football game with some (white) friends at a large university. While sitting in the bleachers, they struck up a conversation with a couple (white) neighbors, a current university student with his father. At one point in the conversation, the student said, "I like it here a lot. The only thing is that there are too many Asian girls. All the Asian girls are detracting from the pretty girls here."

My friend and her friends just sat there and pretty much failed to respond. When she later told me this story, I was annoyed for two reasons:

(1) The comment was a direct insult to my peeps.
(2) She didn't stick up for me. None of them stood up for yellow womankind. They just took it.

I realize people are entitled to their opinions. Just like there are dudes who think all Asian chicks are hot, there are dudes who think Asian chicks are ugly. But still. A part of me gets mad thinking about how my friend didn't do anything to stand up against the racist comment.

But then another part of me reflects on my own behavior and gets mad for all the times I didn't stand up for something when I should have.

The other day, I was in the ladies room, chatting with a coworker. I asked her if she hung out in the city a lot (she lives in the burbs). She said, "Oh, no, there are too many people there -- it's so scary!"

"Oh really?" I asked, wondering how "too many people" could be scary.

"I was walking in the East Village the other day," she said, "and I was surrounded by all these black people. I thought I was going to get robbed!" She started laughing.

I was stunned and involuntarily smiled back. "What? Why would you think you were going to get robbed?"

"All those black people!"

Instead of standing up for what was right, I stammered, "Oh the East Village is safe..."

Later on, I was kicking myself for not saying something else. Of course, the responses flow to me now:

"Why do you think black people would rob you? That's racist."
"I have friends who are black and, um, none of them have robbed me."
"My fiance is black and he's never robbed anyone."
"I'm black."

(Okay the last two were hypothetical.)

I guess it's hard to think on one's feet when one is confronted with a statement so shocking and unexpected. Now that I think about it, there have been a number of times when I've been confronted with blatant racism and I had no idea how to respond. I can deal with low-level racist comments, like, "Asians are good at math" or "What are you?" But blatant comments like "I hate Mexicans" or "Asians are shitty drivers" - not so much.

I realize that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. I just gotta conjure my anti-racist comebacks faster!
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