Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Old Person Racism

When I lived in DC I got to experience something we don't really have in our family...a good, old-school racist grandparent. I think the further south you get, the more common the Racist Grandparent Phenomenon becomes. The grandparent in question was that of a friend of mine, and had come up for said friend's graduation.

DC has been largely black since time immemorial...for a long time it was the first free city you hit on the Eastern Seaboard if you were an escaping or freed slave, so a lot of folks just stopped there and got themselves established. (Interesting Josie Fact: I learned much of this in the class whose professor accused me of plagarism because the events in something I wrote matched exactly the order in which they occurred in my sources. For those keeping track, it was a biography.) DC to this day is about 56% black, and in the past has been so strongly canted black that it was referred to as "the Chocolate City."

When you have a racist grandma, this is an issue.

After about three days of passively racist remarks and behavior from this woman, I eventually wound up actually getting off the Metro at a random station because I couldn't take it any more. We'd been on Metro for maybe 20 minutes and this woman was still dropping the word "nigger" into casual conversation every three words, so by now the entire goddamn car is looking at us like they want to taste her blood, and her family is doing nothing about it. It may have been rash but I wound up getting the hell off the train, answering when asked why that I couldn't take the shit coming out of her mouth or her family's willingness to let her disgrace herself and insult everyone around her anymore. Needless to say, I don't hang out with this friend anymore.

Everyone's talked to death about the difference between intentional and passive racism...older folks are often more a product of their upbringing and don't realize the weight of their casual racism, and this is a far cry from the member of my generation who slings the n-bomb at someone in a club. Strangely enough, I feel the old-person variety of passive racism to be less harmful than the more active variety of younger people, though I find the passive, well-intentioned racism of demographically-based government programs to be extremely harmful. (What do we want? INCOME BASED SOCIAL PROGRAMS! When do we want 'em? NOW!)

All that being said, I was watching CNN again this morning, and it seems that Don Imus has said something stupid again, this time about Pacman Jones being arrested for the sixth time. I guess he heard Jones got arrested and asked his sidekick there what color Jones was. Upon hearing that Jones is black, Imus said something like "well that's why then," which he now says he meant in the sense of "because black people get arrested for no reason all the time." Okay, fine. That qualifier makes me think he just isn't great at talking. That being said, he's also getting up there in years, and I really wonder if he is just kind of a racist grandma. (I don't have the strength to talk about the "OMG FIRE HIM IMMEDIATELY" shit that's doubtless about to go down. I just don't.) I was watching film of him as they were discussing the whole situation and he is...old. I think he just approaches race differently than current political correctness dictates, and he's doing it in the media.

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