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I like naked racism. I don’t like racism. Hating someone because of how they look is stupid; its unproductive and unhelpful to the hater and the object of their scorn alike. What I mean to say is that I would rather racist people not hide their bigotry. Just as holding racist ideology can be damaging to individuals, I think pressuring bigots to conceal their contempt can be damaging to themselves and others. I have a theory that repression acts as a crucible refining the given taboo into a precious and powerful totem the holder internalizes and integrates into their identity.
The other day I witnessed a vile open display of racism. A Black woman in her fifties verbally assaulted a presumably Middle Eastern gas station attendant. I live in Southern California, in a somewhat affluent area. They both acknowledged these facts: she was opening sometime in the store, he asked her not to, and she proceeded to yell at him. She cited her seniority in age, American citizenship and the fact that he was likely a non-Christian, as reasons for her ire. I stood gobsmacked as she issued her abhorrent speech, something I defend as a Free-Speech absolutist. I watched this man take it all stone-faced. Someone actually came in and ignored her, starting and completing a transaction with the man being yelled at as it was happening! It was a wild scene. I finally broke in apologizing to him as an American, I told him how ashamed I was that she was an American. She said something incoherent to me and walked out. As she was turning, he got out from behind the counter and started after her. I pleaded with him to stop. He listened and returned to the counter. He opened up a bit, telling his side of the story and telling how insulted he felt that she attacked his ethnicity and Faith. It seemed less that it wounded him and more that he was offended she would even go there. This supposedly-marginalized woman who should be wiser for her age, unleashed her powerful hatred and resentment, instead of keeping her cool and rolling with the situation.
Who knows what provoked her. Did she lose someone on 9/11? Did she lose someone in the War on Terrorism? Did a hijab wearing woman in a Mercedes van just cut her off? It doesn’t really matter. Even though I am fine with the Rights to unrestricted, abhorrent Speech and the Right to openly display one’s bigotry, it really hurt to witness this verbal assault. I don’t buy into words being violence, but that doesn’t mean they can’t stoke the emotions and provoke someone to lose their senses and lash out violently. I was shaken by the hatred on display. I could have socked the lady in the jaw or called the cops, but I don’t believe those are effective measures to combat her racism. I’m not sure it can be combated. Instead I offered help and support to the offended party because I am a proponent of personal responsibility and people holding themselves to higher standards. No matter what this lady’s reasons for being upset, she should have controlled herself. The man controlled himself. I controlled myself. I can only hope this man doesn’t let this incident negatively affect him and that this woman turns into a decent person. I fear she won’t. I fear, given how our culture values appearing to be proper, that he may take this as one more proof that Americans really are secretly bigoted in a profound way. Afterall naked racism is frowned upon and yet this incident came to pass.