When was the last time you really wanted (or needed) to say something, but kept quiet? Write a post about what you should’ve said.
Earlier in the week, I wrote about an experience in a local Northside business where a man used a slew of racial slurs in front of me just as casually as you might talk about the weather. I kept quiet. I told the business owner what I thought – after he left, but I didn’t confront him.
I was afraid for my safety. I was afraid the business owner would kick me out if things escalated and I really needed to get the notary seal for the document in my hand – the permit application for the Dyke and Trans March. I was already anxious as all get out just being out on a street where I fear a confrontation with someone who can’t seem to accept that I don’t want to be around them.
I was afraid and anxious so I said nothing and tried to take solace that he “got” my displeasure. Big whoop, Sue. You showed him by frowning at him and pursing your lips. I may have even furrowed my brow and rolled my eyes.
What has it come to that I have to calculate if someone might HIT me for confronting their bigotry in the middle of a business in the middle of the day in front of another person? Or shoot me? I think back to when I did confront someone publicly and almost did get hit if a white male business owner hadn’t intervened. I feel equally disgusted and unhappy by both situations.
I don’t hide behind my blog or my computer. You know my name and could find all sorts of details about me if you wanted to do – don’t Google, just ask me and I’ll tell you. If you are a long time reader, you know more about me that most of my biological family knows about me. I may be frequently shut out by the powers that be for speaking my mind, but they know I’m not bullshitting them. And they know when it is personal and when it is just business. And when I’m wrong.
So what should I have said to this guy?
“That’s offensive and unacceptable. You are going to cost this business a customer if you bring your hate in here”
“wtf is your problem you bigoted neanderthal?”
“no, i don’t see any excuse for that language so please just stop using it right now.”
“do you really think because I’m white that it is okay to assume I’m a racist?”
“I think I’ll go to Triple AAA after all.”
Should I have surreptitiously taken his photo? Should I have video recorded the encounter (can’t record audio in PA, but you can record video)? He was insulting his own daughter and odds are she is on Facebook so I could have plastered it all over social media to show him for who he really is?
What bothers me about this is that I feel like I am a coward for putting my personal safety and peace of mind ahead of my values and the lives of my friends and neighbors. But in the situation several years ago when I did confront someone, I feel like I was stupid for risking bodily harm over a slur and putting someone else in harm’s way (the man who stepped in for us) because my pride was hurt.
No, there is nothing I could have said. If I had turned and walked out, it would have cost her a $5 sale and I doubt that it would matter. I would have probably been upset and gone home rather than gone ahead to AAA so I would have perhaps won the battle, but lost the war. If I had insulted him with a withering comment, his reaction could have done some damage to my psyche and again resulted in not getting that seal. Racist institutions are better challenged by the Dyke and Trans March proceeding smoothly than by my getting into an argument with some asshole on East Ohio Street.
I guess it matters that I recognized the white privilege at play in that moment and that I am disturbed by it, that I am disgusted by my complicity in it. Racism is a dyke issue, a trans issue. Gender identity is a racial issue. Mental health is a queer issue. So forth and so on.
I tell you what – it is one reason I’m being so tenacious about the plans for white supremacist and fascist loving group”Death in June” to play at a South Side venue – The Rex Theater – this week. A friend of mine who knows these things told me I need to be careful because the fascist fans of Death in June are nasty and will target me if I get on their radar. He suggested I back off a bit and I won’t do that. I see a direct correlation between white folks being silent about a Nazi fetish and this dude spewing his “jigaboo spook” crap. Maybe I’m overcompensating, but I know how to handle online harassment – I’m so experienced thanks to the gay men who love to taunt me.
I shouldn’t tempt fate.
What would you have said?