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random racists...
by katherine l (aka clevertitania) (@CleverTitania)

It's one of the weirdest holdovers of the previous eras; encountering blatant racism from random strangers.

I get out of my car, in the Hyvee parking lot. An older guy (probably around 70-75) is heading towards his car, a 1970s Chevy from the looks of it, and asks me what kind of car mine is. I inform him it's a Focus, and before I finish the word he's said, "Ford, found on road dead." This, to me, is a clear indication that he knew perfectly well what kind of car I was driving and wanted an excuse to engage me in conversation. This bugged me a little, but I tried to smile politely and not assume the worst.

Now I realize that a man of his age is hardly a physical threat to nearly anyone. But regardless; any man should think twice before attempting to strike up a conversation with a woman, in a parking lot, at one in the morning. Safety states I shouldn't even have stopped walking, but I didn't want to be rude. He kept talking, so I stood there for a moment - at a safe distance - and informed him that despite his notions my Focus is the best running car I've ever had (in fairness it's also the first car I've bought less than 10 years old).

He then proceeds to start mildly ranting, about some Aerostars his sister had, and how she gave one of them to some Vietnamese guy she knew. Which turned into him explaining how he and his friends knew the guy was VC and is going to slit her throat one night.

VC for those too young to know, means Viet Cong. The abbreviation has been among the more popular racist term for any Vietnamese person (and in some cases any Asian person) since the war. Technically it was the name of the army we fought in the Vietnam 'conflict', though as I understand it they were less of a paramilitary and more of a well organized guerrilla force.

I imagine my eyes narrowed when he said that. I just remember thinking, "Seriously? I've felt like hell all day. I just ran to the store to get a few things, but primarily so the kid could have milk and cereal in the morning. The store I wanted to go to, the only one that carries my low-carb bread, was closed when I got there. It's 86 degrees, with a head index of 89, at 1 AM, and I have to stand outside and listen to this shit?!"

I'm not gonna lie, I was pissed. If he had stopped at just calling the guy VC, I think I could've done the, "aww aren't you a sweet old racist, have a nice day now" move. You know, you say something non-committal and then say some derivation of the word "goodbye," leaving the area as quickly as possible.

But the problem was the whole, "slitting her throat" bit.

I don't care if you served in Vietnam. In fact, if you did it's even more offensive. If you actually spent time in that country - if you lived there, met individuals and families, and probably had locals helping you do your job - and you assume any Vietnamese man you meet is probably a homicidal monster, you should be ashamed of yourself.

I was recently in a conversation where someone mentioned how much better the the world will be when the last generation of born and bred racists finally die, but that it felt awkward to wish for such a thing. It is an unpleasant notion, to contemplate the improvement in the world at the death of an entire group of people. But it doesn't change the reality that the level of racism in the last 100 years has dropped significantly with the death of each generation.

Of course, there are still serious racists in my generation, so it'll still be a while before racism really does just fade into the history books. But there's a difference between my racist uncle and his racist father. My uncle might've grown up with it in his household, but I'll guarantee you he was careful when to show it in school. And I'll bet you he's damned cautious before displaying his racial attitudes on the job. In his father's day, one barely need to hide his bigotry.

Even if my uncle grew up thinking black people were inferior to him, he also grew up knowing that wasn't a popular opinion and most people would be offended at such a notion. He grew up knowing that society, by and large, did not approve of his prejudices. And if he's passed on his attitudes to any of my cousins, they've grown up knowing that society will flat out ostracize you for the arrogance of your bigotry. Plus, grandpa (I never called him that, but they might've) is no longer around to reinforce the negative influences.

So how did I handle this case of random racism? I admit it, I went passive-aggressive. I let my derision drip from my lips as I talked over him, "Excuse me, but I have shopping to do." Bizarrely, he just got louder and kept talking. So I walked away. I think the word that set me off, as he continued talking to me, was "godless". That's when - almost to the door - I turned around and said just loud enough to carry, "Do you mind?" He just kept talking. I made a noise or frustration and went into the store.

I confess I wish I'd been more direct. I wanted to say, "You are a racist, a moron and a reprehensible human being. This is one of the reasons I hate nationalism, because in what universe could I call Americans number one when you are citizen of this country. That there are still people like you is one of the biggest things wrong with this world." And if it hadn't been the middle of the night, if there had been anyone else in the parking lot to aid me if the old guy did go nutso, I might've done it.

Instead I went into the store, got my shit and got out. And almost two hours later I'm still irritated.

As part of the aforementioned conversation on generational racism, I made a point that you have to take bigotry in the context of the era. For instance, using their slave ownership as a condemnation of the Founding Fathers does put some perspective on the infallibility some imbue them with. But you also have to acknowledge that most men of power in that time were land owners, and if you owned land odds were you owned slaves. Calling someone a slave owner 250 years ago, and calling someone that now, are two entirely different things.

However, there's also a point, when a person has lived to see the world change around them, when you have to stop making excuses for how they were raised. It would be one thing to demonstrate that kind of racism to a friend or family member, or in the context of another conversation. I'm sure his sister has been warned to her face that her throat is in danger.

But to go on a racist rant to a strange woman in a grocery store parking lot, that's a horse of a different color (I know, that was bad). I'm pretty sure they taught basic manners and rules for public behavior in the 30s. I know quite well how older people will engage anyone in a conversation, just because. But this wasn't a conversation. This felt like I was being verbally hurled on.

It makes me wonder how many more years it'll be before random racism is effectively eradicated. Hell, it makes me wish for it, the way I used to wish for the day we'd finally get flying cars.


When I grow up, I want to be; whoever Joss Whedon wants to be, when he grows up. I am a writer because it's the first thing I want to do when I wake up in the morning; aside from eating and using the lavatory of course. My work includes screenplays, short stories, film/TV/music reviews and socio-political commentary. The last one is a fancy way of saying I like to shoot my mouth off on many topics. I excel at using $1.50 words. They gone up, thanks to inflation. Isn't our economy awesome?

more about katherine l (aka clevertitania)


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how i want to see the world
by katherine l (aka clevertitania)
topic: general
published: 7.14.10

if age is just a number...
what's the point of counting?
by katherine l (aka clevertitania)
topic: general
published: 6.13.09


katherine (aka clevertitania)
7.30.11 @ 9:32p

Here's an interesting follow up to the story... I was hit on tonight, online, by another random racist!

He used the word (forgive me everyone, but just saying an abbreviated N word does not do it justice) "niggies." I literally wanted to throw up.

And for the record, he was a devoted Fox News fan too. I'm just saying.

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