"You want to live like trailer trash?" she screamed.
As we passed, I leaned over and confided to my friend,
"We lived in a trailer a couple of times when I was a little kid."She looked at me, shocked, then smiled and said..."I did too. I never tell anyone that."
I wonder what shame the woman on the porch was needing to cover up? Or was it just ignorance? So many things fly out of our mouths un-thought out.
Another mother, while waiting outside Seth's school yesterday used "retarded" to refer to something stupid. She was a nice woman. She meant no harm. But she was ignorant. It's one in six these days with a developmental delay, dear.
When do you step in and say something? When do you let it slide? Is it my job to police the whole universe? Am I myself immune from making a similar ignorant slip?
When I was 19, I made a "you know they all look alike" comment to a black girl I had known since we were 12. I'd been referring to an Asian student, and I was sure she would know I didn't really mean it. That I was "cool." I'd known all of three black people my whole life up 'til then. I was trying to be funny.
It wasn't cool. It wasn't funny. It was ignorant. I've learned a lot since then.
I never saw that friend again, but the expression on her face, a combo of hurt and outrage has stayed with me. I cringe everytime I think of it and still have not forgiven myself, 20 years later. Sometimes I scoff at the idea that what I said mattered so much. No doubt she'd heard plenty of racist remarks growing up in an all white small town. But still, the thought of hurting her kills me.
Halle Barry recently made a racist remark on Jay Leno. I feel bad for any little Jewish girls who idolize her. I feel bad for Halle too. She's the one that will have to live with herself after what she said.
A wise person once told me "Never mistake for malice that which can be explained by ignorance or stupidity."
While it's true racial slurs are often steeped in malice; it is also true that malice is the result of ignorance, and fear.
I wish I could, but I can't go back and change what I said 20 years ago.
What I can do is raise my kids in a culturally diverse neighborhood.
What I can do is make an effort to know people outside my race.
I can move forward.
And be thankful for the learning.