Racism Embedded in our Language

A few months ago, I was in Carmel visiting my favorite thrift stores. If you don’t like thrift stores, you haven’t been to the ones in Carmel!  I got into a line to pay, and when it was my turn, and the woman had rung up my $89.00 worth of purchases, I whipped out my credit card.

“This is a cash-only line,” she said.

“Oh,” I said as I dug through my wallet and everyone in line behind me groaned.

I pulled out enough money and handed  it to the cashier.

“You almost got lynched,” the older British woman behind me said.

We all laughed, and I took my two bags of goodies and headed out the door.

Wait! What?

We had just laughed at a racist comment that none of us white people thought twice about.

. . . until I stepped out into the sunlight.

Could’ve been lynched . . .

. . . used so casually to refer to my grand faux pas of trying to use a credit card.

A senior citizen Facebook friend today posted the talk show host, Conan O’Brien, speaking with Kevin Nealon in 2013 about skiing in Colorado at Copper Mountain.  Nealon mentioned  a convenience store clerk told him that he was scared of black diamond runs, and that he didn’t feel safe on them, and they would beat him up.  He added that they were not very well groomed, but that if you wanted the good white powder, that’s where you needed to go. The humor (for whites) was in the racist undercurrent to it, comparing a race of people to difficult ski runs.

My Facebook friend said, “Watch this. It is hilarious!”

I commented that I thought it was a bit racist.

Will he unfriend me? Maybe. Would I do it again? Absolutely.  How is anything going to change if we keep allowing these kinds of comments to go on with no question?

Another Facebook friend shared a joke at Christmas about how we can’t sing Do you hear what I hear anymore because it would offend the schizophrenics. It was meant to be a joke.

I commented on his post. “You are making fun of mental illness.”

What seems like passing on a harmless joke or comedian’s funny comments can really be continuing the racism in our language.  If telling someone they could’ve been lynched is offensive to a white woman in Carmel, how would go over with a black woman in Monterey? Would the older British woman have said that if I had been black? God help us all if she would have. God help us more if she would not have. That would mean she would have been aware of the racism in her comment and chose to speak it only in front of whites.

One thing from my days back in the Midwest was when friends would use the term jew you down to mean drive a hard bargain. I don’t know if people say that anymore there since I live in California. Hope not.

I am sure there are other examples of underlying racism in our language, but these are the things that lined up so neatly for today’s blog post.

I will leave you with another example of racism to ponder. The Lone Ranger’s sidekick, Tonto, the Native American — we all know him, right?

Tonto is the Spanish word for dumb.

Coincidence?  I think not.

Couldda Wouldda Shouldda

I should’ve turned to the British woman in line behind me and called her out for her racist comment.

 

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