This past weekend some guy called me a gook. What was surprising is it happened right in my hometown. I have lived in my town for five years now and have never had any problems with racism. This came out of the blue and was totally unprovoked. I was on my way to pick up Indian takeout for my family’s dinner.
There were so many things out of the ordinary about this incident. The man who called me a gook was with his girlfriend and didn’t appear to be drunk. In the past, racist insults usually have come from groups of young men, late at night, after consuming 6+ beers each. It wasn’t late; it was around seven o’clock in the evening. And the part about the guy being with his girlfriend is significant because usually a person tries to conceal the less than desirable parts of his or her personality, like being racist, at least until after the third date.
What eats me up about this incident is that after all these years of being immersed in the diverse books we publish, all the self education I have undergone to become more culturally aware was completely useless. I was caught utterly flat-footed when it happened, with not one snappy comeback to show for myself. I stood there frozen in indecision. I did nothing. My lack of verbal Jujitsu kind of ruined my night.
I went back home with my take-out order and ate dinner with my family. I told them about the incident and we had a lively conversation consisting of woulda, coulda, shoulda scenarios and comebacks that made us all laugh. The reality is I haven’t been subjected to a racist insult in many years, which may be why this experience was so jarring and caught me off guard. The fact that the frequency of events like this has decreased so much is most likely a testament to the teaching of acceptance in our schools. I also hope that maybe the kind of books we publish are part of the solution.
You know what they say about sticks and stones. Well as an adult and parent, name calling still hurts.
Has anyone had a racist experience in the last year? If so, how did you handle it? Did you manage to fire off any memorable retorts? I need some verbal ammunition for my next trip into town.