Saturday, March 27, 2010

By any other name, it's still racism

Recently at work, a coworker and I were conversing on some of our customers and how they can't seem to let us know exactly what is wrong with their equipment. He began to tell me a story about how one of his customers had not bothered to go out and check his equipment before he called us for service to verify what was wrong with it. While he was telling me this, he made mention that the person was a "black guy". It got me thinking; what was the purpose in telling me that the guy was black? It had no bearing on the story or why the wrong information was called in. The implication was clear: the black guy was too lazy to go check the equipment himself, QED.

There must have been a point that became unacceptable to be outwardly racist and just disguise it as a descriptor. This is the south where people are generally open about their feelings towards non-whites and non-straights. It seems that now it is OK to tell a story about someone being lazy, then talk about how lazy they are. I guess we are all supposed to have the same preconceived notions about black people being lazy, brown people being thieves, and yellow people being smart. I would prefer someone to just say "he was a lazy negro" than to beat around the bush. At least I would know to give that person a wide birth. Instead, you get trapped in what seems to be pleasant conversation only to be blind-sided with some out-of-the-way unneeded description. Besides, how many situations have you been in that the retelling required a description of what color the person is?

I am sure this is not a new thing. Perhaps I am just beginning to notice. Maybe I am overreacting and looking for something that isn't there. It does matter when you become uncomfortable talking to someone when the conversation seems to be heading down the wrong path. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds racist to me. I mention the race of a person only when it's necessary to the story (and not being racist, it's usually not necessary to the story). But sometimes I describe the person as black in order to quickly communicate that there IS racism going on in whatever situation it is. If I told you I was in a store and there was a young kid being harassed by the shop owner, it says one thing; if I say the kid in the store was a young black kid, I've immediately communicated in that one sentence that the shopowner was racist, without really having to say it.