Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Original Boyz N the Hood

Just a few hours after I heard about/read about the fol-de-rol regarding the audacity of those Latinos who recorded the national anthem in something other than the Official Language of America (see post immediately below), I headed to Cracker Barrel for something to eat.

Cracker Barrel, indeed.

I was shopping in the store part of the joint (and don't tell Alanna, but I picked up a very early Christmas present for her) when a man nearby turned his back to me. From the front, his t-shirt was pure black. When he turned around, however, I discovered it wasn't his shirt that was pure black: it was his heart. Crisply screen-printed on the back were a gaggle of white-sheeted KKK dolts with red glowing eyes, and above them this logo: The Original Boyz N the Hood.

On the naivete scale, I probably register between a 2 and a 3. (That's way down from my early 20's when I deserved, at best, a 9.) I haven't seen it all, but I've seen a lot and not a whole lot shocks me, at least not a whole lot that shows its face in the light of day. This, however, stunned me.

I live in the South. I've lived here a long time. I've suffered through some awful gatherings when it was "just us white folks" and certain parties therefore saw fit to discuss at length what they really thought of "those darkies." Always in these situations I was a subordinate: when it was my future ex-husband and his family, I had no choice but to sit down and shut up. (And that's a blog post for another day.) When it was my boss and co-workers, again I lacked a position of strength from which to protest. As I write this, it occurs to me how similar these situations were. In both, I was an economic dependent. I no longer live in a world where I have to listen to this garbage; in my world I get to lead discussions about why this is garbage. (That, too, is a post for another day.)

I looked around to see if other people in the room were reacting to this shit, uh, shirt. If they had seen it and were bothered by it, like me, they were acting as if it wasn't there. (If they had seen it and approved, they were likewise acting neutral, I suppose.) I paid for the Christmas gift for Alanna. I got myself seated and was just settling in when the people at the table next to me returned to their seats: Mr. KKK, his redheaded woman...and a boy of about 10.

It's hard to enjoy lemon pepper grilled trout and evaluate your moral system at the same time.

I had an urge to say something to him, punch him, spit in his gravy, something. Something. Some of this probably sprang from those uncomfortable social gatherings in the past. Some of it might be absolute frustration that dunderheads like this still exist.

Of course I did nothing.

Like most people who oppose racism, all I did was sit there quietly and fail to enjoy my lemon pepper grilled trout.

More than anything, I was bothered by the presence of the ten-year-old boy. His boy? Her boy? Their boy? Does it matter? The boy symbolized the worldviews that get passed from generation to generation, feeding ugly attitudes fresh blood unless something intervenes to change the child's mind. (See this.) In the case of my children, their father left and took his racist views with him. Once or twice when my kids were little they would return from a visit with him and start talking about junglebunnies. So we'd talk about it.

When Tall Son was still in high school the teen auxiliary of the local KKK tried to recruit him into some trouble they had planned. Tall Son went to the principal with what he knew and the trouble never materialized. Only a few people -- and now you -- know what Tall Son did.

I wish I had his courage.

Here's what really kept me from enjoying that trout, though: I don't support his message, but I reluctantly support his right to wear the damn shirt. If I think Latinos have the right to sing the anthem in something other than the Official Language of America, I suppose I have to think racists have the right to air their views.* Other than wearing the shirt, the man did nothing untoward. He and his redheaded woman gossiped about people at work and discussed plans for the weekend (nothing was mentioned about matches and crosses).

Struggling for moral clarity is a bitch.

*On the other hand, I don't support Bush's right to criticize the Latinos for singing in the "wrong" language. As president, he is supposed to be providing leadership, not pouring lighter fluid on the fires of racism.


Alanna said...


What an extraordinary thing to see en route to the delicious trout. I am curious about the early Christmas present!

What about Rush Limbaugh's blaming the Democrats for his drug use?


Bitty said...

I bought the gift because I've been looking at it for weeks, and when CB sells out of something, it's out. Most things don't stay in stock for long.

You'll just have to wait!

The first I heard about Rush was this morning when I watched the news and heard that is getting a wrist slap. I haven't gone looking for any more about him.

But I'm sure it's the Dems' fault. We just won't leave him in peace to have the world precisely the way he wants it.

We're the ones who should be on drugs...