Pass the Racism, Please

The past 5 days have been a whirlwind of family, friends, and food. Some of these I can handle more than others.

Thanksgiving, I went to a cousin’s house. I’ll admit I was a little nervous. You see, my family doesn’t discuss politics, but I’m certain they see me as the bleeding heart, feminist, man-hating, tofu eating, scary lesbian liberal. Most of the time, I’m positive we all don’t care and just have a good time together. But a dreaded thing happened. A thing that I didn’t want to think could possibly happen.

My family cusses a lot, so I reminded them to tone down the cussing around Cyrus. They did their best. It was time to eat, so I got up to go into the kitchen. It happened so fast. I walked in, heard someone say,  “we should go to Ferguson tonight.” and then another cousin said, “So we can go coon hunting?”

As he said this, I saw that he saw me, and so, put his hand over his mouth and tucked his head as if he was in trouble. He smiled.

I said, “You’re fucking kidding me,” and walked out of the room.

The only thing I heard next was laughter because I’d asked them not to curse and then said fuck. They thought it was hilarious.

My face was red. I was hot. I envisioned gathering up Cyrus and leaving.

Everyone wanted to know what happened, why I was so mad. I couldn’t believe no one heard. To me, it was shouted. It was the loudest thing. It’s still ringing in my ears. I didn’t make it into a huge announcement because there were kids in the room. I walked outside for a minute.

When I was finally able to explain what had happened, someone said, “Well, sometimes you just need to ignore him.”  NO, I said. Ignoring it just perpetuates these problems.

So, there you have it.

Why did my cousin say that? Was it one of these or a combination? Was it something else?

1. He wanted to impress the older men in the room, assuming they’d be into a joke like that.

2. He really feels that way.

3. He’s young and thinks those jokes are funny.

4. It’s what his friends say.

5. He was giving voice to something all the white, country men in the room were thinking.

As you all know, I grew up in a small, small white farming town. I’ve heard this kind of stuff my whole life. It’s one of the reasons I cringe when I drive back into town. I grew up around the N word and black jokes. Faggot was a favorite insult when I was little, too. I’ve seen and heard discrimination and hate. I try not to assume that just because my family is from a place like this that they think racist thoughts. I mean, I’ve spent years convincing myself that things have changed. But. It’s bullshit. Total bullshit.

I know this isn’t a well written blog. I just wanted you to know. And I want to tell you, in case you ever questioned it, racist language is alive and well in our country. It’s at intimate family gatherings and in the media.

So, what do we do?  Say something.  Just fucking say something. Don’t let those jokes go. Don’t just ignore that guy in the room because he’s your relative. Make a scene. Make sure everyone knows it’s not okay.

I want everyone to share their holiday racism stories. I want everyone to see how much it happens.

And then I want us to stop it.

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