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June 21, 2007

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On My Soapbox

June 21, 2007

Hmmm.  I’m starting to realize why I tend not to write deep or controversial topics on the blog.  It’s awfully hard to concentrate when you are forced to write in spurts, distracted by toddler needs every few minutes.  I also hate controversy, so I don’t know why I’m even going to do this to myself.

When I was about two and a half years old, my dad changed jobs and we moved from the suburbs of a nice normal midwest city to a small town about as far south as you can get and still be in the United States.  Needless to say, the racial make-up of the town we moved to was radically different from what we moved from (not that I can remember).  By the time I hit junior high, I was nerdy and one of the few white girls in school.  I faced discrimination of a sort that is rarely mentioned.  I was bullied relentlessly, primarily because of my race, although my nerdiness certainly didn’t help matters.  The situation had grown so torturous that when my dad dropped the bomb that we were moving, I couldn’t find one thing I would miss about the old place.  I’ve been back once since then, about a year after we moved, and I don’t feel like I’ve missed a thing by staying away.

Unfortunately the city we moved to wasn’t much better.  The suburb we lived in through my high school years was nice, definitely upper middle class, where the predominant races in the area and the schools were whites and Asians.  My nerdiness blended in naturally and eventually grew less nerdy as time progressed.  But the majority of the city was the same race I had learned to hate during my elementary and junior high years.  Fortunately I was protected from having to face any discrimination against them or from them because of the bubble of the suburb where we lived.  The same was true of both areas where I taught school after returning to the city after college.

Then M and I got married and moved to yet another new suburb of town.  We didn’t realize it at the time, but it has turned into a haven for this one particular race.  The new commercial areas going up are already built with bars on the windows; the names of the stores are in Spanish.  We cannot walk into our local Wal-Mart without being stared at and pushed around because we don’t look like anybody else in the store.  I won’t pretend I don’t have my own biases against people of that race because of what I went through in junior high, but it’s really hard for a group of people to gain my friendship when all they’ll do is glare at me, push me around, and mutter, “Gringo,” as they pass by me.

The reason this is heavy on my mind right now is because this week has been particularly hard for M and me iin the area of people being unfairly rude to us.  It started Monday when M got chewed out and insulted at work for no real reason.  This is unrelated to the point of the post, but it set into motion a week that continues to get worse.  Monday night on our way home from grocery shopping (also an interesting experience since we’re apparently one of their few customers who does not buy at least milk on WIC), we were honked at twice within a minute or two.  The first was because we dared turn right–from the right turn lane at a green light and using our turn signal.  How dare we!  Then the guy in front of us at a light didn’t floor it the second the light turned green, so we were honked at for going too slowly.  That second driver continued to drive aggressively around us the rest of the way home.  Both drivers were, you guessed it, of that particular race.

We have also had neighbor issues this week.  Our neighbors on both sides of us are of that race.  It hasn’t been an issue at all with the neighbors on our left.  M works with the mom, and they’re very respectful, even friends of a sort.  But their sons are both being brainwashed at school and are hanging out with friends who look down on white people.  Tuesday night their son rang our doorbell late at night, waking up PJ, and then ran.  M caught him and asked him not to do that again (okay, so it was more like he scared him not to do that again).  Then yesterday one of the son’s friends was peeing on a buxh in our front yard.  Why?  Because he could.  M didn’t catch up with him in time to chew him out, but clearly the situation is getting ridiculous.  For some reason, he thought it was best not to catch the kid with his you-know hanging out since they would probably press charges of him being a pedophile or something.  We think the mother would put a stop to it if she knew what was going on, but neither of us knows quite how to bring that subject up with the neighbors.

The other neighbors looked like they were going to fit the stereotype perfectly from the get-go.  They could barely afford the house; when they moved their five boys into the three bedroom house, we understood why.  Their lawn is unkempt all the time, bringing down the look of the whole neighborhood.  It only lacks flamingoes and a car on blocks to perfect the look.  We know they’ve said things to each other about us that are derogatory, but they treat us like normal people.  As long as that lasts, we’ll be satisfied with that.  Honestly, that’s pretty much how we act about them, so I’d feel bad expecting more from them.

All of this has come to a head this morning as I listened to the sounds of lawn mowers circling the house.  You’ve all heard the stereotype of most lawn crews being this race.  M and I have even made off-color jokes about how all their relatives probably do lawns, yet they can’t seem to keep their yards looking decent.  On the other hand, our lawn looks like a dream.  M takes really good care of it.  That’s right, with the abundance of cheap lawn care around here M still cares for ours on his own.  Somehow our neighbors can’t believe that.  When he mowed on Tuesday evening, he made the neighbors on both side look really bad.  That’s why they both got out this morning to take care of their lawns.  The funniest part?  Ours still looks better.

Could it be that maybe our neighbors use our race as an excuse to hate us when really they’re jealous of us?  Could that even be widespread through members of that group?

I’ll be honest that typically I’m tolerant of other people and accepting of people of all races.  My problems with discrimination and racial issues come in where other people are not tolerant of me.  How can people push for racial equality when they continue to discriminate against certain races themselves?  I guess it’s the hypocrisy that bothers me.  Why should M and I, as white people, be held to higher standards as everyone else?  If we reach those standards, then aren’t we technically better than the other races holding us to those standards anyway?  How can they push for equality and inequality at the same time?

I could go on and on about this topic.  It bothers me to no end that there are such obvious double standards in place, yet everyone is so afraid of offending the races pushing the double standards that they will never point them out.  For a country that claims to offer equality to all people, it sure seems to support inequality in so many forms.